Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Oh! Its Oct 2nd...What's the Big Deal???

I almost forgot today was Gandhi Jayanti. And I dont remember anymore if the last many years have also gone by in that manner. We live in a day and age where the only heroes we get to truely celebrate are armymen who give up their lives in the service of the country, business czars whose enterprise have provided millions of jobs and then we have the idols of young India, film actors and cricketers whose smiling, glamorous faces look up from a million posters and billboards throughout the homes and streets of gung-ho India. Those grand old men and women who fought the British, their memories relegated to school textbooks, their place in the sun not yet lost, ironically by idols installed at prime locations, yet I am sure not a single passer-by notices them except for birds looking for a nice spot to rest and shit. There is this statue in Raj Bhavan road of freedom fighter Akkamma Cherian, I must have passed it by for many years and always thought it was Indira Gandhi until a chapter in the textbook about her forced me to open my eyes. Later we studied about Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai, the first of many men who fought for the amazing Freedom of Press, we now enjoy today in Kerala, whose statue I was told could be seen in Statue Jn but I never found it till one day waiting for a bus near the Marikar showroom I spotted him shrouded in the tree cover leading up to the AG's Office.

There is this favorite moment I have had with Gandhiji. It is a feeling I will cherish forever. It was during my MS days and I was walking to work on a campus road which stretched out in a straight line and ended up in an undergraduate student housing building. It was dark, close to midnight and there was this one light shining from a room, which seemed to guide me on ahead. Like most guys, the first fancy that came to my mind was seeing a girl in that room, in a state of undress. As I kept getting closer, the faint outlines of a picture on the wall caught my attention. I couldnt make out who it was, but it held me transfixed until the shape of the Mahatma grew clearer and clearer. Besides him on either side was a poster of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. I smiled to myself and wondered what possible source of inspiration could the Mahatma be to a person in the most affluent country in the world, when even Indians don't care anymore. There are moments like these, when you recognize the presence of a great man in your life, and you acknowledge his contribution to making your life a better one. Isn't that what is called immortality? Some months later we were walking on the street, when a homeless guy sniggered at us, "Gandhi Boys!" It may have been a racial taunt but we smiled, and I shouted back at him, "Thank You!" and would have loved to add, "But we don't deserve the compliment!"

Gandhiji's outward political postures, even if not in spirit are kept alive and kicking in our country, if you see the kadar clothing, bandhs, hartals, jathas, satyagraha what not. We have politicians to thank for that...if Gandhi was just a politician he wouldnt have survived...even he displayed selfishness and lack of grace at times. But his greatness was that he had lessons for ordinary people too. Even between politics he taught the importance of hygiene and a clean environment...it is funny that when ministers like Kamal Nath fight for India not to be brought under purview of greenhouse emission, he hides the fact that global warming is hurting India more than any other country in the world. I feel it...the biggest challenge before India in coming years is not democracy, corruption, economy or insurgency...it is climate change. In India, every man grosses wealth, in the safe knowledge that he is doing it for his children, but when it comes to anything that is global wealth, these same men exploit it without realizing they are digging their grandchildrens' graves even before they are born. Man is always helpless, for centuries we feared and grappled with the challenges earth posed, now we are so in the grip of technology and modernity, and acknowledge we face an earth we have tapped at indiscriminately, but cant face upto even a few minutes of power-cut, loss of transportation, air-condition or connectivity!

One moment, I make all these utopian(maybe even gandhian) schemes on how I should lead life...next moment, I find that same me, doing the exact opposites of what I thought of earlier. Truth, Non-Violence, Conquest of the Self...such impossibilities for us pampered people. For me the biggest challenge has been to win over my baser instincts...a lazy nap, porn, mindless movies, pointless net-surfing, companionships past their shelf-date and associated habits...the first book that ever gave me the tools to deal with it was no Bible or motivators like Dale Carnegie, Lee Iococa etc...but Gandhiji's My Experiments With Truth. Once you finish reading the book you realize that it wasn't an accident of history that a man like Gandhiji lead India to freedom. In his seemingly-pointless-for-us abstinence, vegeterianism, brahmacharya, etc he toughened his soul to give him the courage to face the higher aims of his life like truth, non-violence and India's freedom. It is the simplest yet most profoundly touching and inspiring book you can lay your hands on for as less as Rs.30. Truth, Non-violence and probably most of his experiments in the book are i guess beyond what we mere 21st century zombies can aspire for, but it also has lessons in simplicity, time-management, humility, health, social commitment and work-ethic we still can commit to, which can help us succeed and feel good about, in our busy lives. Gandhiji once lived amongst us, he still lives in us, we rarely seek to find out...a brilliant Rajkumar Hirani makes a Lage Raho Munnabhai and we rave about Gandhigiri for a while, every year we have an Independence Day and a Gandhi Jayanti, but if each of us truely want to celebrate him, his life and the freedom he and his men won for us, pick up his book, buy it for your friends, who knows...you or that person might discover a Gandhian thought in some simple action of yours, and who knows...we might even end up saving Earth! Happy Birthday, Gandhiji.

P.S - Albert Einstein, the man who pipped Gandhi to the 'Time Man of the Century' Award said of Gandhiji, "Generations to come will scare believe such a one as this in flesh and blood, walked the face of the Earth". I wonder if Einstein's fine statement will become a prophesy...Gandhiji becoming some unattainable freak great soul rather than the very human being he was...he will be remembered for sure...but how he is remembered lies very much in how much of him we can find in our lives, we the youth of India who are a link between a morbid, stagnating recent past and an exciting but hazardous near future owe atleast this much to that man.


joseph said...

I too almost forgot... until I came across a discussion about long weekend plans in India.

Its his 138th b'day :)

I remember some blck/white malayalam film scenes depicting Gandhi's statue that used to come in DD4. Most often depicting an independence day scene, where children clean the statue. Wonder if the new directors still give the same kind of importance to such a scene.

Anyway lets hope this gen and the coming generations get to know about Gandhi, not just as a the person who got us freedom, the simple things that he taught us. No wonder he is the father of our nation.

I am sure the pampering that you talked about is really spoiling us. Nice read Jabba.

silverine said...

Slightly OT...I have always regarded Gandhi as a spoil sport as I have a couple of old Gandhians in my family. The type who advocate 'Prohibition' and other kill joys. Later Gandhi represented a black and white photograph in boring History text books. For most of us Indians, this what Gandhi is all about. I think his greatest legacy was that he was accepted as a universal leader and he motivated an entire nation to rise against the British. And knowing the lethargy that grips our masses in public matters, this was no mean feat :)

Anonymous said...

October 2nd is my birthday too! =)

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

tragic that the world relegates gandhi to text books.

and the young generation looks at hm as a pain in the neck(comments to your blog).

but he can never become mere history.

what has never failed to amaze me about the great man is his guts to be totally and completely honest with himself - and the world.

and still be a master manipulator of massses!

by the way akkamma cherian has got a makeover-and i hear crows no longer sit on her. dunno how that's managed:--))