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Chasing Gandhi

The Daily Mile

In the hushed silence of the small hours of the night, under the streetlights of Chennai’s main streets – along the Marina Beach promenade, across Napier Bridge – a lean, bare-bodied, bare-footed man runs. He has a familiar daily route. He begins when it’s dark, and he is still running when dawn comes.

The city stretches awake. Early risers and shopkeepers wave at him. He raises a hand in acknowledgement, moving steadily past. The Madras air is muggy, sweat pours off him… ever so often, he raises his left hand to wipe his face. His muffled footsteps on the tarmac tap out an incessant metronomic rhythm, and one can tell: his gaze is inward, and his will is unyielding.

Chasing Gandhi Short Film Poster By Virtual Bharat

The Gandhian Way

As a Gandhian, Vishwanathan emulates his mentor in spirit as well as in lifestyle. Is it a wonder then that the iconic symbol of the charkha, the spinning wheel, is a looming presence? The great man had said: “Take to spinning… the music of the wheel will be as balm to your soul.” And so, Vishwanathan does. For two hours every day, in the dead of the night, there is just him and the whirr and clack of the wheel. A rare kind of aloneness to sit in mellow light, and work with one’s hands, easing out fibre from the spindle, stretching it as far as it can take, mounting it on the spinning wheel… creating thread that can then be woven into fabric that can cover and clothe – this is the immeasurable joy of the handmade. Vishwanathan sends his handspun yarn to be woven, which is then stitched into the khadi shorts he wears to run in.

It is a simple, frugal lifestyle. He runs nearly 32km every day, unshod, for four hours before the sun rises high in the sky. Eats nutritious vegetarian fare. Naps during judicious breaks. However, the Gandhian nature that he so reveres is to be found beyond these details, in the essence of the man. Spare, austere, determined – and unwilling to step to any beat but the one he hears in his deepest heart.

Chasing Gandhi Short Film Poster By Virtual Bharat

In the Long Run

An electrical engineer who graduated from IIT Kanpur, Vishwanathan has had long service in Indian Railway’s Finance Department.

The engineer turned accountant found running to be a calming and meditative experience. He also built stamina and prowess and began to compete in long distance competitions – half-marathons, marathons and brutal 100km ultra-marathons too. Why run barefoot, people ask him. Of course, it was a Gandhian choice, but he also became aware of the idea of shoeless running, which was considered by some to be more natural and injury-free. “Besides, shoes are expensive,” he says, “I worked out that they cost about Rs 10 a kilometer – more expensive than taking a cab!” Going barefoot also improved his pace and form.

They say Gandhi himself walked an astonishing 79,000km in the decades of India’s Freedom Struggle. Vishwanathan has clocked over 1,30,000km, with the counter still running. The master’s tapasya was in aid of external freedom, the acolyte’s is very much about inner freedom. Since he has stopped competing marathons, Vishwanathan Jayaraman now runs “to have conversations” with himself.


Created By:
Sraiyanti Haricharan
Amal Sudhakaran, Sraiyanti Haricharan
2nd Unit:
Prem Krishna Akkattu
Researcher & Assistant Director:
Aditi Kumar
Music Composed and Produced:
Viveick Rajagopalan
Recorded and Mixed:
Omkar Jambhekar
Christy Sebastian
Abhijeet Deolekar
Camera & Production Assistant:
Prakash Bamne
Location Sound:
Badhri Narayanan Seshadri
Post Production Studio:
Open Mind
Production House:
Bharatbala Productions
For Studio Virtual Bharat
Mrinnalini Mitra
Lynette D’mello
Sayan Debnath
Shruti Mishra
Anshuman Shekhar
Akshay Parvatka
Yash Khaire
Prakash Bamne
Shrikkanth Govindrajan
Varsha Ramachandran
Kannan Rajaram
Ghanshyam Patil
Project Virtual Bharat:
Hari Krishnan
Jawahar Sharma
Abhijeet Deolekar
Special Thanks:
Vishwanathan Jayaraman
Banu Vishwanathan
Integral Coach Factory, Chennai
Biscuit, the Labrador
Produced By Studio Virtual Bharat

Behind The Scenes