I feel proud to be born in a country that has witnessed the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the most popular Indian ever in modern times. Fondly called as ‘Bapu’ or respectfully called as ‘Mahatma’, MK Gandhi is the beacon light that still guides people in India and the world, sixty five years after his death. There is hardly any Indian in the last 300 years who can match his popularity or his influence on the world. There would be very few people around the world who have not heard of the Mahatma or his twin doctrine of Truth and Non-Violence. So many freedom struggles since 1947 have been based on the principles set by the Mahatma. He has been openly credited for the civil movements in the USA (Martin Luther King Jr.) and South Africa (Nelson Mandela).
My tryst with the teachings of the Mahatma began in my later years, when I had already spent more than 20 years of my life. I did not realize the power of his teachings early in my life. Maybe my origin (born in Maharashtra) and school teachings influenced my knowledge and opinion of the Mahatma in my early years. Studying about Shivaji, Lokmanya Tilak, Savarkar, Agarkar and many such great revolutionaries who are the pride of Maharashtra influenced my thinking in my formative years. The concept of fighting for your rights with courage and weapons is so deeply engraved in the minds of people (mostly from Maharashtra, Punjab and Bengal) that someone who has a different approach sounds meek and weak. Bhagat Singh, Lala Lajpat Rai, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bipin Chandra Pal, Chandrasekhar Azad and the likes are so strongly rooted in the historical teachings that they become the way of life.
I have great respect for all the names mentioned above. They had their own vision of fighting for the independence of the country. They sacrificed a lot for the nation. And given the context (riots, killings, massacres), they were also probably right with their actions. Their names are highlighted only to draw the stark difference in their thoughts and the doctrine preached by the Mahatma.
My opinion about the Mahatma changed when I started visiting foreign nations, especially the first world countries, for my job assignments. And when I had visited quite a few, I realized that the citizens of the world know so much about MK Gandhi. Contrary to my expectation (in early 2000’s), they had not heard of any Amitabh Bachchan or any Sachin Tendulkar. They all knew about MK Gandhi and were always ready to have an intellectual discussion about him. It surprised me. I had never read about the man or his teaching beyond what was taught in school. I decided to give it a second try – to understand the man and what he had done – in a neutral way without any prejudices. The two things I did immediately – (1) bought and read the autobiography – ‘My experiments with truth’ and (2) watched the oscar winning movie ‘Gandhi’ – by Attenborough.
I had never read the book earlier and was truly inspired with the writing and thoughts of the great man. I had watched the movie ‘Gandhi’ so many times in my life before. It always used to play on the national television two or three times in a year on occasions like the Independence day, the Republic day or the Gandhi Jayanti. But I had never given it a neutral soul searching viewing. Both the activities changed my perception about the man forever. I felt there was a lot to learn about this man. I continued my research on the man and his activities. I started buying books and referring to audio and video clips. Today, I have a pretty big collection of the books on Gandhi. They are part of my prized possession.
MK Gandhi has truly inspired me. I have been practicing speaking the truth for the last so many years that speaking a lie is no longer an option. I have noticed the benefits of speaking the truth always. The benefits may not be in the form of money or pleasures. The real benefit is I can look into my eyes in the mirror or into the eyes of the person I am talking to without any guilt ever. And that is the greatest gift I have received from the teachings of the Mahatma.
I have also imbibed the teaching of non-violence. It is not easy. It takes a lot of patience and willpower. And yet there could be a probability of failure. What I learnt from Gandhi was one can be angry but the anger need not be channelized through harsh actions or words. Gandhi showcased his anger on the British Empire with the Dandi salt march. Non-violence does not mean surrendering. It means fighting for your rights without harming anyone. If only people truly understood his teachings, the world would be a different place.
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