Be the Change you want to see
The greatest thing about Mahatma Gandhi was that he was the change that he wanted to see. He did not stop with preaching. He practiced. And he did his practice rigorously. This set him apart from others.
Practice means hardships. It means tough decisions that appear cranky at times. In a way Life taught Gandhi several lessons, which he learnt with open mind. He followed his understanding of life’s lessons seriously, unlike many of us. This is what set him apart from all of us.
If one goes through his book “The story of my experiments with truth”, one can see challenges that Mahatma Gandhi faced similar to challenges that we face in our daily life. The difference often lies in the way we resolved and he resolved. Here are some examples.
Stand out of the herd behavior
When Gandhi was on his trip to South Africa, he had befriended the Captain of the ship so much that the Captain took him on an outing in the port of Zanzibar, where the ship halted for ten days.
The Captain took Gandhi and an Englishman on this special outing. They changed boats from the ship and entered the mainland, where they were taken into a Negro Women’s Quarters. All of them were ushered into different rooms, where Negro women were waiting for them to receive.
As Gandhi entered the room, but did not want to go through the act, he was filled with a false sense of shame, for not able to make it with a woman and show his youthful bravado. But somehow Gandhi remained steadfast and came out of the room, without being moved by the woman inside, while his friends who were in other rooms continued with what they had come for.
Gandhi might have been a object of ridicule during that time for that women and his friends. Gradually over a period in his life, this false sense of shame wore away. He was filled with horror thinking how his life would have taken a turn, if he had indeed been moved by his youth and gone to bed with that woman.
He writes this was his third trial in life. And he came out unscathed. He returned as he entered. And he learnt that false sense of shame that develops when were in a group need not be adhered to.
Though one feels bad at that time for not following the group, over a period, it is better to be stand out and follow one’s values.
He learnt how to overcome that false sense of shame and be steadfast to his own principles, in particular while in a group, with multiple forces pressurizing in a particular direction.
There is no parallel to Indian National Congress that spearheaded our Independence struggle in those days. It was a diverse organization with variety of people with multitude of views converging with a single goal of nation’s independence. This quality helped Gandhi to steer India’s struggle in the right direction, irrespective of various forces acting in different directions.
Against Hatred not the Hater
During his firs term stay in Pretoria, Gandhi used to go out for a walk through the President street to an open plain. Generally he used to spend time with one Mr.Coates, who was a staunch Christian, during these walks.
The President Kruger’s house was so simple and modest, even without a Garden, unlike the houses of many millionaires who lived in Pretoria at that time. The only identity of the President’s house were some guards who used to be on duty in front of the President’s house.
In those days, colored people termed coolies or samis were not entitled to walk on the pavement. If a colored man is able to pass himself as an Arab, it is fine. Otherwise he is not entitled to walk on the Pavement.
Gandhi used to walk on pavement several times and did not face any problem. But on a particular day, the usual men on duty in front of President’s house got changed and new set of people came in.
A policeman on duty saw Gandhi walking alone on the pavement and without a warning pushed Gandhi into the street and kicked him.
Mr. Coates happened to be on the spot on horseback and he intervened. He reprimanded the policeman and told Gandhi that he is ready to be a witness if Gandhi proceeds against the policeman in Pretoria Court.
Gandhi told him “I don’t blame this man, as it is the usual plight of colored people here. I have already forgiven him for his act, as he is doing it not as an act against me, but due to the system in place here. I have long back decided not to go to court for personal reasons”
People and not power
Gandhi developed clear-cut discretion in terms of people and system, early on in his life. He never used hatred against people as a tool to unite people. Gandhi could have easily stirred hatred during Civil Disobedience Movement, fomented trouble and emerged as a strong leader. He could have accelerated India’s Independence struggle. He chose not to do it. He was not after power.
In fact Gandhi did not start his work with the aim of achieving Indian rule to replace the British rule. He started his work to help uplift the massess of India from their current state.
He wanted to work through the British System to help the masses. Later he realized self-rule as the best method, as the interest of British went against the interest of Indians. He was against partition, as that would create a long term problem in the sub-continent on religious lines. His worst fears have come true now.
He took so much pains to ensure that India is not declared a Hindu State. It was because he did not see Independence as a tool for achieving power for a group. He saw it as a method for improving the life-conditions of all sections people. He was against hatred of all forms.
And he is definitely right. Our Independence was not based on the hatred for British or Muslims or other religious groups. That’s why we as a nation have endured against all doomsday prophecies and are marching today as a strong country in the global arena.