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By the Side of Bapu by Shanti Tseng

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Shanti Tseng was a Chinese author and journalist and a devotee of Mahatma Gandhi. Tseng came to India to study in Tagore's Shantiniketan. He then joined Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram where Gandhiji gave him his name 'Shanti' and expected him to be a connecting link between India and China and would work for peace. His great gand dughter is the famous badminton player Jwala Gutta To download the book, click the image

(The present generation may not know Late Shanti Tseng – Chinese Gandhian, who was with Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. But sports loving Indian youth will no doubt know Jwala Gutta, a leading Badminton player of India. Jwala is the great grand-daughter of Late Shanti Tseng.) I met Shanti Tseng and his lovely wife and two grand children – Yelan Tseng and Wu Hong during my Sewagram days. He came to India in December 1979 and breathed his last in India as he himself desired. After his death Mrs.Tseng went back to China, grandson Wu Hong went for higher studies in U.S.A. and grand-daughter Yellan Tseng loved and married Kranti Gutta and settled down in India. Jwala Gutta is Yelan’s daughter. They live in Hyderabad now, if I am correct. I lost touch with all of them.

May be this remembrance of Late Shanti Tseng will re-link the broken threads.

Shanti is the name given to Tseng by Mahatma Gandhi during his Sabarmati days. During those days Chinese soldiers were fighting each other. Gandhiji thought that only if they united could they protect China from foreign enemies. Gandhiji’s prophecy proved correct.

Shanti Tseng visited India three times. First time he came to India in 1923 as a student of ‘Santhiniketan’. Gurudev Rabindranth Tagore visited China and Shanti Tseng followed him to India. When he lived i8n ‘Viswa Bharati’ for a few months Mahatma Gandhi visited that place. Shanti Tseng had a talk with Gandhiji, who showed interest in this young Chinese man. He was attracted by the simple amiable manner of Gandhiji. Gandhiji wrote to C.F.Andrews and told him that Shanti Tseng may join him at Sabarmati. Thus he joined Sabarmati Ashram, worked and studied there until 1925. Then went back to China. Shanti Tseng’s second visit to India was when Gandhiji was in the Yerwada Jail and went on a fast unto death. That time Shanti Tseng was in Singapore as Editor-in-Chief of a Chinese Newspaper published overseas. When he heard the news of Gandhiji’s fast unto death he was anxious to meet him. He resigned his job at Singapore and rushed to Kolkatta. By that time Gandhiji broke his fast. He sent telegram and letters to Gandhiji from Kolkatta to which he received a reply from Gandhiji “Received your letter. Do come when you like.” While travelling when the train reached Ahmedabad he got down to visit his old Ashram again and meet Kasturba Gandhi. After meeting her and other inmates he proceeded to Pune where he was allowed to meet Gandhji in jail. There he also met Mahadev Desai, VithalbhaiPatel, Ramdas Gandhi and many other inmates of Sabarmati Ashram.

The third and final visit was in December 1979. Shanti Tseng wanted to come to India for a longtime, but the Communist Government of China did not allow Chinese to visit India. He applied for permission to visit India in 1962 when he was healthy and strong. That time his friend Late G. Ramachandran, who was then Secretary of Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi sent him an invitation to visit India, but the Chinese Government did not give him the permission to do so. In 1979, the Chinese State Council informed him that he shall be granted permission provided he passed through the usual formalities. That time he wrote to G.Ramachandran, who was then Vice-Chancellor of Gandhigram Rural University. He wrote: “I am as old as the great Monk Fahian who came to India centuries ago. Fahian was then eight. I would like to spend the rest of my life in India mending the Sino-Indian friendship fence. In response Dr.Soundram Ramachandran wrote welcoming him saying “You may be the modern Faheian”.

In December 1979 Shanti Tseng came along with Mrs.Tseng and his two grand children. He himself called this group of four as a “theatrical group”. His wife came to look after him as a nurse. Then twelve year old grandson Wu Hong born in Tientsin and brought up by Mr. & Mrs.Shanti Tseng came as a walking stick when I went out for a walk and get him a cup of tea. The grand-daughter Yelan who was then 18 years old and finished her high school course wanted to live with her grand father India and share the hardships rather than go back to China.

Gandhi Peace Foundation (GPF) was supposed to have provided them the hospitality and made them stay there in New Delhi, but as G. Ramachandran was no longer there and new GPF leadership was least interested in providing them hospitality. They preferred doing so more for Americans and Europeans. Late Ramachandran Potti then Asst.Secretary of GPF wrote to me a letter in Sewagram and send them to me to extend all help, which I did. They were provided accommodation in Sewagram Ashram. At my instance grand-son Wu Hong was admitted in Kasturba Vidya Mandir. I loved Yelan to join the Medical College to do MBBS for which he joined a Wardha College to do the Indian 11th & 12th standards. While studying there she made friendship with Kranti and got married. By that time I too left Sewagram and shifted to Nagpur. They visited me in Nagpur and spent nice time together.

In 1943 Shanti Tseng was in Chingking (capital of the Kuomuntang China at that time). During the Sino-Japanese War he became a war correspondent. During that time he wrote a book titled “Bapuji and I, enjoy living in Sabarmati Ashram”. That book was published and reviewed in almost all Chinese Newspapers. This is a very interesting book with humorous anecdotes of his youthful experiences in Gandhiji’s Ashrams. Later he made into English with the help of G.Ramachandran and published in India. During Shanti Tseng’s visit to me in Nagpur there was an occasion when The Hitavada English Newspaper Editor personally came and interviewed him.

While paying my tributes to Late Shanti Tseng, it is my proud privilege and pleasure to introduce to the new generation of Indians this Chinese Gandhian Shanti Tseng.

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