What Made Gandhi, Mahatma – Anshul From IIM Nagpur
Google Mahatma Gandhi and one finds 19,800,000 results about the father of the nation, few pages praising his spirituality, few doubting his credibility, few admiring his ideals and a few absurdly accusing him of partitioning the country, not taking violent means to speed up the independence of India etc. A look at him shows the vulnerability of his frail body, his rather small appearance but keep searching and you find the determination reflecting on his face and perseverance in his stance, leading India with a walking stick. Looking through these results will make you wonder what made him amongst the greatest person to have walked down this planet.
The ideals of Satyagraha and non-violence were the core-values of Mahatma Gandhi, and was something unheard of before him and using these ideals to clash with the mightiest empire required determination, perseverance and self-belief. One could say that being from a Gujarati, Hindu background, his core-values came from there. However, there were many others like him who were born in a similar background. But they chose to enjoy the lavishes of their life whereas the Mahatma chose to stay away from all the luxuries. One must understand that he could have easily led the most comfortable of lives, if he wanted to. After all, he was among the most powerful of men in his era. But he chose to live like a poor person, wrapping his frail body with a single piece of cloth, sleeping barely, and practicing celibacy. He gave away the comforts of family life for the greater good. All these acts required a tremendous amount of patience which was one of the many character traits of Mahatma.
It is not that he had set his eyes on the ideals he would follow to fight against the government, he kept changing his stance, sometimes supporting the government and at times using everything in his power to oppose the government. He was experimenting with ideas, making way for new ones as he moved along. His wonderful trait was learning from every situation and applying it in new situations. When he was thrown out of train in South Africa, he sat on the platform shivering throughout the night in the cold. His whole belief system had been shaken up by this racist act. Before this incident, he had lived in London and such racial acts were uncommon there. However, this incident truly brought him to the forefront of racial abuse prevalent in South Africa for the Indians. That night made him realize why it is important to fight for his people. It made him closer to the many Indians that were facing similar treatment day after day. This feeling of what it meant to be an Indian remained with him throughout. The trait of identifying with his people grew with time-he wore Khadi clothes, led a simple life, and had only so much belonging which could come in a box in Sabarmati Ashram.
One trait of Mahatma Gandhi which perhaps is less admired is his rationality. He understood the importance of unity and making a public statement to the government. The burning of passes in South Africa was done with a touch of drama to show the government the unity. Even in India, he marched from Sabarmati to Dandi, and did not take any other means of transport to make a statement. He understood the power of public opinion. He was a very rational person. He knew that fighting such formidable opponents such as the British were not possible by force. The only way he could have achieved his demands were through a peaceful struggle. Mahatma Gandhi drew his ideals of love, compassion, lack of selfishness and non-violence from many religions. He was, in fact, mesmerized by Raja Harish Chandra in his teenage years and by Jesus in his adult life. There was a mixture of religion and rationality in his decisions and sometimes it was difficult to understand where his spirituality ended, and rationality started. The combination of spirituality and determination, his ideals and principles, and lack of ill feelings even for his opponents made him a formidable opponent.
One of the remarkable qualities of Mahatma Gandhi was his down-to-earth attitude. When he came to India from South Africa, he had achieved so much. He was called the Mahatma at the age of 40. Even then he remained himself without going head-over-heels at the reception he got in India. He emphasized on the need of Cleanliness for Indians. He at times even cleaned the streets, cleaned toilets, cleaned the wounds of people and many other things which were a remarkable feat when you consider his stature in the world. In the 1901 Congress Session at Calcutta, he cleaned the toilet when he found the sanitation arrangement inappropriate. He had a huge respect for human life, and had great empathy for others. This empathy gave him the power to understand his opponents. This empathy made him a true leader. He never asked his followers to follow the path he had chosen, he even understood their problems if they chose not to, but his followers never failed him.
The Mahatma had a great belief in his ideals as well as himself. He listened to everyone but followed his own path. In South Africa, when he thought he was right in supporting the government, he did it even when he was beaten by his own people. This quality persisted in him even after he came to India. When the leaders were ready to gain independence at the expense of partition, he was among the few who resisted it. He adhered to his principles throughout his life even when it meant being sidelined by his party members. He stood up to what he believed was right, and always resisted injustice. The quality which differentiates him from others, was his ability to stick to his principles even when his followers, his friends, his family were against him.
He was a true leader, he could have worn the mantle when India became independent, could have celebrated like a million others but there he was in a corner protesting against the partition of the nation, fasting to quell the riots which had claimed the county. Einstein rightly said, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”
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