Dedication: To my mother beloved who, I am sure, holds my hands eternally.
October 2, 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born. 2019 October 2we celebrate his 150th birthday. The world has seen more powerful leaders who could destroy humans at will, with the use of muscle, money, position, and what not. All those really appear so silly, compared with this frail man with nothing at his disposal except the mind of a human. He proved that non-violence and peace are no less powerful weapons than tyranny, oppression, and organised crime. He opened up most enduring and novel methods of conquests for humanity, especially the oppressed and the weak to follow in life. He has proved that no power on earth can resist the aroused and disciplined spirit of men who are determined and prepared to die for their ideology. Gandhi was prepared to die for his ideology, and that was his core strength.
When he was shot down on a Friday the 30th January 1948, he was already much above an individual, a family, in fact he had become a legend, larger than life, and his departure really gave an impression that an army or a nation has collapsed. Thanks to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore who gave him the apt title ‘father of the nation’. In fact, Gandhi deserved to be called ‘father of humanity’.
With his departure humanity lost an extra ordinarily precious life, and a source of inspiration to millions that came to an abrupt end. Extra ordinary lives have always been subjected to inhuman attacks and systematic annihilation in human society. It has happened with Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King Jr., Galileo, and many others who have stood for truth-absolute truth, beyond the comprehension of common psyche. Even the Son of God The Jesus was not spared.
The demise of The Mahatma created shock waves all over the world. Tears were unstoppable even in the eyes of those who had not seen him in real life. They wept as if they had lost a close relative. The UN lowered its flag, 110 countries mourned his departure from three to seven days. Government of India received 3441 and odd condolence messages from foreign nationals. Such a big respect and reverence for a man who held no position of authority, had no distinction of scientific or academic achievement to his credit, except that he was a simple, true, and rare human being.
A real leader has to always take extra ordinary decisions contrary to the prevailing customs and practices in the society matching with the his own ideology, and such disciplined approach only make him a leader par excellence. A true leader does things differently, of course, and The Mahatma has exhibited this exemplary quality through his own life as an example.
Employing an untouchable at his home, at a time when untouchability was vehement in the society, relinquishing insurance policies and gifts worth thousands of rupees, much against the wishes of family members, fitting to a Vishnavite (a follower of Lord Vishnu), much against the wishes of family members, and in accordance with the real principles of Hinduism as proclaimed by Lord Krishna in The Bhagvad Geeta, which he had adopted as a way of life. Being a Vishnavite he strongly believed that all said and done life is a celebration.
When he was in the high school, one day during the visit of education inspector, he misspelled the word ‘kettle’ and refused to adhere to the recommendation of the class teacher to copy it from the student next to him, as he felt that such an act was not right. Such clarity of mind and intimacy to truth was evident in his life right from childhood as an indication that he was destined to cross the barriers of ordinary human limitations.
He strongly believed in the universality of human soul, and the necessity to treat all human beings alike as part of that Universal Soul or “the children of God” in his own words. He strongly believed that “everything must be sacrificed if necessary for that one sentiment, universality”. This is a principle known to all Hindus and all human beings with average common sense irrespective of caste, creed, geographic, economical, or social identity.
The Mahatma has proved to the world the importance of self-discipline for greater achievements in life through the principle of “simple living and high thinking”, and how an ordinary person can become extra ordinary, how a poor and the weak can take on a mighty opponent, even if it’s an empire equipped with huge military, armaments, excellent political, and social management skills at its disposal.
At a time when there was no technological advancement, television, internet, computers, or social media platforms, a letter posted almost anywhere in India and most parts of the world would have reached him, even if only his photograph was affixed in place of address. Such enigmatic charisma has been rare in human history.
When he was thrown out of the train at Martizburg station in South Africa by the British officer, any common man in his position would have dusted his back and gone home, to look after his own business. He, on the contrary, took the opportunity to prepare for a long-term war against oppression. He could master-mind the moral war against the British with only peace and non-violence as tools, apart from a strong belief in selfless service, which truly has resulted in saving the lives of millions in the struggle for independence in India. For the poor destitution is the strength, for the oppressed the struggle and the survival instinct are the strengths, and they are more vital than armaments.
The contribution he has made in empowering the oppressed is unique. In reality we should call him ‘father of humanity’ as he is an inspiration even today to millions all over the world. It will be difficult for the coming generations to believe that such a great human being has ever lived among us in real life and blood.
All over the world he is being talked about in colleges, universities, management institutes, and even at government level, making him a source of inspiration to make this world a better place to live. Other than Shakespeare he is a personality on whom maximum books have been written which occupy voluminous space in the libraries across the world.
He was above religion, above family, even above nation, and he was a leader of humanity and a product of divine creation. He has also been the real inspiration to world leaders like late Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and many living legends include Barrack Obama, Suu Ki, and many more. The impact he has made on humanity with his principle of peace and nonviolence is the unique contribution anyone has made for humanity in the last more than 100 years, and his principle of universal brotherhood would have fetched him Nobel Prize for Peace, had he been in any other country of the world.
It is high time that we teach the total Gandhi in our schools and colleges by introducing a separate subject on him, like Shakespeare in English Literature, rather than histories of violent kings and rulers, to make our children better human beings, and the world a better place to live. Today’s generation suffering from thought pollution badly need his ideologies.
The material and scientific progress of humanity have failed to provide happiness and bliss humans have always yearned for. People are more and more realizing the fact that there is some missing link beyond, there is some lack of meaning in life over and above these awesome achievements, leading to the realization of the fact that possibly the value systems pursued by leaders like Gandhi may help people to fill the gaps in life. Gandhian philosophy, if adopted in practical life, may find solutions to many unanswered questions in human life.
Further Readings: 1. My Experiments With Truth (Autobiography of MK Gandhi), 2. Gandhi On Personal Leadership by Anand Kumaraswamy, 3. The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi by Robert Payne.