Friday, October 6, 2006

Are Gandhi’s ideals relevant today?

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.


  1. Dear Pradeep,

    A very good peace of work, I am totally agree with your this statement

    "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"

    Hope some day some how people will start thinking in this way.

  2. The only thing constant is change. Seems a bit cliched, but the fact is that one cannot expect the same strategy to work everytime. Strategies and policies need to evolve with time and reflect the environment.
    Let us not forget that at Gandhi's time were existing the 3 greatest mass-killers of all time, people having contributed to immense slaughter - Stalin, Hitler and Mao. It is quite possible that Gandhi's policies would have been useless against these sort of people.

  3. Take one step back only when u are sure of two steps forward- I have little knowledge of Gandhi..But he was a leader for many people following a single person!
    Its difficult to have the grit, the passion , the ability to sacrifice happy personal life..not only did he sacrifice but people close to him , his family too sacrificed!
    Do we have such hearts ?

  4. I ws going to make the same point as ashish above on how Gandhism would not have worked against a Hitler or Stalin. It was our good fortune that we were fighting the Brits and not those.
    On the other hand, since Gandhi was as much a shrewd strategist as a great human being, it is quite likely that he might have come up with some equllay ingenious method to unnerve these men too.
    Truth, ahimsa, satyagraha and Sarvodaya are principles for all times and applicable to all times. Only we need to modify it to suit the times.

  5. Ekawaaz, ..... I always make an effort in that direction.

    Ashish, ..... Like today, Gandhiji's days were also very violent. As I said, Gandhian values aren't absolute. It's just one method of getting around problems. Violent means is another.

    Disha, ..... Very true. It'sn't easy to be like Gandhiji. The sacrifices are enormous. But even if we all don't turn Gandhian in every way, probably in some small way we can. That's what I always believe.

    Usha, ..... You said it.

  6. I feel inspired by the statement- "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."

    For this statement we can take GANDHIJI as an example- he was not only born in a cultured family, but also he did many sacrifices including his own life for the sake of OUR country.

    Even though corruption has captured the world we shouldn't feel bed as one day our GANDHIJI will be back to spread his message.