The Man who became the Mahatma…

I have a set of principles and beliefs. And I live by them. I like to believe that I am very strong when it comes to following through with my principles and that I always stand by them no matter what the situation. That is not to say that I am adamant. I like to think that I am flexible enough to let go of something I believe which can be proved otherwise. Such personal behaviour has been at times interpreted as me being stubborn. Well, maybe I am a little stubborn at times. I will not deny that. I also like to think that I don’t really judge people. I can’t. I shouldn’t. I have no right to judge people because it takes a great flawless character to be able to pass judgement on others. And I am far from flawless.

The thing is how many people actually do have principles and beliefs that they publicly preach and actually follow themselves? Not a lot, probably. Well, I am a huge admirer of people who preach certain things and actually live on the same principles. But such humans are a rarity. They truly are.

So what’s the point here? Well, the point is that today is the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. One man who shook an empire. One man who controlled millions of minds during the quest for the freedom of India. To my utter shock and horror, there are people (Indians, of course. Who else?) who show no respect to this man. To me that has to be one of the most awful things to come across. I agree there are/were lots of people who did not agree with his way of fighting the British and even more number of people who were extremely upset with the partition. I agree that probably was one of the worse things that India had to go through in her entire history.

Putting all that aside…the apparent flaws of M.K.Gandhi that a lot of people take great pride in pointing out…How many people realise what went into M.K.Gandhi turning into Mahatma??
Why is he called Mahatma – The Great Soul?

  • He went to South Africa as a young lawyer to serve. He was thrown out of the train. To this treatment, he responded calmly. Using pen and paper as his way to retaliate. No abusive words, no assaulting actions.
  • In South Africa, he realised that problems ran deeper than just being thrown off the train. Taking the side of the minority, he fought for the rights of Africans taken over by the colonial rule.
  • Then began a series of little protests that eventually led him to forsake western dressing style.
  • When he returned to India after spending twenty-something years in SAfrica, he was clad in traditional Indian dhoti-kurta and a turban.
  • What awaited in India is not unknown to the public.
  • Another round of protests began. From not using foreign-made fabric to taking the path of complete non-violence to fasting as means of sheer protest against the atrocities of the colonial rule.
  • He was not afraid and nothing stopped him from being himself. He wore a dhoti even when he was in England (that place is darned cold!)

I am not saying that he was born a great man. He was not. Read the first ten chapters of ‘My experiments with Truth’ and one realises that he was just an ordinary man at a certain point. But then, he made an enormous effort to follow what he believed and preached. Most people would say, it was just the period that he lived in. And that it was easy at that point in time to have such an approach. I think not. It is never easy to follow what you preach. He may not have been a complete saint. He may have his faults and yes, he may have made lots of mistakes through out his life. But I don’t think any of us has a right to judge him, let alone dislike him.

Anyone who wants to dislike Mahatma Gandhi and feel fine about it needs to answer these questions.

  • Would you be willing to give up wearing all your Tommy Hilfiger and other arguably racist designer clothes just because they are owned by racist people?
  • Would you walk away without saying a single word or without being even a little violent at being thrown out from a place for no fault of yours?
  • Would you dare to walk around in a cotton kurta everywhere you went because that’s the Indian traditional code?
  • Would you take up complete fasting for a cause you truly believed in until the authorities took a major step to help with the cause? For example, stand up for poverty?

Most people would say such things are not practical anymore. I say, they are. These things need a strong character. A strong willpower and an even enormous heart to follow through. So anyone who does not like the Mahatma needs to answer these questions. If you think you can show and maintain the strength of character that he showed…I shall take my words back. Otherwise, don’t ever dare judge him.

There is a reason his thoughts are still alive today. There is a major reason why the philosophies he preached and practised are still so very effective. The reason is one : They are RIGHT.

In Mahatma Gandhi’s own words : I have nothing new to teach the world….truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.

I wish I can say Rest in Peace M.K Gandhi, but I can’t really. ‘Cos knowing how he felt towards India, I don’t think he’ll be at peace knowing what India is like right now. All I can say is that: Mr. M K Gandhi, you are missed.

Here are some lines from the beautiful bhajan penned down by Narsinh Mehta

Gujarati :

વૈષ્ણવ જન તો તેને કહિયે, જે પીડ પરાયી જાણે રે
પર દુખ્ખે ઉપકાર કરે તોયે, મન અભિમાન ના આણે રે

સકળ લોક માન સહુને વંદે, નિંદા ન કરે કેની રે
વાચ કાછ મન નિશ્ચળ રાખે ધન-ધન જનની તેની રે

Hindi:

वैष्णव जन तो तेने कहिये, जे पीड परायी जाणे रे
पर दुख्खे उपकार करे तोये, मन अभिमान ना आणे रे

सकळ लोक मान सहुने वंदे, निंदा न करे केनी रे
वाच काछ मन निश्चळ राखे, धन-धन जननी तेनी रे

English:

He is the true Vaishnav who knows and feels another’s woes as his own

Ever ready to serve, he never lets vanity get into his head…

Bowing to everyone humbly and criticising none

He keeps his speech, deeds and thoughts pure; blessed is the mother who begets such a one…

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3 thoughts on “The Man who became the Mahatma…

  1. I don’t agree with a lot of Gandhian philosophy. I think he got us Independence a little too late and I wouldn’t had mind if we had a bloody revolution rather. What I admire about him is persuasive way of speaking. Although, I think its easy to do be a persuasive speaker in India since a lot of people esp. in villages, don’t think on their own. They either need a Baba, Saint, Mahatma, Religion or God to think for them. Gandhi was unique in the sense that he was persuasive speaker all around the world. People listened to every word he said and that what frightened Britishers. You rightly said, he “controlled the mind” of millions. Some of my thoughts will be revealed in the next part of the story esp. about partition. I have a feeling that he wanted to be a “Saint” and some of that comes from the fact that he was a failure as father because he thought he had a greater purpose (which is a definition of Sainthood). Also, in the later part of his life he was detached from reality. His Anti-Brahmin stance caused him his life and anything pro-lower-caste is still considered thorny issue in India. On a lighter note, we used to call our doggie, Nathu Raam Godse, and would say ke dekh Gandhi ko maarne ke sazaa mil rahee hain tere ko 😛

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  2. Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi, A name that has, since childhood, caused me to picture a calm yet strong, simple and truthful individual, who led India to freedom. But as I grew older and philosphies and actions. I saw him as a man with a few noble ideas and philosophies but not without his own set of failures and shortcomings. And since, I’ve focussed more on those noble ideas, few of which I happen to agree with, rather than the persona of the “Mahatma”.I believe he certainly deserves a lot of respect owing to what he was able to acheive and what he believed in. But no, he wasn’t close to being a saint.Coming back to your Blog, Shama. I agree that his characteristic of being able to stick to his principles is admirable and I definitely would like to strive to achieve the same with my set of principles.

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