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MLK Was A Citizen Of The World: Javed Akhtar


Photos Courtesy: Ravi Shektar, Jan Darpan

Atlanta, July 2012: Renowned lyricist, prolific poet and one of India's most articulate liberal thinkers, Javed Akhtar was in Atlanta this June 28 and 29. Akhtar visited the Gandhi Foundation’s landmark at the King’s center in Atlanta on the 28th and interacted with guests at the Hilton Northeast on Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Norcross in the evening. Recital from his book 'Lava' followed by a Bollywood musical gala at Hilton Northeast, Norcross engaged and enthralled the audience on June 29. The event was organized by Mehfil – Desi American Show, Aligarh Alumni Association of Atlanta and supported by Gandhi Foundation of USA and Indian American Cultural Association (IACA).

After paying his respects to the Mahatma with the customary garland ceremony, a very absorbed Akhtar walked the Peach Walk reading and observing the scripts, quotes, facts about Gandhi and Dr. King with much curiosity and interest. Gandhi Foundation’s Subhash Razdan and Antony Thaliath explained the history of the foundation. Both Razdan and Akhtar recognized both Gandhi and the King as universal citizens, both leading the way towards peace. 

Expressing his pleasure in introducing the guest of honor to the crowd, Wasi Siddiqui, Professor at Morehouse College said “Javed Akhtar is a poet lyricst, script writer par excellence. He is also recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan award, The Indira Gandhi award, and numerous film awards including Filmfare, Zee TV, and IIFA. He has been keynote speaker at some top institutions such as Harvard, Columbia, Oxford, and Cambridge. India Today has mentioned him as one of the 50 most respectable person of year 2010 and he has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India.”

Addressing the gathering Akhtar drew parallels to great personalities and a famous saying "Happy families look alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I suppose the same can be said about the real great men of this world. There is a kind of similarity in their values, their resolve, character, message and their dream. Dr. King was born in Atlanta but was the citizen of the world. And I don’t think that in any corner of the world where there is any educated person or person with a conscience who does not know him. We own him just as much as you do, likewise, you own Mahatma Gandhi the way we do.”

“Never before they are more relevant than today, not even in their own times. In fact this is because the world is turning more violent by the day. You see wars, ethnic strikes, communal confrontations, regional discords and so on. And there they are - their message, their lesson is available to us and if we can’t read that, if we cannot understand that it will be a failure of mankind. We have two choices as human race - either we move towards a path where we ultimately get distinguished, eliminated, finished or we follow the path of Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. And I think the choice is obvious.” he concluded. 

Tracing the history and significance of the Gandhi Statue, Razdan said “This is the first statue of a foreign leader on federal property. There are many statues in the US and other places but this is the first of its kind on federal property. It took a lot of time, we started working on it around 1992, and it materialized in 1998.” Razdan talked about how the original plan was to name a street after Gandhi and eventually a memorial worked into the conversation with help from Mayor at the time, Mayor Jackson. 

Akthar pointed out that Delhi had a street named after Dr. King and the Indian population did not consider him a foreign leader. The gathering completely tuned into the lyricist’s thoughts, agreeing that the Mahatma and Dr. King were indeed world personalities with no boundaries.

When NRI Pulse asked him when we will see a movie scripted by him, we were in for a pleasant surprise. While no names were divulged, he mentioned that we can look forward to something in the year 2013. When asked which his favorite movie made by his kids, he picked Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, after some deliberation.

Later in the evening that day, Javed Akhtar presented the “Community service for lack of surface area for more verbiage” to Chairman of GFUSA, Subash Razdan, for his contribution in connecting the Gandhi-King messages of peace and non-violence in the United States. 

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