(Published in The Huffington Post India : http://www.huffingtonpost.in/shaira-mohan/ )
The year was 1869, the date – October 2nd.
A child was born in a dark and dingy ground floor room in the city of Porbandar in Gujarat. The family of the child said he was born with an indelible restlessness – sometimes pulling ears of dogs and other times roaming around, constantly on the move.
This child was named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and going by what we know of him today, it would be safe to say that the restlessness he was born with was probably the first sign of the greatness that was to come and take the world by storm.
From the mild age of 24, Gandhi had already set himself up to be the one-man army of reform that the country needed in areas of religion and caste. So, with a naïve but determined will, he proceeded to take his ideas back to India from South Africa to implement them, but was confronted with the harsh reality of the complexities on this front in India. This formed the turning point in his life and what fuelled the unprecedented movements and initiatives he started that led India to its Independence and gave Gandhi the unofficial honorary title of ‘Father of the Nation’.
An idea that even today associates itself with Mahatma Gandhi (the title of ‘Mahatma’ conferred on him by Rabindranath Tagore) is the idea of ‘Non-Violence’. Just a few days away from October 2, 2015, when the country will celebrate the 146TH anniversary of his birth, I couldn’t help but reflect on this idea of non-violence that was championed by the legend in the fight for India’s freedom before independence. While he faced widespread criticism for his non-violent teachings and methods (he even went as far as saying that he felt the Jews should have ‘offered themselves to the butcher’s knife’ and collectively given in, thus awakening the idea of heroism), scooping up and then losing many followers of his belief along the way, he single-handedly engraved and globally preached the idea of condemning and refusing combat through violent measures, instead urging everyone to embrace the idea of liberation through peaceful, ‘humane’ means.
From Leaders of the Civil Rights movements like Martin Luther King, to Albert Einstein, from Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama, Gandhi had been an inspiration for and mentor to many.
Today, the year is 2015 and while modern India has opted to shelve Gandhi’s non – violent methods in the face of its rising military and economic power, it certainly owes a lot of its politics and democratic stance to the Mahatma.
But I wonder if today’s India needs another Mahatma Gandhi to revive the idea of non-violence among its people. I wonder if non-violence today is a lesson that needs to be taught not on a militaristic or religious level but on a human, altruistic level. The headlines in the news today are flooded by terrorist attacks, plane crashes, shootings, physical violence and even political and social injustices being doled out by one person on another. Just the other day a family known to us witnessed their 90 year old relative being knocked over by the car of a political figure in the city of Chandigarh, suffering severe injuries and the person in question did not even have the decency to stop and help the family. Women are still being violated every day and terrorists are still bombing cities, planes, schools and places of worship with renewed fervor every year. Religion still forms the crux of an age-old animosity that only becomes uglier with time. Countries are at war that have rendered an entire population homeless and made them flee to find safe shelter elsewhere. And we are being run by a ‘secularly democratic’ political set up that although has got the wheels in motion for progress and is ahead of the last party in power by leaps and bounds, is beginning to bare its more tyrannical disposition lurking in the shadows through often mindless bans, decrees and constant controversies circling its ‘Hindutva’ ideology.
I wonder what Gandhiji would have done had he been with us today. What would he be doing today to tackle all the different kinds of ‘violence’ he would have come across in today’s India?
On the occasion of the upcoming birthday of this great Mahatma who now lives with us and for us in our history books, lets tear a page from HIS book of ethics, even those of us who are opposed to his ways, just for a day let’s take a step back and view life from the lens of this legendary, old freedom fighter’s round rimmed glasses.