Los Angeles, March 10, 2005
Only a few people know that America became the first country after
India to honour Mahatma Gandhi by issuing two postal stamps in
his memory in 1961.
Still fewer know that America is the only country where the Mahatma's
ashes are enshrined at the Lake Shrine run by Paramahansa Yogananda's
followers in Los Angeles.
And now the UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles)
has become the first American university to have a full-fledged
Indian History Chair dedicated to promoting Gandhian and Indian
Established at the initiative of a local Indian businessman,
Navin Doshi, the Chair has already invited scholars to discuss
issues ranging from the Indian Constitution to the ayurvedic system
and to the Indian nuclear programme.
``From India, we have invited Ashis Nandi and Rajmohan Gandhi.
I know Gandhi is more relevant today than ever before,'' says
Doshi who became a follower of the Mahatma after a chance meeting
with him in the1940s.
A former classmate of noted Indian psychologist Sudhir Kakkar
at Ahmedabad in the 1950s, Doshi says Gandhi exerted a huge influence
on the West. ``When we came here as students in the 1950s, people
used to respect us because we came from Gandhi's country. The
Mahatma was a role model for so many Americans, including Martin
Luther King. I was so impressed by their interest in Gandhi that
when I took my initial English test in Michigan University, I
wrote an essay on Gandhi. The opportunities we Indians got in
this country are due to the high esteem in which Americans held
Gandhi. The first generation capitalized on that goodwill and
built a reputation for Indians. The current generation is cashing
in on that reputation,'' says Doshi.
Interestingly, this former aerospace engineer made his fortune
by catering to American craze for India velvet patchwork fabric
in the swinging seventies.
``The Beatles introduced India to America in the 1960s. They
brought Mahesh Yogi and Ravi Shankar to this country. Their arrival
spawned a huge interest in Indian classical music and transcendental
meditation here because America was in the throes of the counterculture
due to the Vietnam War. So eastern tastes -- classical music,
yoga, meditation, incense and patchwork quilts and velvet fabrics
-- became very popular among Americans. Those were Nirvana times,''
In this so-called Nirvana boom in America, Doshi, who was on
the verge of returning to India in 1971, saw a huge business opportunity
for selling Indian patchwork textiles.
``For about 15 years, we did a great business is selling patchwork
quilts. My velvet boom lasted till the Nirvana boom into the early
1980s before Ronald Reagan came on the scene,'' he says.
From the velvet boom, Doshi went on to cash in on the bond/stock
market boom. ``Simultaneously, I entered the real estate business
and benefited a lot,'' says the multimillionaire Gujarati businessman.