Sunday, August 29, 2004

Gandhi: No More or Know More?

Recently I re-read Gandhi’s autobiographical ‘The Story of My Experiments With Truth’, as well as Romain Rolland’s Biography on Gandhi. Why this reversal to reading this man’s biography and autobiography at this point of life, you might sure raise a skeptical eyebrow, this I shall answer with the help of Salman Rushdie’s quote on this great man referred to as Mahatma. Gandhi today, in Booker-Prize winner Salman Rushdie’s words “is up for grabs. He has become abstract, ahistorical, postmodern, no longer a man in and of his time but a freeloading concept, a part of the available stock of cultural symbols, an image that can be borrowed, used, distorted, reinvented to fit many different purposes, and to the devil with historicity or truth.”
This leads me towards trying to figure out what causes the extremely loose use, reuse and abuse of this great pacifist in conversation, media and debate. It also has become a trend of sorts in today’s India to call oneself ‘anti-Gandhi’ or a ‘Gandhi hater’. This is parroted from every second youth’s opinion, which, when questioned further, have no bases for the argument.
Gandhi today has become the subject of study for many forms of the media, be it print, television, film or theatre, and with this plethora of presentations on Gandhi, there are bound to arise many viewpoints. This is seen in popular media, especially Indian motion pictures with different approaches, like the recent THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH, VEER SAVARKAR, SARDAR and of course AMBEDKAR. These films take different ways of dealing with him, some use the ever-popular eulogising approach, while others look at him with a different angle showing his ideological differences with other radical yet not so glorified heroes. Other radical and different approaches to the man are the new plays like ME NATHURAM GODSE BOLTOI and MAHATMA V/S GANDHI. Also come in recent writings on the man, like the sub-altern writings like Shahid Amin- Gorakhpur- Chauri-Chaura (Gandhi as Mahatma), Gyanendra Pandey – Gandhi as a signifier, Partha Chatterjee- Gandhi and the Critique of Civil Society that have proved to take different approaches to looking at Gandhi.
These schools of thought have emerged thanks to scholars who already have gained sufficient knowledge upon the life, ideologies and philosophy of Gandhi. They only have moved to these differing thought systems after having a basic understanding of the man. This is what the youth today have failed to realise, and they have based their arguments and judgments on limited knowledge. Limited knowledge over here is very well dangerous. Thus most of these ill read and blissfully ignorant viewpoints, which have sprung to the foray, can be well silenced, as they are baseless weak arguments. There comes into play this kind of cultural perversion, which makes them degrade anything that is obsolete. The youth today need to well understand the ideals of Gandhi talking of non-violence, which is very much what is needed especially today after a post- WTC, a crisis-seen Gulf War II and much closer home post Kargil, where many does wonder the world sure does need another Mahatma.
In conclusion I can say, there will be opinions, which very well will have differences, which look at this man in different ways. But one thing is sure; Gandhi will definitely be argued for decades to come. To wrap it all up I borrow Mr. Ramachandra Guha’s words, “Mahatma Gandhi was not so such the Father of the Nation as the mother of all debates regarding its future.”


At 10:58 AM, Blogger Sanj said...

Quite an interesting entry. This is a page worth recommending to the kind you refer to who have baseless half-baked anti-Gandhi opinions.

At 7:59 PM, Blogger srinath said...

Dear Sunayana, that is a really nice blog,u can get a lot more proof for ur argument tht there are not many people who think abt gandhi in a +ve manner by looking at the no of people who have joined the orkut communities for gandhi; eventhough orkut is mostly for fun. but I was actually a leetle shocked. my nationalistic pride aside, there arent many indians who even think gandhi bears any relevance. am actually quite sorry abt tht. when i was a little less sane than wht am now ( prob little less mature)i dint appreciate gandhi either! jus think tht i was really stupid then. and am yet to read the expts with truth/the biography. cant quite pin point my reason for 'the gandhi hating' either. but as uve said, ignorance is the root cause of all evil. gandhi is more than obsolete for most indians. uve said tht gandhi will continue to be debated in the future. Am not really sure about that though. people who are forgotten and whose ideals are for some reason misunderstood by a majority of masses will not be debated for too long. mebbe i sound pessimistic. people like you and me and sit and talk abt gandhi, but the majority is what matters when it comes down to policies...

At 9:38 PM, Blogger ravinder said... one had heard of satyagrah bfore gandhi introduced it...even he didnt know t power of t weapon he was giving t its called a riot...wat say u?
truth...his philosophy was based on man's truth is another man's what is truth?...wat is satya?...this ca go on n on n on...but tht doesnt mean i dont respect him...i do i hav read his autobiography..there is a human element ther...but one must realise that he is not a demi god..but a human..a human who made mistakes..just like evrey one does..


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