Gandhi Reply

Facebook has pointed out that India is now celebrating Gandhi Jayanti, a special day commemorating the birthday of Gandhi. What little I know about him indicates that he was a very wise man. Can you tell us about the holiday?

Hi Jeremy. Hope you are doing great. I believe you are in Alabama now.

Again thanks for asking me this. Pressed by the bound of time (predicated to take about 5 or 6 classes tomorrow) and its past midnight here, let me try to be as brief here in answering your query.

First off semantics. Jayanti literally means a “festivity day”. Its usually a celebratory day of the inception of an organization, institution, a tradition or observance or a famous person who the country likes to celebrate.

Evidently October 2 is the day on which Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi was born in Por-Bandar in Gujurat state of India, a contemporary of Albert Einstein. Gandhi was 10 years elder than Einstein so even if they were to be compatriots there was only a slick chance that they would have met in high-school. But its Einstein who had once remarked “Its beyond belief to conceive a man like this in blood and flesh”. Some such thing, I am just paraphrasing from mind.

So yes, Gandhi was widely and wildly popular epitome of what a statesman is, in his own time and indubitably in any time-line of humanity.

Before shedding a little more light on this, I will take a little sinuous route to this than perhaps any stickler would allow me to.

When I was a little kid, say I just stepped into my 8th birthday, I had matriculated into a newer school, after spending all my formative years away from parental custody.

When I entered the new school which was in an urban setting contrary to my prior school which was a pastoral setting, I quickly expressed my interests in creative pursuit. Thus in these preliminary days (of the new school) I was asked to write an essay on a stalwart of the state’s the then conscience. Although he was not as famous as Gandhi he was nonetheless a quintessential Gandhi for the state of Odisha.

So by my personal proclivities of hitting the road and then planning for the sabre I said YES. Upon return I made scurried attempts in finding out a book that would talk about the statesman about whom I was going to write. I did find a book in the neighbourhood, and did make a good essay, as evinced by some sort of reward (I usually rank 1 or 2)

Now let me contrast that to the greatly more popular and well known character called Gandhi.

My creative pursuits were not completely debauched until a decade later. So once I had to give a speech on Gandhi. I prepared a good deal of composing the essay and remembering verbatim. But what happened when I began speaking in front of the school children, is I fumbled a little.

I was through to one or two long paragraphs without a hitch. But I remember (to this day) that I am forgetting the punchline of the subsequent paragraph.

Without wasting a further nanosecond I jumbled the paragraph, began speaking from later ones and interpolated my own ideas about what is virtue rather than what is Gandhi. This was all to be spoken without looking at the piece of paper that I prepared myself.

Somehow I managed and there was no inkling that I messed up a tad bit.

Gandhi was beyond any reproach in India (with a gross exception of the then polity when he was assassinated by his own disciple Nathuram Godsey [Godsend; as per those who would endorse the killing per one pretext or another , so see he was not completely free from blemish]

So as the budding citizens of India we were never taught, formally, anything wrong with Gandhi. he was primarily a saintly persona with the wisdom and influence concomitant upon such heroes. He was a great Paladin of the virtue of Ahimsa.

I must proclaim here though that it is Asok (the great emperor, who propagated Buddhism) who from antiquity had established the virtue of Ahimsa (Ahimsa Paramodharma = Non-violence is the greatest creed ) and not Gandhi. Ahimsa was an integral philosophy of Buddhism, Jainism and the likes which were offshoots of Hinduism. Inseparably therefore (contrary to what we witness in present times) Ahimsa can be purported to be a Hindu value as well.

But its Gandhi who had brought forth the Ahimsa Marga (The path of Ahimsa ) as an inalienable method of usurping British from the imperial thrones of India in paving a wider avenue towards independent and sovereign Indian republic. He was massively successful at this.

As a prelude to this Gandhi (Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi) was a barrister (or what was he technically, a lawyer, counselor, attorney notwithstanding) in South Africa during the most grim days of apartheid. While Gandhi hasn’t been incontrovertible even in matters of race, and no great man will ever be, a failure of humanity as it exists rather than the one fellow that brings us deliverance, he was treated by the South African whites of those time with great contempt especially because Gandhi was a greatly successful political proponent in the sort of activities that he often took part in.

I think this has assimilated into my psyche upon watching a flick made on Gandhi by the eponymous movie “Gandhi”. (played by Attenborough?)

He was literally kicked out of the train compartment in upholding segregation of the then community in that country. He repatriated to India and thats how an impetus was imparted to the independence struggle of India. India I must append was already seething with venomous deal of objections to the rule of British from almost a 100 or more years ago. (The sepoy mutiny was enacted in 1857, Gandhi was born 1869) but much before sepoy mutiny Indian sense of independence against foreign power was on the offing. This one can see in the wars with Kings and queens (like Shivaji 1670 and Laxmibai 1858).

Gandhi was the final clarion-call who was an epitome of political confrontation with the British who literally brought the insubordinate British on their knee, several time, through mere non-violent stratagem.

These final stages of Indian independence struggle (which also witnessed violent upheavals eg Bhagat Singh and the military strategist Subhash Bose in alliance with the Japanese forces) were successfully (after several decades of Gandhi’s life’s worth) brought to culmination. India was independent a day after Pakistan was emancipated from British jurisdiction on 15th Aug 1947. Very soon he was assassinated by the disciple turned apostate Nathuram Godse. (sorry for earlier typo)

Gandhi is established in every corridor and streets of India and world with or without Indian diaspora. I once witnessed a man who had varnished his body white and impersonated Gandhi for entertainment, in Honolulu. Washington DC has its Gandhi street so does Bangalore.

But one thing remains, he is still elusive. He is an apparition, an incorporeal entity only angels are known to be like. Despite of the fact that he is to be seen on currency of India and postal stamps Indians often haven’t shown enough zeal in knowing upholding or following the creed with which he purportedly lived his life.

I will give another example.

On my Alternative English paper in undergrad college a question came “to write on the life and values of Gandhi”.

Like my creative pursuit years ago, I bluffed again. I wrote every good quality known on earth and impersonated my central character that is endued Gandhi with these qualities. In India you can create a Gandhi of your own and sell. Thats how believable he is.

Of-course I had successfully qualified the paper.

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