Mahatma Gandhi with the title of the ‘great soul’ is the sun of the Indian solar system, radiating peace with his philosophy of non-violence,emitting rays of truthfulness and shines in the hearts of millions for his unforgettable contributions.
Like most other Indians, I was aware of the fact what Mahatma Gandhi had done for the countrymen by his active participation in achieving freedom for the motherland from the clutches of the imperialistic rule, through his philosophy of ‘Satyagraha’ and ‘Ahimsa’. But I guess that was all I knew about this little man clad in a loin cloth, earlier.
I had spent my childhood years abroad and had been quite accustomed to a lavish living. It was only a few years back that we flew back to India and settled down here. It was at this point that I came across a book by this storious leader. At first, it was quite difficult to understand his ideologies and his language was quite incomprehensible to me. But going through it with concentration and a deeper understanding was truly an inexplicable experience. His views on various philosophies seemed to contradict my lifestyle in many ways. I was inspired to read more and more about him. My acquaintance with these writings was more like a debate to me, which for once, I was glad to lose.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as ‘Bapu’ or ‘Father of the nation’ was born of Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibhai on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar. He passed matriculation in 1818 and graduated in law from England. On his return to India, he failed to become a lawyer because of his extreme devotion to truth. In 1893,he went South Africa as a lawyer to a rich merchant but soon got indulged in politics to help the Indians who were leading a miserable life there. In 1894,he founded the National Congress to defend the Indians in South Africa. In 1913, he returned to India and plunged himself in the struggle for independence. He led four Civil Disobedience Movements and was imprisoned by the British several times. In 1942, he lead the Quit India Movement which lead to freedom in 1947, thus fulfilling the dreams of millions.
This is just a brief of the chronological events that took place in his personal life and his political career .Like mentioned earlier, this was exactly the knowledge I had of this magnanimous character.
Going through the ocean of this architect of India’s destiny was truly revolutionizing. At once I realized that it had already started affecting my lifestyle. Though my parents were basically simple, they never laid any restrictions on us children. Hence, I was easily influenced by my foreign friends. I was quite fashionable and led a lavish life. But after reading about the simplicity of Gandhiji’s life, I felt ashamed at the flambuoyancy I had practiced when millions in my country were still under the poverty line.
His words which first struck me like lighting were-‘Riches are no test of goodness. Indeed, poverty is the only test. A good man voluntarily embraces poverty.’ Soon I was lost in thought. Was I capable of embracing poverty? Though I did not go on to embrace poverty, I have certainly begun to lead a life characterized by simplicity.
Subsequently, Gandhiji’s principles of ‘truth’ and ‘non-violence’ appealed to me. Practising his principles of ‘Satyagraha’ and ‘Ahimsa’, Gandhiji had found an inner peace, which he radiated to others and marched through life’s torturous ways with firm and undaunted steps. Going deeply into his experiences and his ‘experiments with truth’ gave me a ray of hope to achieve what I thought was the impossible.
But now, I find Gandhiji’s ideal world completely different from the world in which I live today. It certainly does pain me to observe how the contemporary politicians have completely deviated from the principle of the ‘Great Soul’, who presented them with a free India. The range is from patriotism to nepotism. Will his ideals co-exist with the contemporary world? Have the moral values kept pace with the materialistic march? Again, I was weighed by a beachhead of doubts, whether I was on the right path or not.
‘The first maxim of right path is to tell the truth, think the truth and act the truth. ‘In one of his books, Gandhiji recalls an incident that took place during his school days. The Educational Inspector who had once come for a visit asked the young Gandhi a question. Gandhi, who had mistaken the answer, was prompted by the teacher. But Gandhi refused to be prompted. If the very person who should serve as an example deviate themselves from the truth, students can easily fall into malpractice I completely agree with Gandhi that it is the parent and the teacher who have the primary role of instilling truth and monitor the children of today into better citizens of tomorrow.
The educational institutions of today have been engulfed by an atmosphere of politics Last year there was an enormous leakage of question papers in Mumbai through various political influences. And the consequences- loss of money, loss of time and above all, loss of the valuable efforts of the diligent ones. I could experience the feeling of those students since a cousin of mine was among them. So, can truth survive in such an atmosphere .Besides, the other name of contemporary politics is ‘ violence’. A few months ago a student jumped to his death due to some political conflict. Gandhiji said,” Students cannot afford to have party politics. They may hear all parties, as they read all sort of books, but their business is to assimilate the truth of all and reject the balance”. Politics and education were certainly not walking hand in hand. I was very much relieved when student politics was banned in the state. Perhaps had I come a step closer to Gandhiji’s world?
