The Gandhi I (Don’t) Know . . .

I have been reading about Gandhi for many years now. Printed on the first page of all my text books was his ‘talisman’; and each time, I conveniently turned that page without giving it a second thought. My general knowledge books were filled with his pictures and achievements, which I sincerely memorized before every test. History chapters talked in great details about his involvement in the national movement and in my knowledge he was the most “popular’ freedom fighter. I remembered him exactly once in a year, on 2nd of October, when thanks to what I deemed was his immense popularity, we were given a holiday!

Why is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi called the father of our nation? Why is he called the Mahatma? Why does the world follow the man half clad in dhoti, with devotion that can only be compared to complete compliance? Why do we associate him to a number of terms and symbols like satya, peace, sacrifice and non-violence?

Well, I would have never cared to find the answers, unless I was forced to. And there are many like me who don’t know him. For the majority, he is an idea that does not spark interest because studying him is considered akin to studying the freedom movement of the country.

However when I did embark on the difficult task of discovering this ‘other’ Gandhi the realization did come. Gandhi was much more than a freedom fighter; he was an economist, a social activist, a political scientist, a philosopher and a firm believer in the equality of all religions. He was a visionary and the freedom movement was a miniscule part of his entire vision. His ideas may or may not be relevant to the changing times, but these were the ideas that made him the messiah of the poor and downtrodden.

It’s funny how people talk about HR policies to manage a group of people, when Gandhi, in his entire lifetime never had to do anything more than speak to them, and people followed, not just followed but followed in great numbers. The terms like ‘corporate social responsibility’ are also not new considering his accepted wisdom on business ethics and morality in commerce. The examples I could cite here are endless.

To understand Gandhi, it is important to know the man and his way of living, rather than blandly accounting his achievements and failures. Gandhi’s views are best understood in his own words than what people read into these words. He was a great mind, and if nothing it would be a waste of a lot of paper, if nothing of the almost ninety volumes of his work is read by the youth. If not his ideas and ideals, your interpretation of them will be the lesson.