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Indian Groups Not Amused by Gandhi as Baseball Player

India Post, News Report, Madhu Patel Posted: Oct 05, 2009

CHICAGO: Two veteran Indian community activists, Prof Ghanshyam Pandey and Naren Patel, heading one of the oldest Indian American organizations, the Association of Indians in America, Chicago (AIA) have taken strong exception to Mahatma Gandhi being featured as a baseball hitter for New York Yankees in 1933.

An 11-minute short film titled "Gandhi at the Bat", a faithful recreation of a black and white 1930s-style newsreel showing Gandhi as rookie hitter, is going around in film festivals world over, has won numerous awards, and even played at Baseball Hall of Fame.

It describes Mahatma, icon of peace and non-violence wearing his trademark khadi dhoti and pinch-hitting for the New York Yankees in 1933.

AIA is the only Indian American body in Chicagoland that has been celebrating the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi regularly every year in a grand style inviting guest speakers and community members to sustain Mahatma's legacy in the present day violence afflicted world. Describing Mahatma as a baseball player is not only disturbing emotionally but also insulting intellectually to a large number of his admirers and followers, says Naren Patel, AIA President.

The short film is directed by Stephanie Argy (Scene) and Alec Boehm (Trailer Park of Terror), and is produced by Mental Slapstick. The script is penned by Chet Williamson, and it narrates the incident (totally fictional) of Mahatma pinch-hitting for Yankees and includes over 75 effects shots. Delfin Labao (Timeline) portrays Mahatma while Crystal Reel award winner Lee Perkins (The Whole Town is Sleeping) plays Mickey 'Black Mike' Cochrane (famous catcher/manager known for his fiery temper).

Patel said that Mahatma is one of the most respected Indian figures among Americans here with leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. vowing to be his followers and the US President Barack Obama publicly saying that one of his dreams would be to have dinner with Mahatma. A film on Mahatma, Gandhi won Oscar laurels and grossed billions of dollars in revenue. He was on Time magazine covers in 1930, 1931, and 1947 and was the Time Person of the Year in 1930. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) however had never set his foot on American soil, and now to depict him as Yankee player is highly disturbing, Patel added. Prof. Ghanshaym Pandey, chairman of AIA Trustee Board, pointed out that Gandhi Ji was one of the few leaders in history to fight simultaneously on moral, religious, political, social, economic and cultural fronts.

Further, there is a renewed interest world over in Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas. The need is to look deeper into Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence, his commitment to world peace, and his work for social harmony and of the downtrodden, he added
AIA would again be hosting a big event celebrating the Mahatma's birth anniversary on October 11 on a big scale at Waterford Banquet Hall in Elm Hurst, a west side Chicago suburb, Naren Patel said.

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