MAHATMA GANDHI had said, “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.” This was the difference between the Mahatma and his assassin. But, more than sixty years since his death the Mahatma is still alive. This Gandhi Jayanti (October 2nd ) let us pledge that we will revive the magic of the Mahatma which is present in all of us.
To say that we owe to this man the freedom of our country would not be an understatement. His principles and ideologies stand true irrespective of all religions, castes and regional divides. Gandhigiri, which created storm last year in our country, has travelled to the countries of Netherlands, Belgium and the United States of America. BBC News Online voted Mahatma Gandhi the greatest man of the past 1,000 years in a poll. But since his death, have we done enough to keep up his legacy?
To understand the magnitude of the assassination of Gandhi, let me take you a few years back in history. ‘Gandhi’ (film), directed by Richard Attenborough, won eight Oscar awards in 1982. Bhanu Athaiya was the first Indian to win the Oscar for costume design. But, the scene that captured everyone’s attention was the funeral scene of Mahatma Gandhi. This scene is considered to be the greatest scene in cinematic history with more than four lakh extras being used to shoot the sequence, the most ever by any stretch of imagination in any Hollywood movie. And it wasn’t money that lured the four lakh extras.
The scene was shot on January 30, 1981 – 33 years after the Mahatma’s death – and still there were four lakh people, who turned up to pay their tributes to the great man. And in the scene in which Mahatma dies and says, “Oh God!” in the movie, wherein in real life he is believed to have said, “Hey Ram,” there were riots and protests in India, in response to the last words of Mahatma Gandhi. Historically, if you look at it, it was wrong, indeed. But isn’t he the same man, who prescribed tolerance of all religions? But people in India were up in arms against this scene. Perhaps, that’s why Gandhi was called Mahatma and we are all considered mortals.
Gandhi’s principles of truth and non-violence can never cease to exist. For, they are the principles on which humanity exists. It is astonishing to hear people feel that these principles hold no water in these times. These are perhaps the men, who shudder at the thought of honesty being followed by everyone and believe in the power of money to make people do wrong.
Mahatma Gandhi is best remembered for his struggle against the British. But the only victory that counts is the one over yourself. And thus, he taught us to fight the beast within us first before taking on the world. The Mahatma would not have been the person that he was unless he possessed an indomitable will, a will that made him believe in his thoughts and convert them into actions.
His teachings of civil disobedience and passive resistance have a lot of weight even today. Nothing has really changed. Our enemies then were the oppressive British and now it is the corrupt bureaucracy that we face, the corrupt politicians, who are the only hindrance to development. This is the time when Gandhian principles come to the forefront – when we don’t have to throw the enemy out, but clean up our system from within.
Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy still carries on. Not through the host of politicians, who want to cash in on his image by just hanging a portrait of his in their offices, but through people who dare to walk on his path. Manav Sadhna, a service to all centres in Ahmedabad, works by the principles of truth and non-violence. It makes efforts to uplift the poor and oppressed, promotes health and sanitation and educates the poor masses free of cost.
It also works in the area of education, nutrition, alternatives to child labour and medical aid to women and children living in the slums. And all this it does without expecting anything in return. No, this is not another form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) looking to build up the brand image of a company. But these are people who are selflessly working in the service of others. As the man himself had said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This is what every human works all his life to find… himself.
To him, his religion was love and tolerance, his God were his principles to which he stuck no matter how great the adversity was, and he was a fighter – one who fought with truth and non-violence. He believed violence could get you victory but it would only be momentary. Instead, he believed in conquering the enemy with love. Everytime you think of this great man, you have the image of a thin, frail body carrying a stick with an everlasting smile on his face. The greatest of problems seem to have the simplest of solutions.
Mahatma’s legacy continues. There is a Mahatma in all of us, but in all the worries of the world, he is lost. It is time we paid attention to that inner voice. My favourite quote of the Mahatma is, “There are times when you have to obey a call, which is the highest of all, that is the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being.” And keeping this in mind, let us pledge that we will be the change that we wish to see in this world.