Rajmohan Gandhi: Turning Potential into Reality

Ink, India ink, watercolor, gouache on paper

Day 331 and Rajmohan Gandhi

Nearly one year ago, spring brought out my restless self, a self who needed dedication and focus, who needed meaning and inspiration. And to find these things, I looked behind me. There in my history, set aside on a shelf, unpracticed and waiting, was art.

In my experience, art is just as much about making something as it is about the practice, putting pencil to paper or brush to canvas. Art is about making time, however small, to see the world and translate and translate. 

One day, as I walked on a dirt road, beneath freshly hatched leaves, I had an idea: every day for a year, I would make art. I would make the same thing, in many different ways. And after a bit of thought, I decided I would draw eyes.

Eyes because they reminded me of the endless hours I spent drawing as a child, nearly every drawing beginning with a slightly lopsided eye. Eyes because they make me think of the emotions and stories they and we tell. Eyes because with them, many of us absorb the world and art itself.

And then, exactly one year ago, to the day, I encouraged my family to attend a local International Affairs Forum at which Rajmohan Gandhi—historian, biographer, peacemaker, and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi— and professor Ajmal Khan—a format Taliban hostage— would speak. Speak of the history and potential for peace between Pakistan and India

My parents, sister, and I piled into the car with time to spare. Once we were in the auditorium, we learned that Khan would not join us because the US government had denied him entry, instead we would hear his story over a recorded Skype conversation. 

When the lights dimmed a bit, when the talk began, I could feel a thrum of engagement in the entire auditorium. As Khan and Gandhi’s words came to us, the room felt as if it were overseas and across time. 

And at the end of the eventing, when the microphones were open for questions, I asked Rajmohan Gandhi, “How do young people in our current landscape practice non-violence and unity?”

His answer felt as if many tangled threads in my life, and perhaps the world, had been pulled at once, forming something woven and whole, 

“…we all know from the young people we encounter all the time… who are hungry for change…but they also want tolerance, they want people of all kinds to live together… so there is this potential, there is the possibility and it [non-violence and unity] will become an actuality, of course it will, absolutely. That’s where the ark of history ultimately points.

“But how we get the young people to seize this opportunity to turn potential into reality, is something that a mere biographer and historian cannot recommend. This is where artists are needed, filmmakers are needed, creative people are needed, please invite such people and seek solutions from them.” 

And in the weeks that followed I began CognEYEzant. And in the months that followed I did turn to artists and creatives and thinkers and, through CognEYEzant, I drew and wrote and began to find some of the answers to the question I asked a year ago. I am beginning to learn that a way “to turn potential into reality” is perhaps to do one thing at a time. 

To turn potential into reality” may simply take a kind glance, a smile, a question, a conversation, a moment. And I learned that one action, on its own is just that. But one action, every day, becomes a movement. 

One eye rendered through art is just that. One eye rendered through art, every day for a year becomes an experience, becomes remembering, becomes challenge, becomes a journey.

331 days done, 34 to go.