Waiting For Mahatma - Garvin Brown

    “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  The quotation by  Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer reminds us that there are people out there who can relit the light and  guide us to the path of purpose and light.  Today  corruption, greed, violent crimes frequently dominate the headlines, when act of terror and murder offend the conscience of man , when people are misled by false teachings or corrupted by false leaders. However,  each and every time there is evil the law of nature balances it with an equal amount of good actions by good people around us. There is always  someone who rekindles the fires of life by offering the spark of love - something that signals that hope is a ship on the horizon and it is sailing our way. So often it is another human being who sees something in us that we didn’t see in ourselves or that we had forgotten.

    Eighty five year old Garvin Brown is a humanist who believes that every human being has within him an impulse for good and a compassion that is the spark of divinity. Garvin was born in New Zealand but has been living in Australia for the past 57 years. He has been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of service, non-violence and equality and living by its example every day of his beautiful life. Garvin always wanted to do something positive for others as he says - “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words,  words become your actions,  actions become your habits,  habits become your values, and your values become your destiny.” Garvin is a devout follower of the teachings of Gandhi, who believed that every human being on this planet can live without fear,  be assured of a safe and secured life,  and can march equally towards a development process, possessing peace while strengthening the culture of peace. With this guiding principal as the stepping stone Garvin truly believes that we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

    “My father told me to always tell the truth no matter what that truth was, and even if what I had done was not good he would not punish me provided I told him the truth about what I had done.” In his   autobiography and internet blog “My story” Garvin recollects the followings. “When I was young I could remember hearing on our small radio about Mahatma Gandhi and the work he was doing for the poor and underprivileged and later I saw him on newsreels at the movies.

    In the early 1940’s I picked up a paperback book from an alternative bookshop by Louis Fischer “Gandhi His life and message for the world”. This book brought back all my memories of my early years and I found myself unable to put the book down, and it went straight to my heart. From that book I went to Tolstoy’s “The kingdom of God is within you” and books written by Henry David Thoreau and many others. It was a turning point for me, but you know I then went through many years of talking about Gandhi and it wasn’t until November of 2003 that I had the guts to do something. I organized a Mahatma Gandhi Awareness day on the Gold Coast which was attended by around 90 people. (I was assisted by an Indian lady). Then in March of 2005 I participated in the 75th anniversary of the Dandi Yatra in India. Then a friend of mine sent me a copy of a story in “Outlook Magazine” about a man named Uttam Teron of Parijat Academy who had started a school in his own home for underprivileged children from surrounding villages. I contacted Uttam and we have since that date become very close friends. I am walking in India for underprivileged children and world peace to endeavor to (as Gandhi would put it) enter the hearts and minds and conscience of people to hopefully bring about change in their outlook.  I have no idea what I can achieve but I know so well that my conscience will never be at ease until I do something positive for the suffering millions. Presently I am walking every day (rain excepted) and am averaging around 100 kilometers per week. I also go to a gymnasium several days a week to ensure my fitness levels stay up.”

    Garvin’s long held interest in Gandhi was reignited when he read about the 75th anniversary of the Gandhi Salt March held in India in 2005.  He booked his trip to India to join the Gandhi Salt March and a new chapter in his life began. It was during this trip that Garvin met some of the most remarkable people that influenced his life greatly. Over the next few years Garvin travelled two more times to India, each time holding on to the belief that if he could just make the world sit up and take notice, then change would begin for the under-privileged of our society.  In 2008 ,  Garvin led a walk to highlight the relevance of Gandhian ethos and also to raise funds for underprivileged children in Assam. Besides bringing many students, volunteers united into this selfless action, his  trip also started a new Gandhi consciousness in the North East as many old Gandhians came out in big numbers to join the Charity Walks at Guwahati , Titabor , Tamulpur and Nongpoh ( Meghalaya). It was also a great moral boost to hundreds of villagers in Garbhanga (near Assam-Meghalaya border) who incidentally have not yet seen the basic amenities of civilizations such as electricity, clean water, school, medical facility etc. Like Gandhi , Garvin wanted to bring himself into intimate touch with a wide cross section of India humanity. He bought a Kurta , a small canvas bag , a water jug for the walk and used  an Assamese Gamosa to cover his head in the scorching heat. In all those places, Garvin refused accommodation arranged by his well wishers. Whenever they wanted to make arrangements for him- his reply was, ‘“For me, please don’t trouble yourself. I can sleep in any hut. I can live where others are living. I don’t think I shall demand any luxuries, I’m not a guest here; I am a host.”  Through this walk  Garvin wanted  to bring the awareness  that  Children need  education – Education for all.  Garvin made clarion call to all people of goodwill to rise up together - promote dignity and justice for the impoverished, to make the Gandhian teaching the centerpiece of schools  and  colleges.

