Showing posts with label Gandhi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gandhi. Show all posts

February 06, 2014

Imagining Gandhi

T. M. KRISHNA wrote in The Hindu. A good article

For him, his work, his passion, which found such intensity in struggle, was not a question of good vs. evil but a series of battles within the site of the ‘good’ itself.


Whether you worship, revere, respect, fault or even detest him, the Mahatma, Gandhi, or as his British Indian Passport saw him, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, remains a character of great, if intriguing, relevance.

Among his numerous contributions, one of the greatest is his redefining of the idea of struggle, of revolt and the role in these of violence. Each of these concepts has traditionally invoked hurt, suffering, and even death, very often to the oppressor himself.

In Gandhi, the hurt and the suffering were self-inflicted. In fact, the more the hurt and suffering, the higher the risk of death, the ‘purer’ for him was the struggle, the more justified the revolt.

For Gandhi, his work, his passion, which found such intensity in struggle, was not a question of good vs. evil but a series of battles within the site of the ‘good’ itself. Each mass movement gave a paradigm of change, which was about more than just the immediate objective. Both by intent and method, he left behind an altered scene in which both oppressed and oppressor stood challenged, transformed.

Every January 30, at 5.17 pm, we revisit the moment of his ‘silencing’ with silence. At that moment not only was he killed but a wholly new vision that he had created evaporated. The sense of loss that engulfed the nation was about more than the loss of a person. A whole world crumbled at that instant, something only he represented, something only he was.

Gandhi was saint, social reformer and freedom fighter, but what intrigues me is why he was different, not just in degree but in his whole being, from the many others who struggled for exactly the same causes. Like many before him he too traversed the country. But Gandhi did not travel to observe or learn from India in the ordinary sense. He became the laughter, tears, drudgery, suffering, friendship, anger and hope. The observer became the observed. Every experience moved him closer to who he was, leading to revelations that were not always pleasant, but were the truth. What he saw as the future was very different.

The difference lay in his imagination, in his visualising sensibility. Yet what he saw as India’s destiny was anything but imaginary, it was tangible. It was not just about social inequalities and the depressing conditions, but he saw deep inside these external actualities, the hidden fire of tomorrow, the fire that would burn not to destroy but to recreate. This was the imagination of a master visionary, not a delusion of Mohandas.

He knew that he had to address Today for a Tomorrow. But he also immediately realised that no one can address reality without imagining the future. To imagine something for oneself is one thing, but to make every other person imagine it at the same time is completely another.

What of his own did Gandhi create in the actuality of Indians’ lives? The most magnificent ‘creation’ was the possibility of a future in which violence, bloodshed, hurt, and destruction were not part of the edifice. It was not a passive vision, rather an active, dynamic, even aggressive force that sought to change the weaknesses of a violent today for a morally mature tomorrow.

He made an entire people envision something radically new. They were imagining a future without blood on their hands. This was the creation of the Mahatma.

Was the identification of India with Gandhi’s vision of India self-deceptive, or, worse, was it false, a dream?

As much as Gandhi may have tried to transfer his imagination to the people, it was essential that they feel his imagination, his vision within themselves as their own imagination and their own impulse and feeling. It was essential that they make Gandhi’s vision of the future, their India of the future, for which they took responsibility. They did try to do this, earnestly, emotionally, intellectually, with utmost loyalty. They felt the empowerment, happiness, joy and a possible future in equality in independent India. This was the master at work. This emotional world was charged using created action. The actions were not just about their political or social impact but about creating an emotional anchor. This was not the Mahatma’s personal anchor; it was the collective foundation for all. But this left everyone believing that Gandhi’s vision was their own.

This connection existed only till the creator of the vision lived. His imagination of a future India was like a painting, which he made with his own life. The painting was his life and his life was the painting. Until he remained, the future as he envisioned was within everyone’s embrace. But with him gone, the illusion disappeared; what seemed to be their future, created by him, but collectively owned, existed no more.

