Houston’s Little India Gets Gandhi Monument

Colonel Raj Balla explains Houston’s historic ties with Indian immigrants and the significance of the monument erected Sunday.

By Alain StephensAugust 18, 2015 4:13 pm

Mahatma Ghandi has finally found his place in Houston. Well, a version of Gandhi at least. This past weekend marked the 69th celebration of the Indian independence — that’s the end of British control in India. To celebrate Gandhi’s role in helping India achieve its independence, a monument for him was put up in Houston. But why the Texas city?

Colonel Raj Balla is a retired serviceman from the Indian army and now sits at the event chair for Houston’s India Culture Center. Balla sat down with the Standard to discuss Gandhi’s legacy and the decades-long relationship between India and Houston.

On why Houston is getting a Gandhi monument:

“It has been installed at an intersection of Highway 69 and Hillcroft area, and it is the median where we have put this monument that was unveiled on August 16. And this has been going on since 2011 — at that time I was president of India Culture Center and we found out that the management district was going to beautify the area… Houston is the only city where a certain portion… has been designated as Mahatma Gandhi District.”

On how Houston’s large Indian community formed:

“This community goes way back to the mid-60s — it has to do with the immigration laws, when the South Asian countries were allowed to immigrate. So that [was] the first wave — students came, and most of the students got settled here, and that’s how the Indian community started growing… Then later on, with the medical center coming up the physicians came in, and then with the space center the NASA scientists, and with the oil boom petrochemical engineers. In other words, mostly professionals and businessmen.”

On Gandhi’s legacy in India, and worldwide:

Gandhi is now an international figure. On his birthday — October 2nd — the United Nations has declared as a non-violence day, which is recognized all over the world. So Gandhi of course has an Indian origin, but now he is embraced everywhere, and of course in the U.S. Especially his teachings and his doctrine, followed by Martin Luther King… I agree, he is given great respect [in the U.S.], but so is he in India.”

On Balla’s favorite quotes from Gandhi’s teachings:

“The ones which I will say touches my heart is, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ And then another… ‘You must not lose faith in humanity — humanity is an ocean and if a few drops are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.'”