    Between 2008 to 2012, Garvin participated in the Mahatma Gandhi Awareness Peace walk at several places. On 19th March 2009, Garvin led the march, organized by SPCPY ( Society for Promotion of Creative Potentiality of Youth) at Doomdooma. The Peace Walk started from Doomdooma College and ended at Gandhi Murti Chowk, a distance of 4 kms. Children of different schools participated. About 200 persons joined the Charity Walk. After the walk the SPCPY member took Garvin to Kasturba Ashram Labour Welfare Centre at Doimukhia Tea Garden. In 30th March 2011Garvin Brown lead Mahatma Gandhi peace walk at New Delhi organized by JBF (Just Be Friendly) in association with Parijat Academy. Students of JBF Informal Schools walked with Mr. Garvin along with others from different fields.

    In the month of September 2008 , Garvin organized Mahatma Gandhi Awareness walk across Australia.  The walk started on 17 September from Caboolture , an urban centre approximately 44 kilometres north of Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland, Australia.  Mr. Jayanta Barman, Uttam Teron and Biju Borbaruah representing the Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters (FASS), participated in the walk. Throughout the walk , there were interactions with the students and teachers of various Schools and educational institutes. Garvin Brown in his speech highlighted the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and spoke about the schools for underprivileged children in India. Many of the students joined in the walk ; it was a memorable event where the Australian students carrying the portraits of Mahatma Gandhi marched through the streets of Australia. The walk finally ended on 21st Sept, the international Day of Peace,  at the City hall Brisbane, where a number of  people gathered to listen to Garvin Brown and the participants from India . The works of Uttam and Biju in India inspired many in Australia, The Gujrati Association in Brisbane organised a felicitation programme while the Assamese residents in Sydney took care of cost of food and transport and also raised money for the children of Parijat Academy.

    In the year 2013, Garvin Brown is visiting India and Assam again. “Give a child education and you give them a future. Give women an income and you can give a whole family a future.”  A true Gandhian , Garvin Brown is striving to instill values in India’s most recalcitrant , improvised precincts – education , values of social justice and self reliance. “I will  be going to stay among the people who live in poverty that we always hear about.  The people who are the nameless and faceless ‘third world country’ dwellers, who’s voices are never heard and who seem to disappear amongst the facts and figures of the tragedy. We must step down from our pedestals and go and live with the people who are suffering and experience their hardships and sorrows.”

    The long, winding and inspirational tale of Garvin Brown can serve as motivation for our own transformation. It reminds us that we all have the potential to be a mahatma (The Great Soul).  We can all overcome any obstacles to make a difference to our own lives and honor those around us. Instead of engaging with our instinctive frightened states of mind, we can challenge our fright into strength  which will then activate fruitful and fulfilling action.  Like a muscle in our body, we need to exercise  self-confidence in our mind with deep faith, and a divine breakthrough is eminent.  Every human being has an impulse for love and a compassion that is the spark of Divinity, and which some day, I believe, will burst forth into the full flower and that is the hope of all mankind.

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