The memory of it lingers, of course, but it evokes nostalgia rather than the active, living participation he wanted. So, was his imagination a waste of his energy, of India’s time? The problem lies in the fact that everyone else is living in the imagination of these ‘thought leaders’ and not imagining for themselves. Every individual must imagine and work for true change in society. We took shelter within Gandhi’s imagination, forgetting that his greatest gift was the idea of imagination itself, which he did not own.

Gandhi’s use of creative imagination is fascinating. He created from his experience and skills a certain vision which, like a piece of art, arose from within him, and then tried to envelop every individual around him. He also gave his personal vision a collective personality, by investing it with an objective quality, like an artist would his work of art.

Was the Mahatma an artist? He would have been happier being called an artisan. What distinguishes the two? Nothing but this, that while an artist hopes to create art, an artisan is untroubled by the thought ‘Am I creating art?’

But is every one of us an artist? An artist lives within everyone, but we need to have the sensitivity to ‘receive the world’, the strength to question it, and emotions beyond the self to make of our experience what Gandhi did, namely, to present a new imagination that goes beyond the person who is imagining it. For a beautiful world, we all need to be artists in life and not live within the creations of others.

Keywords: Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhian ideology, Gandhian thought, Gandhi's vision

November 27, 2013

Today's Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi is world renowned person for the Nonviolence movement which stood as a pillar for the Freedom Struggle for India. However, just from what I heard, like many, I too had severe misconceptions about Gandhi. It is very sad. Fortunately, I happened to read the autobiography of Gandhi - The Story of My Experiments with Truth. It was a revelation about Gandhi. I could get very close to him because his autobiography is spotlessly honest. I had earlier written about it in my blog post. From then on, I didn't give much serious thought about the misconceptions about Gandhi. My thought was, Gandhi was such an honest person; How can such a wall be raised in front of Gandhi  ? Who does that so ? Why Gandhi is painted that way ?

Incidentally, I happened to read few of the essays by Writer-Novelist Jeyamohan's on Gandhi, E.Ve.Ra (Periyar) and others. In this year's book expo, I purchased a book Indraya Gandhi (இன்றைய காந்தி - Today's Gandhi) by Jeyamohan. I am glad, I got that book. This book is very neutral. That adds credibility to it. Jeyamohan laments Gandhi wherever he was naive. 

Since there are many misconceptions about Gandhi, I thought of penning down a synopsis of the book. This book is compilation of essays by Jeyamohan on Gandhi. These essays were written in response to many questions that he got through his website (from his fans and readers). Later, these essays were compiled into a book. The book is divided into three parts (1. Personality 2. Politics 3. Vision)

Part 1 - Personality
1) Gandhi's Simplicity 
Until Gandhi came back to India , Freedom Struggle was organized only by the rich, kings and Zamindaars (aristocrats) for their benefit / selfish-motives. Congress (Party) was functioning only among the rich. Hence, independence at that time would have not meant for the poor. It would have been just transfer of powers from the British Viceroys to the Kings in India. All the kings in India were thinking to renovate their palaces after independence.  

Gandhi understood that, independence must be for the entire country. This democracy should be for all the people in the country. He chose to be among the people. In Gandhi's autobiography, Gandhi has mentioned that, one of the reflection of democracy is that a train should have only one single class. It should not have first, second and third classes. He travelled in trains in third class. [Sarojini Naidu even mocked about Gandhi travelling in third class in train.] 

Zamindaars understood that Gandhi's way will shatter their dreams and plans of ruling people and leading an aristocratic life. Until Gandhi came, all the super rich (Nehru, Sarojini) would always travel in the elite trains (Rajdhani's) and elite class that was used by the British Viceroys. If not Gandhi, the partymen of Congress (and the rich) wouldn't have travelled to places that were not connected by rail. Only Gandhi travelled to places even if it didn't had rail connectivity. 

