Married at 13, an average student who passed his matriculation exam with some difficulty and resisted an education in law in England – not the grounding for a successful man, one would think.
But it was this man who mobilised an impoverished country so fragmented and so diverse that no one before him had been able to unite it for any one objective. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi accomplished a feat that in today’s time seems unimaginable. He managed to lead a country to follow a new ideology of protest that was built on shaming the tyrant through peaceful protest rather than killing him. Were it not for him, India’s impassioned masses, even if someone was able to unite them, could have set forth a crimson flood the likes of which we can still see in various African and Asian countries.
He called his ideology of protest, Satyagraha. In his own words: “Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence.”
Gandhiji’s first success in India was in Bihar’s Champaran district, a severely impoverished, famine-struck district, which, in 1918 saw the imposition of heightened taxes. His success in Champaran resounded throughout India and set him on a track that would lead to India’s freedom in less than 30 years.
Many of his ideas, if they were practised could have helped avoid the messes that we find India in today. For example, through his work in the villages, Gandhiji worked hard to make rural areas self-sustaining. It’s conceivable that had that thought been carried through the 63 years of our freedom, we could have nipped the problem of urbanisation in the bud.
“I would say that if the village perishes India will perish too. India will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost. The revival of the village is possible only when it is no more exploited. Industrialisation on a mass scale will necessarily lead to passive or active exploitation of the villagers,” he said, categorically discouraging the track we finally took.
Being such an inspiration doesn’t come easy but he did give us a clue as to what can. Gandhiji once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And he was, in ways someone most of us find very hard to emulate. It is partly because of this that Albert Einstein in veneration of the father of our nation once said, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” Though we hope that never comes true, we really wish Mahatma Gandhi’s principles are brought into widespread practice. It was with this thought that another inspired Gandhian, Nelson Mandela, said, “We must never lose sight of the fact that the Gandhian philosophy may be a key to human survival in the twenty-first century.”