JOHANNESBURG: Indian diplomats South Africa participated in a cycle rally along with scores of cyclists as part of an effort to promote greater awareness of Mahatma Gandhi's ideals of non-violence and satyagraha to celebrate his 150th birth anniversary.
Conceived by Indian Consul-General in Johannesburg Dr K J Srinivasa, the event was co-hosted by the Gandhi Walk Committee, which annually hosts the walk.
Scores of cyclists joined the Indian diplomats on Sunday at the inaugural Block Ride in the sprawling Indian township of Lenasia, south of the city, to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year.
"The aim was to promote greater awareness of Gandhiji's ideals of truth, non-violence and Satyagraha," said Srinivasa, who was lauded by a host of other speakers as he prepared to leave for his new posting as Ambassador to Guyana the same evening.
"As we always say, India sent South Africa a lawyer and we sent back a Mahatma, so this is his karmbhooomi."
"There was no question of partnering with anyone else but the Gandhi Walk Committee for this project as we have been with them for the past few years for the massive Gandhi Walk that has been coordinated so well by them for the past 34 years," Srinivasa added.
The event also served as a welcome for new Indian High Commissioner Jaydeep Sarkar, who assumed his position in Pretoria last month.
"Along with all those ideals that Gandhiji strove for in our freedom struggles in both our countries, like civil disobedience and satyagraha, the relevance of today's function is that he also emphasised a lot on personal habits and individual and community actions," Sarkar said.
"Today's cycling event is an attempt in that direction to propagate the idea of individual action to not only keep yourself healthy but also to make a modest contribution to the environment. The other thing is the importance of the feeling of community that Gandhiji emphasised."
"I'm delighted to see people from all walks of life and of all ages participating so enthusiastically and look forward to it growing in future," Sarkar added before he donned a helmet and led the cyclists alongside Srinivasa and other local dignitaries.
From toddlers on three-wheelers to professional cyclers on expensive cycles, the three km ride through the streets of Lenasia and back to the Gandhi Hall was enjoyed by all as they collected a commemorative medal on completion, bearing the image of Mahatma Gandhi.
"This was not a race, but rather a fun event to commemorate Gandhiji's 150th birthday this year," Gandhi Walk Chairman Amit Parbhucharan emphasised.
Gauteng provincial government representatives who attended the inaugural event pledged to bring in greater support from across the province next year.