I could not see Mahatma Gandhi —it was an impossible feat, biologically.
For me, Mahatma was a history lesson.
He appeared first as a cutout and then as a towering figure on election posters of the Congress party in mid-fifties.
The famous picture of Gandhi and Nehru sitting on the floor, buttressed by cotton-filled pillows, is an indelible early etched-image.
I reverentially thought about people who saw Gandhi in 1930’s and 1940’s at the huge central circular ground of the then Trichur town. Some of those elders were punished by family and religious heads for defying their curfew.
Gandhi is a modern myth, and the stature he acquired is unparalleled in Indian history.
He is a true revolutionary, who understood the exact significance of resisting an enemy, and the futility of bloodshed, which begets blood, through first-hand experience in South Africa.
He was a proud human- being with self-respect, who was not ashamed of the black skin or the receding forehead.
He assimilated eastern and western philosophies, imbibed the underlying morals of Hindu and Christian faiths, still gloriously sticking to the birth mark of his Indianness.
Not without reason, H. G. Wells, Einstein, Martin Luther King and other plethora of eminent thinkers were impressed and influenced greatly by Gandhism, which is centered on self-discipline and moralistic behavior.
The genesis of all evils, he prophesized, is the immoral thirst for acquiring wealth and non-moral slant toward earning fame.
People tend to lose their sense of freedom and justice in their unbridled thrust toward these non-goals.
In that process, they lose their self-mastery and succumb to enslaving forces.
Simply put, Gandhi is the epitome of simplicity.
He was a preacher who practiced what he preached.
He believed that democracy is a slow process to stabilize, but the fruits that it engendered ultimately will ever remain sweet, and that will enable people to be eternally vigilant to preserve the gains of liberty.
Non-violent process is not a fast-trek!
His arrival in 1915 from South Africa and the eventual elevation into leadership transformed him into a unifying force that spearheaded India’s final freedom — the tryst with destiny.
Having lived in Bombay for a reasonable period of time, I had an opportunity to touch the same dust and stand on the same floor where Gandhi moved and lived for an extended period.
The sands of the Chowpathi beach at the Marine Drive from where Gandhi launched his quit India movement can be a collector’s item like the ones from Kanayakumari.
I was particularly enchanted to visit the Mani Bhavan in South Bombay, along with a bunch of MLA-delegates from Kerala, in 1978, at the request of my father’s cousin, Mr. K. J. George, who represented the constituency of Thrisssur and Chalakkudy on several occasions.
He preferred to stay with me in my bachelor’s den, foregoing his claim for free stay at the Maharashtra MLA house, and despite the fact that I was not much sympathetic to his political ideology.
Mani Bhavan took me to historical depths; allowed me to view in person many of Gandhi’s artifacts that included his spectacles and a little chained time-piece, among others.
I acquired my copy of “My Experiments with Truth,” in its original English version from the souvenir shop at the exit.
That was a true reading experience and extension of many patches of information gathered from multiple sources like text-books and popular articles.
Gandhism is a great ideology and a strong, informed primer toward self-restraining thoughts.
Then, why so much blame has been aired at Gandhian thoughts and paths in modern days?
Any systemic failure in Indian polity or economy is attributed to a fundamental defect in Gandhism.
More so, the political party which capitalized on Gandhian pedigree made too much emphasis on Gandhi and overestimated the symbolic nature of his image.
Hand-woven cotton textiles are no more a driving force in a global economy.
True, it excelled as an indicator of patriotism during the Swadeshi movement.
Small-scale industry was not a bad idea, but the practitioners failed to see the big-picture.
Simple, loose dress may be acceptable in tropical weathers, but not suited for extreme winters of the north.
Some of Gandhi’s personal experiments were crazy enough in modern standards to send him behind bars for child molestation, though he was immaculate to confess his obsessive weakness to perform such unproductive experiments.
His confession on his inability to discipline his libido as a young married man, when his father was breathing his last in an adjoining room, is an unnecessary, unwanted admission of guilty conscience, when secret, sacred love within wedlock was hailed by even saintly sages who knew the contours of eroticism that went hand in glove with modern thinking.
His attitude of downgrading his own children for keeping his image untarnished tended to foolishness, when they should not have been penalized for being his children.
His acts of appeasing minorities to its extremes on the eves of pre-independent India was unbalanced that screwed up his own life.
His influence of thinking small may not be universally applicable.
The catholic catechism classes taught, “… even a saint commits seven sins a day…”
Indeed, he was a saint who fused his philosophy as a great universal force.
His voice is heard when many other things fail.
People consult his thoughts when every other alternative fairs unwell, as an impatient youngster who consults an instrument’s manual when everything else fails to fix his machine!