Pied Piper of Dehra Doon


For the past twenty-five years, I have dreamed that one day I would convince Charlie King, the American folk singer and social-change activist, to come for a visit to India. Somehow I would find the money to make it possible. Charlie and I have been friends since we met on a 1976 march for disarmament. We ended up being arrested and jailed together several times for protesting against nuclear power and the Trident submarine.

Charlie kept up his life of crime-or at least his dedicated, active opposition to war and injustice-while I moved to India and became a respectable citizen. But we kept in touch. He sang at our wedding and is godfather to our first child. He did benefit concerts in the States for the school I run for children with mental handicaps in India, and he encouraged our daughter in her pursuit of music. He keeps us supplied with all his latest CDs, and whenever I visit the States, we try to meet.

Every time I saw Charlie, I would tell him that one day I was going to find the funding to bring him to India. It got to be a standing joke, and though I meant every word of it, I don’t think he took me very seriously.

This year, finally, everything fell into place. The organization I work with has been actively involved in a campaign for greater inclusion. It began as a simple, straightforward effort to get children with disabilities admitted to mainstream schools, but it soon developed...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.