Gandhi was wearing the simplest dress (just Khadi dress). His attire (simple loincloth and a shawl) was exactly the dress a farmer would wear in India. People perceived him to be their leader for them.  He mingled among the poor. Simplicity is the reason why Gandhi attracted more people than Gokhale and Thilak. Gandhi, in the same agriculturist minimalistic dress, met King George V. Gandhi didn't follow the protocol (for dress) that has to be followed for meeting the King. He would live as what he was. He did not wish to deceive others by dressing up like the Britons. He would wear the dress of the people whom he represented. He represented the half-naked and half-starving millions of India. In the same dress, he spoke in the round table conference in front of the King. One journalist asked him: "Don't you feel embarrassed to see the King George V in this scanty dress?" Of course he was not participating in a beauty contest remember. Gandhi said: "Why should I feel ashamed?", and (humorously) added: "The King has enough on for both of us." That's the message. Simplicity.

2) Mohandas Gandhi & Mahatma
Many people blame that Gandhi was the person who introduced the practice of bowing and touching the feet. He projected himself to be a Mahatma and thought himself a Mahatma. Both are different.

Gandhi was a modern man. He absorbed the European modernism. He approached things scientifically. So, that case, would he have considered himself to be a Mahatma ? Many European who have been with Gandhi have said that Gandhi was more of an European. His thought process was adhering that of Europeans.

Gandhi came from a religion Vainavam (Vaishnavism) which had it is roots in the religion Samanam. In this religion, the highest point is simplicity and total devotion. According to the religion, the man has to win himself. This religion is based on fasting. Fasting is a method to purify. Gandhi severely strained his body through fasting. According to him, the control on mind/heart and his body will make him more strong (mentally). He won by his sacrifice. His life always included - living closer to nature, self-control, rejecting consumerism. Through these he architected the Satyagraha movement.

Gandhi thought that to win himself two things were hurdles viz 1) Lust 2) Food. He founded Sabarmati Ashram and performed various experiments on himself to overcome lust and food. In general he wanted to control and overcome desires. And he overcame. At the end of the process, he was able to architect Satyagraha. Only here, people identified Gandhi as a Mahatma. It is purely because of the underlying Indian Heritage in their psychology or mindset or inner conscience. It is said (approximately) that in 1920 the tribals of Madhya Pradesh called Gandhi as Mahatma (against the popular misconceived belief that Rabindranath Tagore was the one who first called Gandhi as Mahatma). But Gandhi didn't allow people, who called him Mahatma, near him. Gandhi severely condemned calling him as Mahatma. This title Mahatma pained him a lot. In many of his speeches he has mocked at calling him as Mahatma. He mocked at himself and laughed out loudly.

Gandhi said Ahimsa (Nonviolence) and Truth are as old as mountains in this world and to the best possible extent I am trying to implement them in my life. The entire nation followed Gandhi not because what he says are correct but because he is the correct person. Entire nation was in his feet. But, whenever people touched his feet, his heart pained.

India is a nation in which for almost 20 centuries it was ruled by kings. Almost 75% of the nation was controlled by the kings. But in just 15 years Gandhi as a single person brought all the people to democracy. It was Gandhi (Gandhi's congress) who brought most number of women to Politics. In India, no other political party brought women to politics as Gandhi did. Even in today's world (21st century), in the world of information technology and mass communications, it is not so easy to communicate to the whole nation India. But in the first half of the 20the century itself Gandhi communicated with all the people. He made himself a message. He made his life a message. A leader needs astounding courage to tell that my life itself is my message. And it needs terrific guts to tell in front of the history (for all research enthusiasts) that in his private life there is no secret. Even his SIMPLE appearance in SIMPLE attire was a message. That's the message he gave to people who came to meet him.

Gandhi neither accepted not entertained others deference for him (பெரியாரை வியத்தலும் இலமே சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும் இலமே). Gandhi was of opinion that if he can do one thing then all others also can do it. He visioned 1)  a world without any war 2) a world that doesn't loot the natural resources 3) a humanity without any differences in the world. For all these, he thought two things are needed 1) Control of desires 2) Love for fellow human being. But these were big challenges for normal men.

