The Relevance Of Gandhi-1
Gandhiji is a man who was relevant yesterday, is relevant today and will be relevant for all time to come. And he is relevant not merely for India but for the world. The number of such men in the history of mankind can be counted in the fingers of one?s hand.
There has been a tendency to exalt such men into gods. Gandhiji was afraid that this fate might befall him too. He therefore took all possible steps against his deification. He left explicit instructions that his body was not to be embalmed, that no temples were to be erected in his name nor any prayers offered to him.
Gandhiji, however, could not escape the title of Mahatma. ?The title of Mahatma has often pained me,? he said, ?and there is not a moment when it has not tickled me.? This title was coined by Rabindranath Tagore and has stuck to him.
It is relevant to study how the man became the Mahatma. Gandhiji started life as a very ordinary person. Physically, he was thin, frail, with large ears which caused his irrepressible companion, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, to call him Micky Mouse. Intellectually, he had no special distinction in his childhood. He was a very mediocre student. In his Autobiography he says he was known as ?the fool of the family?. He was not a born speaker. In the first case in which he appeared before a magistrate, he became nervous and tongue-tied, lost his case and was chased out of the court by an angry client. Yet there came a time when this man could move by his words millions of men and women to action.
Gandhiji?s style of speaking has a relevance for all speakers. His sentences were always short. He avoided polysyllabic words. His prose was plain and muscular. It conformed to Daniel Defoe?s definition of the perfect style. ?If I was asked what I supposed to be ?a perfect style?,? said Defoe, ?I would answer ?that in which a man speaks to five hundred people of common and varied capacities, idiots and lunatics excepted, and would be understood by them all?.?
Gandhiji had an eager, inquisitive mind. He retained his mental curiosity till the end of his life. One has only to remember that during his last imprisonment he tried to learn Russian in jail in order read Karl Marx in that language.
The great formative influences on Gandhiji were the Gita, the Bible, Leo Tolstoy and John Ruskin. He had a concrete mind and was not interested in abstract ideas unless he put them into practice. He read John Ruskin?s Unto the Last and was greatly moved by it. ?The book gripped me,? he said, ?I could not get any sleep that night. I determined to change my life in accordance with the book.? The essential ideas of the book were that the good of the individual is contained in the good of all, that all work is meritorious, for instance a lawyer?s work has the same value as a barber?s; that manual labour is not to be despised and the life of the tiller of the soil is a worth life. He put these principles into practice by founding a farm in South Africa called the Phoenix Farm, which was later called the Tolstoy Farm.