Measuring Mahatma Gandhi’s Relevance In Today’s World
“I am sorry, you know we humans we do a lot usually not benefitting the world around us, not benefitting each other but you existed, still here in the trees, tiny vases and stones. Don’t give up on us. It might be hard to watch most days, the view is the same from the ground level, but I swear we try, we the select few humane (Sic) being still believing that it is possible. We still fight you know, still dream for your cause, don’t think it never meant enough.
As long as the sun continues to shield itself among the clouds people will ask questions and that is not the battle.” – A Humane (Sic) Being
This letter to Mahatma Gandhi was kept in the lap of his statue at Tavistock Square Garden London. Nobody knows who kept it but it shows us the impact he has even today and I do not know if it was an Indian who wrote it. I took this letter from the Facebook page of Tushar Arun Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi (after informing him first of course).
On Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Jayanti today I cannot but reflect on the relevance of his teachings, life and beliefs he has in today’s India. As for me, I am a big fan of the Mahatma flaws and all. Oh yes, he said and believed in many things especially about issues concerning women that I don’t agree with. At least he was open about his views and did not hide behind a veil of political correctness.
- The Mahatma knew that independence of India was really only the first step towards the ultimate goal i.e. equality of opportunity for all through non-violent means.
- Gandhiji’s life was a minimalistic life which he followed 100 years ago.
- He preferred eating raw, opted for millets, the new superfood that we have recently discovered, believed in a plant-based diet, portion control, and minimum sugar.
- Today as we talk of threat from single-use plastic to the environment, the khadi fabric which is 100 percent sustainable becomes important.
But other than that he has given so much to the world to ponder upon and ideals for us to try and emulate. I believe a leader is someone who gives us food for thought to live a thoughtful life. Mahatma Gandhi has walked the talk and set high standards for us.
Mahatma Gandhi remains a relevant thinker today not only because of his theory and practice of non-violence, but because all his life he also defended political tolerance and religious pluralism.
Non-violence a way of life
Let me start by talking about Mahatma Gandhi’s 50 years-long struggle for national independence. Which reached a culmination in August 1947, but the Mahatma knew that independence of India was really only the first step towards the ultimate goal i.e. equal opportunity for all through non-violent means. It is for this reason only why Mahatma Gandhi today represents not only the collective conscience of India, but also the collective conscience of all humanity as a whole. So, whenever there is talk of dealing with terrorism or hatred of any form he is quoted by world leaders, why you might ask, well Mahatma Gandhi remains a relevant thinker today not only because of his theory and practice of non-violence, but because all his life he also defended political tolerance and religious pluralism. Aren’t we still fighting terrorism and hatred today? And aren’t we trying to do it the non-violent way?
Aphorisms today and forever
There are some of the aphorisms that he pronounced that we regularly use now. Today, when we talk of ‘change’ in any sphere we say “Each of us must be the change we wish to see in this world”, “The future depends on what we do in the present”, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” Don’t we all utter these words often? Well, Gandhiji gave them to us and they are very relevant in today’s world order. In the context of violence and terrorism we hear people quoting, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” and when we talk of wrong and right we say, “Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time.” Don’t we all believe that?
De-cluttered and simple life
Today we have lifestyle gurus like Marie Kondo telling us to live a minimalistic life and we think it’s a modern concept but Gandhiji led a minimalistic life 100 years ago. He had minimum stuff with him and he wore minimum clothes — it was his choice. Because he believed the more materialistic things we gather around us the more our mind gets cluttered and distracted, now hasn’t that been proven by modern-day wellness gurus?
He preferred eating raw, opted for millets the new super food that we have recently discovered, believed in a plant based diet, portion control and minimum sugar.
Eating frugally, eating natural, living healthy
When you go to a dietician or nutritionist name one who doesn’t prescribe a diet that is frugal, natural but is power-packed? Being a naturalist, herbalist, and minimalist, Mahatma Gandhi experimented with his diet throughout his life. He preferred eating raw, opted for millets, the new superfood that we have recently (re)discovered, believed in a plant-based diet, portion control, and minimum sugar. He took to fasting long back even before ‘intermittent fasting’ became a trend and practiced mindful eating. Before Fitbit and other fitness trackers told us that a person should at least walk 10,000 steps each day, Gandhiji walked 22,000 steps every day, I say our Father of the Nation can be our lifestyle guru too.
Khadi – the heritage fabric
Khadi refers to hand-woven and hand spun cloth which became a symbol of swadeshi movement. The current generation understands ‘Make in India’ slogan but do they know Mahatma Gandhi gave the call to boycott foreign cloth during freedom struggle. As a symbol of protest Mahatma Gandhi started spinning it himself and encouraged others to do so. He further made the charkha (spinning wheel) the symbol of the Nationalist movement. Mahatma Gandhi collected large sums of money to create a grass-roots organisation to encourage handloom weaving. This was called ‘khaddar’ or ‘Khadi’ movement.
Who could have imagined that the humble khadi would become avant-garde and the choice of millennials today? Khadi is not just a cloth, it represents freedom, legacy, an emotion, an ideology. And designers have adopted it and have made it mainstream. Today we talk of threat from single-use plastic, to our carbon footprint and we all know the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters and there is a clarion call to slow down fashion. This is when khadi becomes important; it is one of the most environment-friendly fabrics. It would do us and the world good to include khadi in our wardrobe. Top designers are including khadi in their collection as a heritage fabric which is 100 percent sustainable. It sure is the fabric of tomorrow which we must adopt.
If we talk of Mahatma Gandhi’s influence at the global level then his technique of mobilising people has been successfully employed by many oppressed societies around the world.
If we talk of Mahatma Gandhi’s influence at the global level then his technique of mobilising people has been successfully employed by many oppressed societies around the world. Think of leaders like Martin Luther King in the United States and Nelson Mandela in South Africa who were leaders of the downtrodden masses and who in turn were influenced by Gandhiji. What an eloquent testimony they are to the continuing relevance of Mahatma Gandhi.
Love him or hate him Mahatma Gandhi still remains the most influential personality of our times. Today when the world is a much divided world with arms and weapons of mass destruction being accumulated by all countries, Mahatma Gandhi’s values are not only relevant but important than ever before. On a personal level too each individual can benefit by following his lifestyle. I have promised myself I will at least try.
Smita Singh is an editor with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are her own.