Mahatma Gandhi, Kudakulum and strawberries

25th September 2012 0 By Nandini

On the eve of his hundred and forty-third birth anniversary (born 2cd October, 1869) Bapu, the father – decides to pay us a visit, here in the Netherlands. On Friday the 21st of September, 2012, a small, determined group of people gathers outside the Indian Embassy in the Hague. They are non-violent protestors holding placards and banners in support of the fisher and local folk of Kudakulum in Tamil Nadu in South India. There’s a nuclear power plant about to go into operation there. Some of the protestors in Kudakulum have been standing in the sea. They reach out for attention not only to the risks involved through the loss of their livelihoods but also to the environment. They say several issues of immense importance have not been addressed in the plan. The plant is apparently also in a tsunami sensitive zone.


I hear two protestors in India have been killed and several have been arrested.


I have another image – one of a beautiful Japanese lady standing outside our school in the cold wet Dutch voorjaar of 2011 in Amsterdam. The earthquake in Japan is a huge threat to the Fukushima nuclear plant. If you are Japanese, you know the horror of the down side of nuclear energy like no one else. The sadness in her eyes reaches out to those of us who come with our children to the front door. She says nothing but she hands us each an origami strawberry. Behind her is a poster with a short explanation. Strawberries went to Japan from the Netherlands and now they thrive there.


It’s a year and a half ago that I received a strawberry from her. I’ve got rid of many things that came home from school but I could never throw that strawberry away. Every time I look at it in my kitchen, I get connected to her and to people I will never see or know. I get connected to history and to the immense suffering of innocent victims. That fragile origami strawberry carries within it enough power to remind me of a lone figure and her ability to mobilize, so silently, people like me, who in the course of a hectic day, can easily forget about those far away.


In Japan anti nuclear campaigners have launched a new party that has been inspired by Europe’s Green parties. Pressure is on the prime minister to address the power problem in alternative ways to nuclear energy. 7.5 million signatures were collected though a public event demanding an end to nuclear energy.


The people outside the Indian Embassy on this autumn afternoon plead with the prime minister of India through a letter to stop the brutality being shown to the non violent protestors in Kudakulum and to take them seriously, as legitimate citizens of a democratic society. They urge him to re-consider the nuclear plant in Kudakulum.


Like the strawberry that travelled across the world from the Netherlands to bloom in Japan, they bring Bapu to us on the eve of his birth anniversary.