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Day 31: Gandhi

Nadiad to Ahmedabad, 60km

Everyone can make a difference. We’re all pebbles in a pond, invariably creating ripples which become waves and eventually tsunamis.

Pat makes a difference every day, but he may not know it yet and he may never live to see it. But he and the crew are already on hundreds of thousands of phones immortalised as warm memories. For some people, we will be nothing more than a fleeting thought – like a loud plane, flying overhead. For others, when a challenge becomes insurmountable they will remember Pat running on and on and they'll remember his words and suddenly nothing is impossible anymore.

They’ll keep pushing and fighting because they saw one man put one foot in front of other and convinced them they are more capable than they thought they were.

Every once in a while, in every country, a person dares to say to themselves ‘there must be more than this’ and sets out to defy expectations.

In 1913, for India, that person was Mahatma Gandhi who saw the British empire crouch over his brothers and sisters, in a toad-like posture. In 1917, Gandhi relocated about 10 kilometres from the centre of Ahmedabad onto the banks of the Sabarmati river. His house, the Sabarmati Ashram, would be the birthplace of history’s biggest non-violent revolution.

“I had the great privilege, one of the great moments of my life, to be able to step inside his home,” Pat said.

The runner was taken to the guest rooms and he sat on the floor and stared at the walls. He noticed how humble his abode was. While other great thinkers would have had long writing desks and walls lined with books and worldly trinkets, the ashram was barren in comparison. There was mat facing the window where Gandhi could see the river, there was a small writing desk where he studied and wrote his letters and very basic furniture.

“I realised that the greatest achievers on this planet are not the ones who have the most amount of wealth, the greatest achievers are ones who have the biggest hearts,” Pat said.

“The achievers on this planet are the ones who are prepared to sacrifice themselves for others; they’re the ones who are prepared to hurt a little bit so others may not hurt at all.”

From his home he hatched his plans for an independent country. He opened tertiary schools promoting manual labour, agriculture and literacy – an independent India was a self-sufficient India. At the time, when the British heavily taxed salt in the country, Gandhi defied them by boiling salty mud in seawater. This inspired hundreds of thousands of people across the country to do the same and it resulted in upwards of 60,000 arrests.

The house was built between a jail and a crematorium and for Gandhi it was profoundly poetic of his struggle. Either he would end up in jail or he would die.

On March 12, 1930, Gandhi vowed to never return to the Sabarmati Ashram until his country was free. He then marched 388km to Dandi and inspired the entire nation. 17 years later his vision of a free India was realised and the British left the country.

Tragically, Gandhi never saw his home again – he was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Today, India is on its way to becoming an economic and industrial powerhouse and what remains as a symbol for the state and entire movement is the Charkha, or spinning wheel commonly used to spin synthetic fibres.

Like Gandhi, and many ways like Pat, it takes a single thread to start a tapestry. As Pat runs through small villages and huge cities, he unites the entire country under something overwhelmingly positive.

Whether he runs right by or stops to speak, by the end of this over a billion people will know there is no force quite like a man on a mission.

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