Relevance of Gandhian principles

Deccan Chronicle.  | Neelima Dalmia Adhar

Sunday Chronicle, headliners

Are Gandhian teachings and principles of non-violence and passive-resistance still relevant in contemporary times

Mahatma, the hero: Sadly, the memory of the Mahatma in India is reduced to mere rituals today

India’s all abiding tryst with destiny endures even as we stride into the ranks of the emerging powers of the third world. And we face gargantuan challenges as we struggle to come to terms with the real demons; terrorism, factionalism and growing violence in every corner of the globe. With war clouds that loom menacingly over our skyline, we are compelled to question the relevance of Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and passive-resistance for us today. Gandhi’s non-violence was NEVER a call for ‘no action’ in the face of inequalities, injustice, and oppression. Deeply into the teachings of The Bhagavad Gita he remained intensely infused with the philosophy of that epic Hindu treatise on Life.

‘Do your duty whether it is to yourself or to your country’, was his prime moral dictat and on this axis, Gandhi’s total philosophy was centered. To succumb to injustice and domination in the name of non-violence would mean a complete repudiation of the meaning and import of his grandiose principles. Sadly, the memory of the Mahatma in India is reduced to mere rituals today. His ideals are forgotten and much of what he stood for is remembered only on his birth and death anniversaries, as fading symbols of our fight for freedom, or watching the slapstick Munnabhai resurrection of the prophet of peace for entertainment.

The Secret Diary of Kasturba by Neelima Dalmia Adhar Rs 699, pp 406 Westland BooksOur youth bred on contemporary ideas of instant-gratification and new-age technology neither have the patience nor the time to turn ‘the other cheek’ if they are struck on one. They strike right back far more savagely to avenge their insult or injury, if provoked. It is indeed the all-pervading ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth’ in its goriest and deadliest form today. And yet, it is hard to forget that lone man, a “half naked fakir” who could stand up to the might of the British Empire and get them to Quit India; to leave it ‘to anarchy or to the Gods!’

It is not difficult to say what has brought about this antagonism in the attitude of the world, particularly the youth, towards Gandhi today. Perhaps, with time we shall learn to look beyond his eccentricities and beyond his halo of sainthood to forgive his frailties as a human. His ordinariness couched within his extraordinariness, demands a certain degree of empathy, and we could view his frailties as those of a God who failed in the eyes of his wife and sons. As for me, I would like to live in an age where Gandhi is immortalised, but for the right reasons.

His values can only remain ideals: Shanta Gokhale

I’m bad at remembering quotes. But this is what I feel about Gandhi’s relevance in today’s world. There is a film by Girish Kasaravalli, Koormavatara about a man who resembles Gandhi and is cast in his role in a film. Gradually Gandhi’s thoughts enter him, and he feels he must live by them in real life. He soon discovers that this makes him a nuisance to his family and society in general.

Gandhi was born of his times. Although his values are still held up as the ideals to aspire to, the world has changed so much, there are so many pressures operating upon it from different quarters that Gandhian values can only remain ideals. Those who believe in them still try to practice them in a world eaten up by corruption and violence. But people like that are pushed to the margins of society like Kasaravalli’s Gandhi.

The writer is an author, translator, journalist and theatre critic

In his words...

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave”

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes”

“Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed”

 “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals”

“Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice”