Remembering Mahatma Gandhi

Remembering Mahatma Gandhi

Narendra M Apte

The entire world has celebrated 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhiji for me). In fact, during the last one year there have been many events and functions in memory of Gandhiji.

One need not be a teacher of Political Science or a research student to get an idea of the overwhelming influence of Gandhiji’s thoughts on the way we think about many aspects of human life. Gandhiji wrote in simple English; he was a great communicator. He continues to influence the world’s thought leaders even today. I think, like millions of my generation, I owe to Gandhiji a big word of gratitude.

I often wonder what would have been the response of Gandhiji to many problems faced by our society today like farmers’ suicides, unplanned growth of our cities, widespread corruption and particularly governments’ failure to deal with the problem of mass poverty. Gandhiji would have certainly pointed out that unending pursuit for material comforts is the basic cause of many problems faced by today’s society.

He would have certainly used his moral force to implement reforms. He would have persuaded both the Central and State governments to revamp government administration and to reduce scope for corruption. He would have initiated research in fields related to farming and insisted on implementation of appropriate policies to ensure increase in small and marginal farmers’ income. He would have, above all, made all citizens aware of grave implications of the pursuit of material comforts and prompted many of them to reconsider their life styles. He was not someone who will sit quietly and watch in desperation. What he would have done? He would have been the first individual to put in practice what he was preaching.

Today we read about ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ or CSR programmes. Gandhiji advocated the principle of social responsibility of businesses in a different manner. He wrote about ‘trusteeship of businesses’ as a way of discharging businessmen’s social obligations.

I cannot resist quoting what Gandhiji wrote about ‘Principle of Trusteeship’. "Supposing I have come by a fair amount of wealth – either by way of legacy, or by means of trade and industry – I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is the right to an honorable livelihood, no better than that enjoyed by millions of others. The rest of my wealth belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community."

It is true that today Gandhiji’s views may not be considered as practical views. In fact they are highly idealistic in the current environment, but let us not forget that many a billionaire of our generation has made a pledge to give away a substantial part of their personal wealth to charity.

Gandhiji wrote extensively in his paper, Harijan. I reproduce here Gandhiji’s famous quotes which underscore why he was, and is still regarded as an effective communicator.

*Be the change that you want to see in the world.

*An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

*Nobody can hurt me without my permission.

*The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.

*A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

*For my worldly needs my village is my world; for my spiritual needs the world is my village.

*Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

*Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served.

*If you want real peace in the world, start with children.

*Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.

*A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.

*The future depends on what you do today.

*To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.

*Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.

*Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

*You don’t know who is important to you until you actually lose them.

*I object to violence because when it appears to do well, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

*You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.

*I cannot conceive of a greater loss than the loss of one’s self-respect.

*You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

I am reminded of Gandhiji’s pertinent description of seven social sins which I think is quite relevant today: (a) Politics without principles (b) Wealth without work (c) Commerce without morality (d) Education without character (e) Pleasure without conscience (f) Science without humanity and (g) Worship without sacrifice.

If we succeed in reducing the adverse impact of these social sins, I think it will be a great tribute to Gandhiji.

I wish to end my piece with words of actor Ben Kingsley, who played the role of Gandhiji in the famous film ‘Gandhi: “In the same years that the spiritual poverty of the West gave us Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, India's eternal richness gave the world Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi”.

(Narendra M Apte, a Chartered Accountant, is a freelancer.)