“Have you heard of Gandhi? Do you know of him?” was a question asked of me frequently by my colleagues, as I travelled for work, even in faraway countries like Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. Sure, as an Indian, I had known of the sterling role of Mahatma Gandhi in India’s freedom struggle. However, I was surprised to see his fan following in distant countries, after the epic film, “Gandhi” by Richard Attenborough. The film, which won eight Oscars, took Gandhiji into the far corners of the world. I was also tickled that Attenborough, a Britisher had made the film, on a man who had spent almost his entire life, fighting the British.
Mahatma Gandhi attached a lot of importance to truth, in all his relations and politics. He proclaimed, Truth is as old as the hills.” Gandhiji practised, what he preached. In his “ashrams”, (retreats, in which small communities lived by Gandhiji’s teachings and principles), the residents had the responsibility of cleaning the toilets too. Traditionally, toilets in India were cleaned by a group of people who were considered “untouchables.” Gandhiji was against such discrimination. He believed in respect for all types of work. So, in his “ashrams” people cleaned all toilets by turn. As Gandhiji said, “Be the change, you want to see in the world”.
Younger generations would benefit by reading “The Life of Mahatma Gandhi” by the American author, Louis Fischer. This book was my Bible, in my younger days. It is the best book on Gandhiji, written in a very basic style, which Gandhiji exemplified. Fischer spent seven days with Gandhiji at Sevagram Ashram, in Wardha. The author was surprised to see that Gandhiji kept a black and white picture of Jesus Christ, in his bare room.
Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography should be made a text book for school children. It is important to expose youngsters to leaders, who ushered significant changes in our world, without any violence, or firing a single shot from a gun.