The basis of this post started while I was having a debate over MSN Messenger with a friend of mine. The discussion happened to veer towards Mahatma Gandhi and I mentioned that I thought he was one of the greatest leaders to ever walk the planet. To which my friend replied that he concurred with V.S.Naipaul‘s reading of Gandhi and called him a ‘flawed leader’.
The only reason he really had to make that comment was the Gandhi insitutionalised poverty.
I differ with my friend’s reading of Gandhi. I believe that a man such as Gandhi should not be consigned to the cobwebs of history bookshelves but we must at all times keep him and more importantly his message relevant – because the fact is that is message is relevant.
When you look back at the various freedom struggles through history, the first thing that strikes you is the bloodshed. The yearning for freedom is something all of us can relate to. The success of movies like Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, Gladiator, are all testament to this yearning within us. So if a man were to raise his arms to demand for his freedom it doesnt seem wrong in anyway. It fits the profile of the homosapien.
But there is another side to this heroic story. A side that comes to the fore after the struggle for freedom. The war for freedom at times becomes so gruesome and so bloody that it changes the actors. Common people who raised their arms for freedom suddenly find a void in their lives. And history has shown that most freedom struggles are followed by an even more acrimonious civil strife. This is where the principle of non-violence propagated by Gandhiji comes in. It allowed the Indian freedom fighters to go back to their lives in peace, as violence had not claimed their souls.
Coming to the glorification of poverty, I personally feel that it was a necessity. There was in India a yawning gap between the upper lower classes. This again has been a huge stumbling block for most other nations. Every nation that has seen such a gap has also seen a explosion of violence by the ‘have-nots’ at some point. Due to Gandhi’s emphasis on the lower and backward castes India was thankfully spared of that pain.
Was Gandhi a flawed leader? Maybe he was, but then which leader wasn’t.
But let us not concentrate on his flaws. There are enough examples of flawed men in this world. What this world requires is more heroes, more men who can show the way. More men who can be a benchmark of the rest of us to live up to.
As we get ready to celebrate yet another birth anniversary of the great man it saddens me to see that ‘Gandhi Jayanti‘ is seen as just another holiday and not as a day when at least for a moment we pause and reflect on a man that Eisteing described in the following words, “Generations to come, people will hardly believe that such a one in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”