Banished to a currency note By P N Benjamin We have denied Gandhi in every step we have taken since Independence...
Today is January 30. As a nation we pay our homage to Mahatma Gandhi's memory with great fanfare and publicity: the visit of dignitaries to Raj Ghat, the laying of wreathes, the singing of Ram dhun, garlanding of Mahatma's statues and portraits, the mass spinning, the public speeches of praise for all that he was to us and to the world, and in our individual and collective life. Our duty done on that day, we revert to our ways of individual and collective violence, greed, political chicanery, economic and social oppression.
Albert Einstein had wondered whether future generations would ever believe that such a man as Gandhi walked this earth. His wonder stemmed out of his uncanny discovery that Gandhi's unshakable faith in the efficacy of non-violence in thought, word and deed, his warning against industrialisation for its own sake and his crusades against social oppression, wherever it occurred, were relevant to the entire humanity.
The famous comedian of the last century, Charlie Chaplin, who packed his films with a philosophy of life, of simplicity, sincerity and human brotherhood, is credited for his movie, Modern Times — a satire on the dehumanisation of modern man in the machine age — only after he had met Mahatma Gandhi in London. But these are far away things for today's India.
It's unlikely that our decision makers, society doyens and grassroot activists own up much on Gandhi these days, but perhaps they should. He had said in an essay: "Industrialism is going to be a curse for mankind. The world we must strive to build needs to be based on the concept of genuine social equality — in it, the prince and the peasant, the wealthy and the less well-off, the employer and the employee are on the same level. Economic progress cannot mean that few people charge ahead and more and more people are left behind."
In the light of today's globalisation and its consequences, Gandhi was remarkably prescient even though he was referring to his time of infant industrialisation more than a hundred years ago. Globalisation may have swaddled the industrialised societies in prosperity, but there are more poor people now than ever before. Caught up in the growth of Internet, it would be a mistake to confuse the vibrancy of the present industrialised world with the increasingly troubled state of the real world.
We have denied Gandhi in every step we have taken since Independence. Wherever we turn, whether the scene is political, economic or social, our record is nothing but un-Gandhian. It is all a mad struggle for power. The massive lures us and our villages present a picture of desolation, with millions of people migrating to the cities to eke out their pitiful existence. The rising toll of dowry victims and the regular killings of the socially oppressed, and the rape and parading of dalit women naked through the streets blotch our social scene.
We have morally killed Gandhi by rejecting every one of his cherished principles. Of course, we offer lip service to them — a measure of our departing from his principles. Father, forgive us…!
Having bid goodbye to truth in every walk of life, as individuals and as a nation, we are reaping the bitter fruits of a rat-race. We have relegated Gandhi to national holidays, stamps and currency notes. He may well be "the greatest Asian of 20th century", but his influence on Indian politics is negligible today.
For 43 years, Mahatma Gandhi had worked for a free India. He was a frail, wizened, enigmatic little man, toothless and bald, bowed by the weight of the sorrows of mankind. But he was one of the fabulous figures of human history. (Deccan Herald, Bangalore- 30 Jan. 2009) P N Benjamin __._,_.___