Mahatma Gandhi: Tribute, relevance, redemption
Why India and the world need Gandhi? How do we ensure the ideals of Gandhi are remembered by future generations? There is a need for thinkers, entrepreneurs and tech leaders to be at the forefront of spreading Gandhi’s ideas through innovation
Seema Kaintura 3 Oct 2019 11:11 AM GMT
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's befitting tribute to the Father of the Nation in the New York Times on October 2 talks about the relevance of Bapu's ideals in the present context. It is important to know that Bapu's biggest legacy to the nation lives deeply embedded within the Indian subconscious, which means that we eat, work, think and sleep under the shade of the overarching Gandhian philosophy.
The decline in Gandhian studies in the present time at higher education level may show our resistance and at times we may suffer from the anxiety of his influence upon us and would want to shrug it off, but he remains pretty much the agelessly contemporary father who had thought every thought for us. It is not only for the social leaders to carry forth his legacy. The need is for every Indian — be it a school-going suburban child, a farmer in the tribal hinterlands or an independent urban woman or a tech savvy devil-may-care millennial elsewhere, to take a moment to look within, look around and think from the heart.
Innumerable accounts of Bapu's life and incisive as well as elaborate studies have ensured that almost every aspect of his life has been well-documented and passed on to common memory. Similarly, Gandhian principles of non-violence, religious harmony and tolerance, sarvodaya and social equality along with universal brotherhood not just limited to humans, but to the entire living world have long guided and inspired many people and visions across the globe notable being Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.
Sesquicentennial birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi has witnessed befitting philosophical as well as pragmatic tributes paid to our dear Bapu celebrating not only the great man's life, but also his mission to serve humanity at large. The Indian government has launched various commemorative stamps, movements and schemes under the Swachch Bharat Mission and Make in India looking towards environment-friendly and ecologically-sustainable growth alternatives at grass root level.
In the New York Times op-ed, the Prime Minister said Mahatma Gandhi had the unique ability to become a bridge between some of the greatest contradictions in human society. How could he achieve such transcendence? He did it because although well-informed and cleverly-articulated, his was the philosophy of heart, which made it timelessly contextual and fluidly reinterpretable for any life experience. Innumerable talks, discussions, articles, studies, impressions and opinions whether informed or merely happy creative endeavours have successfully rendered their interpretation of the Gandhian Philosophy to various aspects of human life experience, including religion, gender, nutrition, journalism, economics, politics and environment.
Based on non-violence and universal brotherhood, Bapu's philosophy always found itself opposing the monolithic or absolute narratives and celebrated plurality. Religions, Gandhiji believed to be different manifestations of the same soul, each manifestation with some error. A true believer would therefore respect all religions equally and strive to draw on the best teachings and practices of each for moral enhancement. The need of the hour is to drop prevailing religious intolerance and live in harmony.
Gandhiji championed frugality and sustainable living, which allowed a little comfort to all but addressed no one's greed. Nothing could have been more relevant than today when we reel under scarcity of every single natural resource, including earth, water and air on one side and the evils of senseless over production and over processing on the other. We are binging more, eating bad, living unhealthily, which has resulted in wastages, lifestyle disorders and ecological disasters. There is an ever-widening parity between the haves and have-nots in health, nutrition, education, employment and every other parameter of quality to life.
Gandhiji started as a journalist so he had clear journalistic principles, those espousing truth for general good. He would have therefore opposed the spread of fake news and stressed on the moral responsibility of the media abstaining from sensationalism and creating hyper reality which unfortunately is the bane of the present-day media seeking to amplify its reach overnight.
So far as social equality is concerned, Bapu believed in the social upliftment of the marginalized, including the women, but only to the extent of providing dignity. He believed that women should be lauded for their gender specific roles and that the working classes for theirs. He also believed the privileged to be a custodian of the marginalized. With the rising mutual intolerance amidst cacophony of isolated radicalism, Gandhiji's words of caution ring truest. In adopting and living by the Gandhian ideal of Bahujan Hitay, Bahujan Sukhaye, alone lies the redemption for the future of mankind.