Gandhi’s Parables

Does he make a difference?

By Poonam I Kaushish

“What do you think of Gandhi? You mean Pappu,” dismissed a 25-year old disparagingly. “Silly, I am not talking of Rahul, but the other Gandhi. Oh, I get it, you are talking about the strange old man we read about in history and get a chuutti from school,” giggled an 8-year old boy. “The one they call the Mahatma, incidentally what did he do?”
That my fellow countrymen, is what Gen Next thinks of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Mahatma Gandhi who we reverently address as Father of the Nation. Alas, he has been buried in the dustbin of history to be aired every 2 October for his annual ‘autumn cleaning’. A ritualistic visit to Rajghat, singing his favourite hymns followed by our leaders pledging to follow in his footsteps. Sic. Obeisance paid duty over its back to the business of democracy and rule by law.
Look around and see how far removed we are from Bapu’s vision of India. Indeed, we have come a long way from what he espoused 70 years ago. Today, Gandhi has been reduced to intellectual indulgence whereby his ideals are forgotten and much of what he stood for remembered selectively or misunderstood. Like his belief in simple living and high thinking, sense of right and wrong and his value system.
What else can one expect from a politically, socially and morally bankrupt nation?Nowadays, all I see is almost hysterical greed and ambition by our netagan for kursi and paisa, disillusionment with our leaders, frustration among the jobless youth, grumpiness among the middle class and increasing polarisation between different castes and sections of society.
Sadly, India is bereft of genuine leaders of the people and genuinely from the people. “Let them not arrogate to themselves greater knowledge than those who have unrivalled experience but do not happen to occupy their chair,” said Gandhi. Today, it’s power at any cost, a kissa kursi ka and paisa pakro gaddi rakho all times. So much for upholding his tenet of holding offices lightly, not tightly!
Bapu had said, “Ministers should not live as ‘sahib log’ or use private work facilities provided by the Government for official duties.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yesterday’s princes have made way for the neo-Maharajas, read Ministers and MPs who see themselves as winners, replete with the power trappings that go with it. All in the crippling morass of a jee huzoor feudal mindset
Not many are aware Gandhi was opposed to the Westminster model of Government that we follow as it implies existence of two classes: rulers and the ruled. The British Parliament, according to him was a “sterile woman” as it couldn’t do anything with finality and MPs had to obey their Party’s whip, reducing them to rubber stamps. It is unfortunate that independent India did not heed his advice.
This has led to our netagan being only for themselves, good governance be damned. All suffering from Acute Orwellian syndrome: “Some are more equal than others”. Their hierarchy gauged by gun-totting commandos surrounding them, jumping traffic lights and causing accidents. Funny isn’t it that they need protection from the aam aadmi they assiduously swear to represent and serve.
Worse, the rip-off culture has arrived. Whether its basics: roti, kapada aur makaan prices are off the wall. The value for money culture is all pervasive. It’s all about being successful. In Gandhi’s era we Indians had to struggle for Independence and basic survival. Now, everyone has to struggle even harder to live with alleged prosperity. Be it swacchta , toilets sans water, saubhagya bijli without bulbs and ujwala chullahs sans gas.
Wherein, Gandhi’s teachings have been reduced to mere straws that fly about in the political wind, courtesy our parochial leaders. Pious platitudes and inane speeches to paint a halo round their heads. The fire and zeal of Gandhi’s “do-or-die” slogan died an early death, replaced by a rent-a-crowd show of strength. What else can one expect from our paper tigers?
He also wanted to disband the Congress Party because rot had set in. It was led by leaders who wanted to rule over people like the British, were taking money from businessmen to get them licences, indulging in black-marketing, subverting the judiciary and intimidating officials to secure transfers and promotions for their protégées in the administration. Hence, he wanted to stop the Congress from capitalizing on the freedom struggle in which the nation as a whole had participated and replace it with a Lok Seva Sangh.
Sadly, today’s rulers are just chips of the old blocks. Depressingly, nowhere does ideology, principles, Party interests or policies even rhetorically figure in our netagans’ vocabulary. In the past, the leaders at least used to camouflage their intentions in ideological garbage. Today, even that fig leaf or verbosity has been discarded.
Ironically, even as Modi extols his colleagues to follow Gandhi, though Deen Dayal Upadhya is the current hot favourite, both their beliefs converged in giving up conspicuous consumption as “money does not grow on trees…return to simplicity, efficiency and commitment to national goals hold the key to self reliance!” His brave words taunt the seven-star mesmerizing celebrations every anniversary of the BJP-led NDA Government.
Contrast this with the harsh reality of half of India’s 1.1 billion people not having enough to eat with over 700 million living below the poverty line. And nearly one million dying every year due to inadequate healthcare facilities and one in every five children is malnourished. True, Modi has shifted his politics and is busy projecting his Government as pro-poor. But fighting malnutrition is a pre-requisite for building human capital.
Bluntly, ‘broken society’ describes what one sees around. Okay, inclusive growth is a buzzword, but most people think it happens in no man’s land instead of mega-cities that are supposed to lead the charge which will make India a superpower.
Why should people die of primitive diseases in the 21st Century and struggle even harder than previous generations did to survive? It’s high time we stopped blindly celebrating success, and paid attention to what’s happening to people’s lives, and our society.
If ahimsa cast a Mahatma’s halo around Gandhi universally, himsa is the ugly universal truth for our society. India is angry, very angry. The aam aadmi’s angst has morphsized from gheraos and road rage to shoe-cides and slaps directed at our netagan. Thanks to sky-rocketing prices, unemployment, ghooskhori and the in-your-face behavior of our political mai-baaps.
The worst thing is nobody seems to care. The middle class has too many problems of its own to be bothered about the poor, the poor are getting angrier and desperate, the rich, as always, don’t care. For a while now, ‘feel-good’ has been the holy grail of media and establishment. It’s almost a national conspiracy, let’s ignore the warts and bad things, focus only on those glitzy speeches and idolise success.
Bringing things to such a ludicrous pass that Gandhi seems an alien from a different planet. Succinctly, he was revered as a saint and Indians today are more bothered about survival.
In sum, what should one say of a polity that swears in the name of Gandhi but doesn’t heed him. Instead, practices the seven sins he abhorred: Politics without principles; wealth without work; commerce without morality; education without character; pleasure without conscience; science without humanity and worship without sacrifice. Our experiments with untruth! —— INFA