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A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON MAHATMA GANDHI

A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON MAHATMA GANDHI

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Published by Firoze H.
On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on October 2nd, I thought I would pen a few personal reflections on an extraordinary human being.
On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on October 2nd, I thought I would pen a few personal reflections on an extraordinary human being.

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Published by: Firoze H. on Oct 01, 2007
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06/16/2009

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On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on October 2nd, I thought I would pena few personal reflections on an extraordinary human being.Let me state, at the outset, that I probably possess the minimum credentials forwriting about Gandhi. Yes, I have seen Richard Attenborough’s movie, but I havenot read a single book written by the Mahatma, or even one about him. The onlyattenuating solace is that this probably puts me in the same category as amajority of present generation Indians. I must even admit, to my acuteembarrassment, that I am one of a handful of diehard Mumbaikars who has not seenMunnabhai. (A hugely popular fantasy film about Gandhi materializing in thepresent and his impact on modern society).It would be pretentious – and false – to declare that that Gandhi has been asource of inspiration throughout my life. Like a majority of my fellow Indians, hehas entered my consciousness on only a very few occasions – though I do think ofhim more and more these days, when the venality and lack of stature of our currentleaders is increasing by the decade.There is no doubt that Gandhi was one of the towering personalities of thetwentieth century. When you consider that, in the present time, the world’s solesuperpower – with all the financial and military resources at its disposal – isunable to control a country that is a fraction of its size and wealth – Gandhi’sachievement becomes truly remarkable. That he had the gumption to take on what wasthen the world’s mightiest empire; that, too, without any conventional weapons ora standing army, is amazing. That he succeeding in driving the British out of hiscountry is astonishing beyond belief. It is doubtful if India will ever see thelikes of him again.That said, what we remember today is a mythical, idealized Mahatma – as amplyillustrated by the Munnabhai films. Munnabhai’s concept of Gandhigiri is tooverwhelm one’s opponents with kindness; forgive their trespasses, as it were. Thereality, of course, was quite different. It is highly doubtful if platitudes oflove – or appealing to their higher selves – would have had any effect on ourpractical, hardboiled British rulers. They left because Gandhi, and his coterie,through their strategy of civil disobedience and boycott of British goods, madethem realize that there was no longer any percentage in hanging on. When thelosses began to outnumber the gains, the pragmatic British – already battered byHitler’s Third Reich – quietly packed up and departed.Gandhi was certainly no saint. He had a shrewd, calculating mind. He was quitewilling to employ any means at his disposal – ethical or otherwise – to achievehis objectives. Even the self-imposed penury was not the selfless sacrifice of aMahatma, but a political tool. It made him appear god-like to the generalpopulation. As one of his contemporaries remarked, it cost the Congress party agreat deal of money to keep Gandhi in poverty. Every action served a specificpurpose. The hunger strikes, too, were used as a form of emotional blackmail toachieve his ends.All that can be forgiven – even applauded – because everything Gandhi, and thestalwarts surrounding him, did was for the good of the country. Contrast this withtoday’s crop of uncultured, me-first ‘leaders’ whose primary consideration ispersonal profit and aggrandizement. Whatever may have been the sins of commissionand omission by Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel and others, they had presence; theyhad stature; they stood out in a crowd. Today, an ordinary citizen would not evenregister the presence of a minister in his vicinity, were it not the ostentatiouspolice commandos surrounding him. When Gandhi spoke, people listened, becausethey admired and respected him. Today’s leaders cannot gain even a modicum ofattention unless they hand out populist sops and extravagant promises of largesse

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