The Journey of Understanding Mahatma
Writing about Mahatma Gandhi around the time of Gandhi Jayanti is a time-honored tradition. This stretches all the way back to our school days, where there’d always be a series of events which would include dressing up like Gandhi for speeches tando debates for and against the motion of Gandhian principles.
Turns out, the journey to be like the Mahatma or the debate over every ideological choice he made continues throughout life.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is the first celebrity freedom fighter that you are told about. That lesson is never over- Gandhi‘s story and his philosophy continue evolving along with you. Gandhi is the Father of the Nation. Indeed, it is solely due to his calibre that without much mocking, the entire population (read: generations) have agreed on this fact.
While growing up, you learn about the Mahatma in many subjects. Until you figure out your own philosophies and principles, you follow what Gandhi dictated — truth and non-violence are the standard pillars, but there is much more (the impressive and entrepreneurial ideas of non-cooperation, Swaraj and harmony can’t be forgotten).
Someone who stops his education in middle school may consider Mahatma Gandhi‘s contribution to the freedom cause so significant that he might call Gandhi the only true leader of India’s independence struggle.
With time, Gandhi‘s involvement in life minimises
Until a time comes when you understand how much more complicated the story of independence is. In this, with every new page, Gandhi is revealed to be a villain rather than the heroic saviour you thought him to be.
A chapter on Bhagat Singh, Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Godse changes your perspective towards Gandhi so much that you start questioning everything you have been taught.
Gandhi, however, keeps changing his colours after you leave him.
From loving him, you shift to hating him.
From respecting him, chances are you might start abusing him.
But, Gandhi doesn’t mind.
He keeps growing his realm with every passing day. He is everywhere — from currency notes and the clothes you wear to the roads on which you travel and the movies you watch — the Mahatma is the nation’s favourite subject for commemoration.
But, your relationship with Gandhi doesn’t end at school.
It keeps changing direction, and everyone meets Gandhi again sometime in their life.
1. Gandhi comes in the form of politics:
Not just his policies and principles, but even the political dynasty who continues their successful rule with the name of Gandhi, despite no direct association with him.
2. Gandhi comes in the form of religion:
When you try to figure out God for yourself by ‘experimenting with your truth’.
3. Gandhi comes in travel:
When you start travelling the world and realise that people’s perception of India mostly consists of what Gandhi made India do.
4. Gandhi’s words become a philosophy of life:
You do things so that you don’t die. Sooner or later, you realise the importance of simple living and simple eating. You want to have a strong purpose- something that drives you to greater success. You realise how life around you keeps changing and how you must sometimes take hard decisions.
You start believing in a higher power but you know that it has different names. Every name leads to the same God- the universal entity that presides over all of us.
Gandhi keeps coming back in the form of ‘Mahatma’ and you realise that your focus was on the wrong part of the name all along. It was always ‘Mahatma’ which was important, and not Gandhi or Mohan or anyone else.
Someone who is above his name, his choices, his ideas and his philosophy is actually a Mahatma. The Mahatma does not have a name or a face or any sort of identity- he is just a larger-than-life idea.
This Mahatma shares a common life with all others who came before him and will come after him. Their life is for a bigger purpose- to learn, empathise, make mistakes and live with those mistakes. They follow their innate moral principles and do the right thing, with no thought for their own well-being. Their life is for the promise of non-violence and truth.
When you start seeing the Mahatma’s journey, you begin inculcating his principles into your own life. And that is how the Mahatma never truly dies- he lives on in the people who desire to be a part of something greater than themselves.
My own journey with the Mahatma has yet not ended. There will be more twists in the story, more situations where I realise that the Mahatma is larger than any one person or their choices- it is a way of life, it is accepting your faults and rising above them.