When we see Gandhi as Mahatma we jump into fixed notions and already have conclusions about him. And that is where we take him far away from him, thereby, thinking we cannot follow him. Gandhi followed Karmayoga (an Indian Heritage) matured to legendary fruit (கனிந்த ஞானி).  பாழ்பட்டு நின்றதாமோர் பாரத தேசம் தன்னை வாழ்விக்க வந்த காந்தி மகாத்மா நீ வாழ்க வாழ்க. (India was a desolated nation. For which, to give life, came a person Gandhi - a Mahatma. Let your glory Hail)

To be continued .....

3) Gandhi a Baniya
4) Gandhi and Brahmacharya
5) Gandhi's Children

Part 2- Politics
1) Dialogue with The Hatred 
2) Gandhi's way
3) Gandhi's mistakes
4) Hitler and Gandhi
5) Che Guevara and Gandhi
6) Gandhi's Betrayal
7) Gandhi and Caste
8) Gandhi and Hindi
9) Gandhi and Dalit Politics
10) Gandhi and Backward people
11) Vaikom Struggle 

 Part 3 - Vision
1) Gandhi and Technology
2) Gandhi's Medicine
3) Gandhi's Nation
4) Gandhi's Village Autonomy (Grama Swaraj)

November 18, 2013

Mahatma Gandhi's Dream

Read a nice poem on Mahatma Gandhi's poem in Young World section of The Hindu newspaper.

To the great country
We pay our homage
Let us all get together
And hear Bapu’s message

Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian
Remember you all are Indians
Love, peace and equality
Was his message to humanity
Hear no evil, see no evil
Speak nothing untrue
‘Sathyameva Jayathe’ (Only Truth Triumphs)
Should be your motto too
No one’s high nor anyone low
Let all barriers of caste be thrown
Let us treat all mean as equals
Who are God’s creations
Like me and you
Little children though we are
Let us pledge to the country
With Satya and Ahimsa as our theme [Truth and Non-Violence]
That we will fulfil Bapu’s dream.
             - Ilakkiya
- The writer is a student of VI E, Montfort School, Tiruchi
Link: click here

May 27, 2013

Gandhi & His Experiments with Truth

I mentioned in my March 2013 post that I have started to read Gandhi  - The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Due to consistent travels I couldn't read it for a brief period. But, last two weeks, I made it a point to read it regularly. And now I have read it.

After reading, I confidently say that my mix conceptions about Gandhi have definitely shattered into pieces. I would say that the book was, in a sense, deeply spiritual. After reading the book, I (we) wouldn't find that Gandhi did extraordinary things to attain the stature that he enjoyed those days and his soul enjoys today. I honestly accept that I would miss many things that I liked about Gandhi. Nevertheless, let me list down what I liked about Gandhi and the story about his experiments with the truth.

1) True to the title of the book, the book had only Truth. Gandhi had written it with remarkable frankness as well as mentions his failures.

2) Explains why he staunchly followed Vegetarianism [though he once ate meat (misled by a friend in childhood]

3) His conviction and experiments on natural medicines. And he didn't depend on modern medicines. He believed that modern medicines might solve the problem but would also generate many side effects.

4) The social service he did in London and how he did social networking even in those days and the kind of respect he commanded from everyone in the Indian diaspora. 

5) Gandhi explains that role of a husband and how he had to teach his illiterate wife though he failed many  times because it took him a lot of time to overcome the lust.

6) Gandhi accounts every single anna and shillings every night and showed that this discipline helped him in maintaining large funds of public money.

7) Gandhi frankly says the relationship he had with a London girl and says how he felt when he felt/afraid that she might have some other feelings on him when he was already a father of a son. And the letter he had written with utmost maturity to that lady explaining the situation.

8) Gandhi explains how fearless he was when he demanded complete free hand to find out the Truth from the Government authorities, Judges, Court, whenever he took over a case. And he explains that he got more joy in reconciling the client and the opponents and considered that has a duty of a barrister. 

