We all have our role models but some people adore their leaders so much that they transform their own identity. Basavaraju is one such person who has taken his love for Gandhi to a whole new level – he not only follows his lifestyle but also impersonates Gandhi for a few hours or even days to spread his teachings! Read the interesting story of this modern-day Gandhi.
A primary school physical education teacher evokes Gandhi amongst his school students and the common humans on the streets. Meet Bagadehalli Basavaraju, a teacher whose passion is Gandhi – whom he not only emulates but also impersonates for others in a small town Kadur in Chikkamaglur District, Karnataka.
Bagadehalli Basavaraju, a teacher by profession and a staunch believer in the ideals of Gandhi, has been performing as a living statue of Gandhi for the past 14 years. What is interesting is that he characterises himself not just as Gandhi but imitates the “statue”of Gandhi by painting himself silver and adorning himself with accessories. Initially, Basavaraju used silver oil paint, but was provided access to a less harmful paint used by actors. He began this performance as a mode to “replace” words and spread the Gandhian ideology not through any speech but by using the power of the visual imagery to make an impact. His image is the message of Gandhi for the people to see and internalise.
Born in a poor family, Basavaraju studied hard and made his way into the education system by landing the job of a physical education teacher in a small private school in Kadur. Gandhi is his passion, his ideology of life and things around him.
During festivals, big cultural events or October 2, Basavaraju dons the Gandhi avatar. He poses for hours either standing or sitting like a Gandhi statue, evoking the “Gandhi” amongst the onlookers. Some label him mad, others think he has an innovative style to beg and do throw a few coins, while many come and question him on this impersonation. This helps him to open a tiny window in the minds of those who question, and to talk about the relevance and the need to practice the Gandhian ideals.
Self-sponsored and ardently supported by his family, Basavaraju meta-morphs into a Gandhian image for a few hours or days for everyone, but a life for himself and his family. He leads a simple and satisfied life, while pursuing his passion.
Children are important thought builders and he spends time with them sharing the Gandhian ideology, because peace is what he yearns for everyone and himself. As he puts it, war is all around – be it amongst nations, religious communities, groups or even different castes. Basavaraju wants peace and this tiny act of impersonation of Gandhi helps him focus people’s attention towards peace and its importance in today’s strife-torn world.
Basavaraju also spends time teaching yoga to school children. Nowadays, there is a tremendous demand on his time as other schools call him to come and teach their children about Gandhi and, of course, yoga. His other pet projects are waste management because cleanliness is something he does not compromise on.
Recognition has followed Basavaraju. In his normal attire, Basavaraju today is a respected man in Kadur. Vegetable vendors, auto fellows, everyone calls out to him as Gandhi. No medals, no certificates, no awards or rewards, no pomp – but all show of what, who and how of Gandhi. Today, photographic exhibitions are being held all across the country that are a tribute to the passion, dedication and perseverance that form the basis of Gandhi’s life and his ideals. Basavaraju is an incognito hero who is living by those ideals everyday.
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Sanjay Joshi is a development worker, focused on enhancing lives of women. He has worked in maternal and child health, water and sanitation, HIV and is currently focusing on sanitation access to women through micro-finance. He is the CEO of Shanti Life India Foundation, a new start up that aims at providing credit access to vulnerable women for sanitation and small businesses.