My stay in Panchgani, in 1982
By Marie-Paule Letourneux, Servas France
In 1981, I decided to try the adventure of a three-month trip to India.
I had been informed, before my departure, that a conference was being organized at the MRA Center, Asia Plateau in Panchgani. Since 1975, I had been a sympathizing member of the MRA, the international movement of "Moral Re-Armament" whose objectives and actions I knew: to transform society by adopting individual behaviors based on brotherhood, justice, honesty and compassion. Thus, in January 1982, I went to the International Conference the MRA was organizing on Economics and Leadership and met extremely diverse participants from several countries including India. There were high-level decision-makers, political and trade union leaders, company directors, professors, journalists, students, workers, etc.
Following the speakers' interventions, there were discussions with the audience. As the place had a restaurant and a hotel, the exchanges continued during the meals or walks in the garden.
It was for me a rich experience, full of unexpected encounters, including that of Rajmohan Gandhi, the Mahatma's grandson, who founded with a group of Indians the Asia Plateau Meeting Center in 1968, installed on a 28-hectare estate. One of their motivations was to promote reconciliation between conflicting religious communities and to create an exemplary democracy in India. In 2001, the Moral Re-Armament movement lost its religious character and was renamed “Initiatives of Change”, with the idea of becoming an incubator of initiatives.
I had the chance to meet Rajmohan Gandhi again in Paris in 2011 during the presentation of the biography on his grandfather. Influenced by the Mahatma's philosophy, Rajmohan admirably summed up the spirit of the international movement "Initiatives of Change" with these words borrowed from his grandfather:
"Be the change you want to see in the world".
Isn’t this the spirit of Servas as well?
Photo: Marie-Paule with an indian friend in Paris