Non-violence was one philosophy that Gandhiji had preached throughout his life and he had proved his strength to the world. I had assumed that violence had to do with guns, nuclear bombs etc. in this age of applied science. But I perceived from him that a person can be violent by hurting a person emotionally. I recall an incident, where I got into an argument with a friend which resulted in a war of words. We both stopped talking to each other .After a few days; she came and apologized to me. At that time I had the feeling of a winner. But after going through Gandhiji’s words of wisdom, I concluded that she was the real winner and recalled the smile of satisfaction on her face. I have gained from Gandhiji that the best way to win a war is to prevent it.
Coming a step closer to Gandhiji’s philosophy I realized that that to remain in this world, we have to either remain in solitude or make the whole world our friend. Me, an extrovert had opted for the latter It slided my mind on to communal harmony. Gandhiji’s Tolstoy farm was an example of the same. In a country with diverse religions, until and unless there is harmony between the various religious groups, no progress can be made by the nation. Gandhiji respected all the religions, al the same he was a firm believer in his. Nevertheless, he was not a blind orthodox and made reforms wherever necessary. He therefore detested the practice of untouchability and castism.
Therefore, I have deduced from him that loving God’s creations is loving Himself and now I can say with love from the core of my heart in the pledge: “All Indian ARE my brothers and sisters.
But God’s creations involve not only human beings but also animals. Initially, when I had stumbled onto Gandhiji’s view on vegetarianism I had plainly contradicted it. I was of the opinion that how could human beings and animals take the same stand. Afterall human beings have got the power to think, reason. Later, I found the lines in his book voicing me” And is this how you use your intelligence by killing an innocent animal?
Modern science has proved that vegetarianism is highly beneficial for health. However, I was always against smoking and alcoholism. Such addictives tend to make us creatures of circumstances. An addicted person may even resort to crime to quench his thirst. A distant uncle of mine died recently due to the malfunctioning of the liver owing to excessive intake of alcohol. He left behind a large family, which was unable to support itself. The funeral was heart-rending .Gandhiji regarded smoking as barbarious and harmful, not to speak of alcoholism.
Many are of the opinion that Gandhiji’s Swadeshi’ will not put India on the globe But will poverty and employment do so? I believe that Gandhiji’s system of ‘Charka and Khadi’ will help to eradicate poverty on a large scale. The panchayati raj has thus been introduced because the service begins at the village level.’Swadeshi’ recognizes the scientific limitation of human capability for service. It is guided by the ‘spirit’ of service to humanity. Gandhiji believed in the truth implicitly that a man could serve his neighbour and yet serve the whole of humanity.”If the service is in no way selfish or exclusive, the neighbours will then understand the spirit in which the service is given; they will also know that they will be expected to give services to their neighbours. Thus considered, it would spread like a proverbial snowball gathering strength in geometrical progression encircling the earth.”
Fast-forward culture is lately becoming a trend; is it because we are aping media culture? I recollect that initially when I was fond of foreign clothes, my foreign friends used to adore my Indian ones. In what respect is one culture superior to the other? Our unique culture has ‘love’ as the essence of it. Otherwise, how could over 500 languages and 30 religions co-exist? Of course, keeping this in mind, there is to an extent a lot of peace. Gandhiji’s quote “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and souls of the people”, itself implies so much.
“To the society of what India is today, there is no greater balm than Gandhiji and his words. The more we read it, the more we get convinced as if Gandhi has foreseen all these.” This was T.N.Seshan’s assumption. “Gandhiji was an intense nationalist; he was also at the same time, a man who felt he had a message not only for India but for the whole world.” This was Jawaharlal Nehru’s conviction. “Generations to come ,it may be scarce believe that such a one as this in flesh and blood ever in flesh and blood walked upon the earth.” This was Albert Einstein’s prediction.
I heartily agree with all of them. Indeed, it does seem like a fairytale that such a person ever existed. We cannot all be Gandhis. But at least we could try to become one. I would. I know there is no use of building castles in the air, since I have just understood his message. But as our former Miss Universe had said,” A man is not poor if he does not have a penny. He is poor if he does not have a dream. So to live he must have a dream.” And this is my dream which I hope to fulfill someday atleast in part, through practice. Yes, it is a dream; come let’s share the dream and make it real.