ISLAMABAD, Feb 23 (Bernama) — Indian soldiers manning the newly repaired "Aman Sethu," the Indo-Pak peace bridge, had a surprise in store this week when the very familiar figure of Mahatma Gandhi walked towards them from the Pakistan side greeting them with traditional "namaste."
It took awhile for them to realise that it was Sir Ben Kingsley, the British actor who played the Oscar-winning role of the Mahatma in Richard Attenborough’s film "Gandhi."
According to the Press Trust of India (PTI) report, sporting a clean shaven head but without the famous Gandhi spectacles, Kingsley has been touring areas in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Northwestern Frontier Province hit by the October 8 earthquake for the past week.
The actor, who is half-Indian, walked up to half of the peace bridge — recently repaired by the Indian forces and thrown open for traffic after it was damaged in the quake — to revive his memories of the land that had an emotional attachment with Gandhi.
"I walked up half way greeted them shouting ‘namaste’ and they responded," said Kingsly, with the familiar twinkle in the eye, while interacting with the media here Wednesday about his week-long tour to the quake-hit areas, where he made a television documentary to raise funds for rehabilitation.
"We must work to create bridges of friendship and humanity among the people where-ever and when-ever we can", he said without directly referring to India-Pak differences.
Touched by the very "emotional" welcome in Pakistan despite the fact that his identity was attached to the lead role in "Gandhi," Kingsly unleashed the Gandhian ideals in a land that more passionately revered Jinnah, perceived to be Gandhiji’s political rival.
"We must respect differences and embrace similarities," he said reacting to concerns over the perceived "clash of civilisations," specially in the light of protests sweeping the Islamic world following publication of Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures in some newspapers.
"Say goodbye to differences and say hello to similarities," he said.
While touring quake-hit areas, Kingsley virtually re-enacted the very scenes he played in Gandhi walking along the broken roads with rubble of concrete strewn on either sides to greet people and share their sorrow.
"I am going to raise the consciousness and empathy among with western audiences with my television documentary," he said.
— BERNAMA , February 23, 2006 11:40 AM