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    • Day 10

      The Dandi Path Spice Dealer

      January 5, 2023 in India ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

      I have to admit I didn’t fully grasp what an incredible human being Mahatma Gandhi was until I came to India. His legacy is everywhere here.

      Today we drove from Bharuch to Surat, which is one of the oldest cities in India and was the first and original port and office of the British East India Company.

      What we realized as we were on the drive, which was purposely short so we could see some tourist stuff in Surat and get a break from long drives for a day, was that we were driving on the Dandi Path.

      One of the momentous events in the history of India’s struggle for independence was the Dandi Salt March, launched under Gandhi’s leadership.

      Here’s some background. On March 2, 1930, Gandhi wrote a letter to the British Viceroy, Lord Irwin, outlining an 11-point Charter of Demands. This included a considerable reduction in the Pound-Sterling-Rupee exchange rate, curtailing of the military budget, a 50 percent reduction in land revenue, preservation of indigenous textile machinery, abolition of the salt tax, and the release of political prisoners.

      The British government did not react favorably to any of the propositions made. As a result, the Indian Congress Working Committee gave the authority to Gandhi and his followers to initiate civil disobedience. The first step of this was the Dandi March.

      Violating British laws was an integral part of the civil disobedience movement. The British salt tax law in particular captured Gandhi’s attention and soon became the center of his anti-British agenda. According to the British salt tax law, the sale or manufacture of salt by any other source than the British government would be considered a criminal offense.

      Salt was extremely essential for the people of India. The low-lying coastal regions of the country had extensive reserves of the mineral that were easily available to the workers. The new salt tax law, however, forced them to purchase the mineral that could be collected free of cost. In Gandhi's words, "There is no article like salt, outside water, by taxing which the State can reach even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless.”

      The issue of salt cut across class, caste, regional and ethnic differences and Gandhi united the entire country under this single cause. He led the Dandi March from the Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi Beach, making speeches along the way to crowds of hundreds and then thousands encouraging peaceful civil disobedience, soulful living, and peace. By the time he symbolically extracted salt from the sand on the beach in Dandi, he had inspired a movement that resulted eventually in India’s independence. Truly the father of a nation.

      So we put-putted along the Dandi Path road, which is essentially a pilgrimage route, and stopped for chai at a roadside stand. And a guy pulled up on a small motorbike and said hi. He proceeded to lift up the seat of his motorbike and it was full of home grown spices - peppercorns, coriander, cumin, cinnamon - from his farm. And he and his wife made a living driving up and down the Dandi Path road every day selling spices to the chai wallas.

      We got a huge pack of peppercorns which will end up in our Italian food at home. And made some new friends on the Dandi Path.
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