9) Gandhi explains the importance of Mother Tongue. I remember there are few lines which says, the one who don't teach and speak mother tongue to their children is betraying his/her children and the nation. They are keeping their children away from culture and spirituality offered by that nation.

10) Gandhi details the irony he had to came across, where he was the first person to speak in Hindi in a meeting which had mostly Indians and very few British bureaucrats 

11) Gandhi firmly believed that having milk, non-veg are deterrents to follow Brahmacharya and explains that fasting alone doesn't purify a person. Rather, stopping the thoughts alone would purify a person.

12) Gandhi cities that we should not kill the venomous snakes and reptiles in the agricultural farm lands. If we don't harm them, then it will not harm us as well. And he gives an example that in 20 years in a farm no death was due to an animal. And it is no fortuitous accident rather it is the grace of God.

13) Gandhi vowed not to take milk. But he and his wife, in different times, had to undergo  some operations. Doctors, saints, well wishers compelled them to have beef tea, milk etc. But he said a firm NO to those things even for his treatment and his wife. At one stage in his life, he was so weak and he was once again compelled to at least have Goat's milk. Though Gandhi vowed not to take Cow's milk and Buffalo's milk, yet he was deeply pained to take Goat's milk because he firmly believed though he vowed only Cow's and Buffalo's milk, yet he implicitly vowed not to take animal products. By having Goat's milk, he felt he has breached the Truth.

14) Gandhi explains the state of third class compartments in South Africa and it was no different when compared with that of first class compartments. But he found that third class compartments in India were very untidy. And he says that all businessmen, bureaucrats must travel in third class compartments and demand equal service.  (And sadly even in 2013, Indian Railways is not much different)

15) Gandhi explains the importance of keeping one's place clean and neat. 

16) Gandhi says everyone should have his thought, creed, and deed to be clean and pure all the time.

17) Gandhi doesn't believe in propaganda of the superiority of a religion over other religion. 

18) Gandhi firmly explains the importance of doing exercise in day to day life. And every person must at least spend thirty means to walk thereby creating an appetite. 

19) Gandhi explains how he cut down the food to only twice a day and how it helped him to bring the frequency of headache and later disappearing. And he also explains this stern belief on fruits, nuts as food as well having the dinner before it gets dark.

20) Gandhi doesn't believe much in literary education. But he says that if a parent teaches his children everyday at least one hour (or maximum 2 hours) then he can really bring a wonderful person. And he says that it is the duty of the parents to take care of the children's upbringing in the right way imparting them with moral values.

21) Gandhi explains how Bhagavath Gita helped him throughout his life and acknowledges that he found answers for every question he had in that.

22) His glimpses on religion

23) Gandhi was completely a spiritual man, but he didn't completely believe in the concepts of having bath in Kumbh Mela. Because he felt that self-purification must start from purifying the thoughts and automatically everything falls in place.

24) Gandhi shows how he trained the spirit which is very important. 

25) Gandhi persuaded his wife and children and returned all the gifts (and jewels) that he received when he was returning from South Africa to India. He firmly believed that, if he hadn't done those social service, no one would have gifted him anything. And he believed that he should not take anything in return of social service.

26) Gandhi mentions he drew inspiration from Tolstoy and others. From "Unto the Last", he mentions that it is worth living a life of an artist or any other profession.

27) His love for British and his regard for the British empire. He wanted Swaraj but he didn't hate British. He always felt that Swaraj should not be transfer powers from British to wrong hands in India. 

28) Gandhi was a many of limited words. He carefully chose is words and gave only the required information. His writings were to the point and were not out of scope.

29) His aversion to Medical Insurance. I really liked that very much.

30) And of course, how he conceived Satyagraha and put it in practise. 

I am sure I have missed many things (there are 125 chapters). Hence I HIGHLY RECOMMEND "Gandhi - The Story of My Experiments with Truth" to everyone. Especially to people in the age group 15 to 35 years. While we read, we would automatically feel that, for self-purification it only takes a human effort not a superhuman effort. 

