Gandhiji is the
most admired Indian of the last hundred years. In his lifetime and after his
death he inspired people across continents and cultures to act. Today he is
most noticeable on currency notes, in photos at schools and government offices,
in political speeches, in history books, political dressing, stamps, schemes,
slogans, museums and the like. He is vanishing or missing in places where his
ideals are needed the most – in behaviour and approach. Many of his ideas have
either vanished or have been totally adulterated.
propagated many ideas that are as relevant today as they were then in spite of
the change in external situation and their context. Swadeshi, Satyagraha,
ends do not justify the means, non violence as an epitome of all virtues, karo
ya maro (do or die), civil resistance, Swaraj, cleanliness, social
service, Sarvodaya and more. Many of these values are the need of our
times more than ever before. Much of humanity has walked away from the trail he
blazed. Let us look at two of his ideals in today’s context:
Truth:Satyagraha literally means insistence on truth.
This insistence arms the votary with matchless power1. It means
that all worthwhile activities that can only be sustainable, and genuinely
profitable if they depend on the ability to answer a fundamental question – Is
this truthful? Rather a first and last question! Today truth is perhaps the
first and the last casualty to justification, opinions, denials,
rationalisations, propaganda at all levels. Bapu carried an immaculate ability
for insistence on truth that carried no anger, no retaliation
and no submission. As chartered accountants, we are in the job of what is
true (and fair). Do we ask this question with enough rigour – to ourselves and
to the government? Or do we just carry on and find ways to keep going?
Swadeshi:Swadeshi is that spirit in us which restricts
us to the use and service of our immediate surroundings to the exclusion of the
more remote2.In today’s
times it could stand for several things. For one - how can we operate in a
global environment keeping a deep connection with our roots? As a country we
lack a narrative – the US, China has it! We haven’t articulated Indian approach
or we are mostly in a ‘follow’ and ‘tow’ mode?
Swadeshi can be seen from the perspectives of globalisation
and interdependence. Swadeshi is a form of deep interdependence. If
there is no local interdependence, what is the meaning of global
interdependence? By serving the immediate neighbourhood, we don’t harm anyone –
serving the family, neighbourhood, culture, ethos, fraternity, society and the
1 Young India, 27.2.1930
2 Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, pp. 336-44
Much of India
remains colonised – not politically, but psychologically. Take the English
language – which is considered a bridge language (to the exclusion of all other
Indian languages) and the lack of which is still looked down upon. People are
made to believe that English is the ‘be all and end all’ of development. Japan,
Germany, Russia and many non English speaking nations didn’t take that route.
We often look at many Indian words that are ‘non translatable’ through their
dim English description. Some of the courts and government trainings are still
‘English only’. Indian laws are written in a fuzzy ‘Queen’s English’, which is
legally done away with even in England, when only 9% people understand English.
This obnoxious writing of laws remains the chief instigator of litigation.
Indian languages are not even considered business languages in the ‘corporate’
world. In a Board room full of Indians well versed in a common language,
discussions are generally not in any Indian language.
noticed how India often sees itself through the eyes of the ‘non Indian’?
Indian traditions are analysed, written and taught through the eyes of those
who are not steeped in the deeper and wider Indian civilizational ethos. We are
yet to have an indigenous validation mechanism for our products and services to
receive confirmation of ‘good enough’ or ‘fit for consumption’. Many imported
ideas, often violent, have spread across the country in disguise.
could effectively serve as an insurance against psychological, commercial and
Finally, the legacy and relevance of the Mahatma in a given context is
what each one of us makes of it. In the end and always - It’s up to us!