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  • Toby A. Cox

Zigs, zags, and a photo with Gandhi

If I asked you to think of a person from India, chances are you would have said Mahatma Gandhi - a man known throughout the world as a champion of human and civil rights, whose efforts sparked movements across the globe.


This evening, I had the opportunity to meet his grandson.


Dr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi spoke this evening at the Fulbright Research Conference for South and Central Asia being held this week in New Delhi, India. He spoke on the topic of the 'zigs and zags' in the political relationship between the United States and India.

The way he approached this topic was with a level of unexpected candor - speaking honestly about the ups and downs, highs and lows, and challenges of the alliance between US and India and what it has endured in the past.


Like his grandfather, Dr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi also delivered inspiration to the audience, often highlighting examples from Mahatma Gandhi's teachings.


After he exited the stage, I was left with the rest of my table to process the speech and observe the people beginning to swarm around him. I turned to those at my table and said, "I would like to get a photo with him, but I don't want to crowd him." The people at my table agreed.


We then began to entertain ideas of ways we could get a photo with him:


-Photo bomb someone else's photo (generally frowned upon)

-Run up to him and snap a selfie (no)

-Photoshop him into our group photo (nope)


I finally suggested that we, as a group, should just go up to him and say, "Hello, thank you so much for coming this evening. We found your speech to be very inspiring. Would you mind taking a photo with us?"


People at my table, nodded, "that sounds good."


"Great, let's mobilize."


We walked to the front of the room, some others joining along the way. We approached the front and I began to introduce myself.


"Hello Dr. Gandhi, thank you so mu..."


He was intercepted by another researcher handing him a business card.

He turned to me again.


"Hello than..."


Intercepted again.


I realized then that I had to work faster. Time was running out.


The next time he looked at me I said in one breath -

"Hellothankyousomuchforcomingthiseveningitwasveryinspiringwouldyoupleasetakeaphotowithus?"


He agreed. We all quickly formed a group around him ... time was of the essence! I passed my phone to a nearby researcher.


"Hi! Would you mind taking our photo?" I asked.


"Not at all!" she said.


Great, I thought. I got back in formation and smiled, waiting.


However, much to my surprise, she, instead, began to talk to Dr. Gandhi.


"I'm so happy to meet you, I'm starstruck, really, you are so inspiring! I am currently...."

On and on she went, holding my phone, while all of us around Dr. Gandhi stood rather awkwardly, still wearing our camera-ready smiles.


After a few seconds, Dr. Gandhi walked away, possibly assuming the photo had already been taken. It hadn't been.


The researcher handed me back my phone.


"Sorry! I really couldn't focus on taking the photo."


"Uh, ok ............."


She walked away and the three of us left gathered ... Did that really just happen? We wondered.


After pondering, we decided to try one more time. He agreed, again, and this time we succeeded!


Here I present the photo we took alongside Dr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi - an experience full of unexpected zigs and zags:




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