P.S: There are many translations of this book originally written in Gujarati. I read the translation by Mahadev Desai (the original translator name is not said in public). I felt that the book was adequately translated and the spirit was captured rightly.

Soft copy of the book is available in this link (Click it).
You can purchase the book from Flipkart in this link (Click it).

And Einstein rightly said 
“Revolution without the use of violence was the method by which Gandhi brought about the liberation of India. It is my belief that the problem of bringing peace to the world on a supranational basis will be solved only by employing Gandhi’s method on a large scale…
…It should not be forgotten that Gandhi’s development resulted from extraordinary intellectual and moral forces in combination with political ingenuity and a unique situation. I think that Gandhi would have been Gandhi even without Thoreau and Tolstoy.
Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
Meaning: Do not mingle with naiveté

March 24, 2013

Gandhi - The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Generally, when I read books, I don't read with much expectations or excitement. I read them just for reading. But, I am starting with a book now with lots of excitement. I am not a judge, but I have divergent views on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his leadership. But, in recent times, by hearing and reading articles, I have started seeing more positives in Gandhi and his way of life. My Chemistry professor, Dr Seetharaman who I know for last 15 years and, for me, he is my God Father, many times said me I follow Gandhi principles (eating Parle-G biscuits, Groundnut-jaggery cakes/chikki) I didn't take them seriously. Even though he earned well, yet, I have found his house to be following a very very a minimalistic style. But those days I didn't realise. Only in recent times, when I was thinking, I did realize it was Gandhian way of living. So these observations gave me more drive to read his autobiography. It is "Gandhi - The Story of My Experiments with Truth". This book (translated from Gujarathi) is an autobiography by Mahathma Gandhi. I am not reading this book to become a Mahatma but to digest the message. And, I hope, I get much needed insights, essence for me and my self.

My reading so far; how it started; who made it?

I am not an avid reader. I didn't had any reading habit when I passed my college in 2005.  I was more afraid of the jargons and vocabularies used. But my friend Lourdu Xavier who showed me a way that I should "travel" and enjoy. I started with an epic novel Ponniyin Selvan in Tamil. What more best novel can I ask to start with. I had only competed first part by end of 2005. After which I travel across places which gave me junk reasons to procrastinate. But some of wonderful friends, namely Balasubramani Arunachalam, MPC, Rajesh Sundarraj, Shankar S, Sundaresan KM, RT, Nagamani Raajan, AM and of course Lourdu Xavier, -colleagues inspired me with their wonderful language and maturity. And I could sense well that they are very good readers.  And, in July 2008, I moved to New Delhi. It gave me wonderful time to read books. I started cultivating the habit slowly. But I was irregular. As a fan of carnatic music, it happened for me follow Mr Sanjay Subramanyham's website. There, the best thing that happened for me was the Book Read Challenge he had posted from I too registered my self with 10 book that year (though it is low, but I felt it is good a number to start with). And today, I have read around 40 books. I don't take pride in those numbers. But I realized I do can read novels, auto-biographies, short stories, spiritual books and most importantly they help me realize my self. Though I was initially tempted, but one thing I have so far avoided was self-help/management books - again inspired from a note (with wisdom) on a casual chat with a friend Muthu Kumaran. Now, in Korea, in April 2013 I have good time. To a certain extent I am have made good use of my time in reading books. Going forward I long to read more books on various topics. And, one person who constantly encouraged me was my beloved grand mother Srimathi Saraswathi Subramanian. Till her teenage she was a very good reader. But post marriage, her reading got limited to magazines. I am glad I rekindled her interest in books and reopened her windows and give her good number of Tamil books.

Things in my Shelf are : Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Thuppariyum Sambu, The Idiot, Paths of Glory, etc

Wishing that my self grows as I grow.

துன்பத்திற்கு இடம் கொடேல்.
Meaning: Don't allow sadness to occupy you