What a clichéd question! It has been asked a countless times and will continue to be asked a countless times. While it’s always answered as yes or no, some basic elements of the principle that’s being popularised today as “Gandhigiri” are missed out.
The context is so important. For a plant to grow, it’s not enough that the seed is of good quality. It should also be planted in fertile soil, and further it has to be nurtured well for it to yield good fruit.
Let us not be overawed by Gandhi and the path he took. He was a human being like anyone of us, but the big difference was, he was an extraordinary man. He was a genius; he was one in a million. No one could rally around a disparate mass of people like he did. He devised a plan, worked selflessly for it to succeed. The British as rulers of the world had simply no answers to Gandhiji’s posers. An empire, where the sun never set, was humbled. Never before had one single man brought an empire down without spilling blood.
But, there is another side which reminds us that Gandhi was not a God. He was not a Saint. He was a politician. He was a strategist, only that the world hadn’t seen a politician like him. Gandhism had its limitations.
Ultimately, India won its Independence with so much blood spilt. It must have pained Gandhiji so much. His writings reflect his awareness of the limitations of his philosophy. It’s not a philosophy that guarantees absolute success. It doesn’t work everywhere with everyone all the time. How we apply his principles and on whom, how, when and where are equally important.
We didn’t spill blood fighting the British. It’s also important that the British, being what they are, respected Gandhiji, and didn’t allow blood to be split. But we spilt blood fighting among ourselves. We spilt blood, not while driving the British out, but while winning the freedom for ourselves. Gandhian principles worked with the British, but did it work with our own people? Blood continues to be spilt.
Everyone talks only of truth and non-violence; but very few of “spirit of sacrifice”. That, I think, embodies Gandhian ideals the best. Not surprisingly, that’s also the least practised. Probably that’s what is needed for non-principle to succeed, that’s what is needed to ensure that blood is not spilt.
From what I have understood after reading about Gandhiji, is that he is one person who made full use of the “one-step-back-two-steps-forward” principle. He never hesitated to withdraw or retreat, when he was sure he could then rebound much stronger, which would then take him much farther. That was a crucial element of his strategising. And it worked.
The word sacrifice has an aura around it. There’s no need for it. The little pleasures that we give up in our daily lives, the little adjustments that we all make in our daily lives with people around us, are also small sacrifices that make our lives much simpler, happier and worthwhile. Probably, this world can do with a little more of such sacrifices.
I guess, it’s here that we need to understand Gandhiji’s strategies, learn them and apply them in our everyday lives, wherever appropriate. We may or may not be able to change the entire world. But definitely we can, in our own small way, make a small change to the small world around us. The synergy of it works; only that we need to exploit this synergy much more.