Finding Gandhi — Page 2
By Kelsey Timmerman

Gandhi shrineHe was right. Some companies in India that once gave more than 2% reduced their giving as corporate philanthropy was seen less as way to build your reputation than to meet a requirement. But overall corporate giving in India jumped more than 600%.

"They are sitting in five-star hotels sipping on coffee and they are talking about poverty," Tushar said. "What do they know about it? They haven't even smelled poverty."

Growing up Gandhi

Imagine what it's like to be Tushar. Some of his relatives have run from the name.

There's too much pressure. People show up at your house and they want to kiss your feet and mine you for wisdom because of whom your great-grandfather was. One of my great-grandfathers was a drunk. I'm not even sure about the others. I can't imagine what it would be like to be defined by their deeds. And if those deeds were as legendary as Gandhi's . . ? I'd probably hide from my name, too. Tushar doesn't. He grew up Gandhi.

Tushar carries the legacy with grace while acknowledging the pressure.

"It's a privilege and it's a responsibility, equally weighing . . . I don't pretend to be something I am not. I enjoy my legacy . . . My mother worked with many of the NGOs that worked in the city. My father associated with NGOs working in the rural areas, so our vacations would be to these centers. I experienced the communities as well as the projects and the difference they made. I would see children pick up a wrapper of chocolate I had discarded and lick out the fragment of chocolate sticking to it, trying to scrape off the last bits . . . That made me understand the life of poverty."

Tushar and his father, Arun, lead the Gandhi tours. Arun lives in Rochester, New York, where he is the director of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to "eradicate the scourge of poverty and human degradation." Arun lived and learned from his grandfather for two years when he was a boy.

Tushar and Arun Gandhi

Courtesy of Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute

"There are two ways to give to charity," Arun had told me when I talked to him before coming to India. "One is motivated by pity and the other is compassion. When motivated by pity you go and do and then say, 'Get out of my face.' When you are motivated by compassion you think about the person's strength and what allows them to stand on their own feet and build confidence. With pity you have to keep on giving and there is no result."

On the Gandhi tours, Arun and Tushar lead visits to grass root organizations working with women and children who live in poverty.

"The majority response of the tours is that it's a life changing experience because they come to understood the mechanism of poverty, the brutality of poverty," Tushar said. "The idealism of poverty is demeaning. In certain ways, poverty is glamorized. When you go in rural areas, you see the dehumanization and the cruel realities . . .Poverty cannot be experienced from glossy pictures or films. Poverty has a smell to it. Poverty is violent."

Seeking Answers on Giving From an Indian Guru

Still, I searched for a prescription, asking him what actions or guidance they gave to those who went on the tours

"We don't tell them anything other than, 'You have learned something. Now find your own remedy.' One should follow one's experience; one should follow one's own ability, and intellect. You have been shown something. Now find what you are going to do to make a difference in that.'"

We have to seek out such experiences. Until we know the name of someone living in poverty, sit in their home, see them value something we have discarded, meet their families, and listen to them, can we actually expect to give even .1% of our income, heart, or thoughts to their existence?

Tushar told me that some leave the tour he leads and reenter the bubble of their own lives, now at least aware of the realities they ignore. He hopes to reach one or two per trip.

His great-grandfather is often quoted as having said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." As if our responsibilities go no further than our own behavior. The actual quote this was adapted from is, "If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him."

Indian Train station

Societal change is only possible if the change in us creates change in others. Arun, Tushar's father reflects this when he talks about his work as a peace farmer. "I plant seeds and hope they become crops."

But Arun and Tushar, like the rest of us, don't always get to see the results of their work‐the change in others. We don't all lead a nation to democracy and self-governance and inspire the world along the way.

Tushar encouraged me to do the work and be consistent regardless if I can quantify my impact or see the results.

Gandhi didn't have an equation for me. In fact, he was totally against the idea.

"It's not an equation," Tushar said. "Only you have the equation, and you have to go beyond it. You must push it further. You need to progress in your giving."

Kelsey Timmerman seeks to connect people through stories to strengthen communities. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the Where Am I ...? series including most recently Where Am I Giving: A Global Adventure Exploring How to Use Your Gifts and Talents to Make a Difference. Kelsey is also a founder of The Facing Project, a nonprofit community storytelling initiative that has collected more than 7,000 stories. To learn more about Kelsey's work visit

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Related Features:
Hunger and Privilege: Dinner in Old Delhi - Jim Johnston
Seeking Enlightenment at the Golden Rock - James Michael Dorsey
The Dharma Buddies of Auroville - Camille Cusumano
And Out Came the Lions (Clubs) in Remote Malaysia - Marco Ferrarese

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