Its a perfectly good holiday today. October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanthi. Free from work pressures (of course never free from study pressures), I find myself in a good mood and my mind is mulling around in gay abandon .
And it is times like these that one is inspired to go the whole hog and pour forth into a blog post. My regular blogging has become a serious concern for me since it is just not that – “regular” that is. I surreptitiously think whether it is the advent of micro-blogging in the form of twitter that has dampened the need to extol my thoughts in a page or two.
I mean, why would I do this, when constrained by the need of expression in precisely 140 characters, I can churn out spicy little statements that leave one wanting for more. (Atleast that is what I hope it does to people who read my tweets ;) – hehe… AW, come on. A little bit of ego-massage isn’t all that bad!!).
But I cannot abandon my glorious little blog, nope. If twitter is a place where my momentary thoughts find online expression, this blog is the place where I can sculpt my own views to perfection. In the process, opening up to a world of creative inhabitants, who’ve succeeded in defining an alternate thought-universe: bloggerland.
Before this turns out into an anniversary post – which is something I’ve never written btw, simply because I’m very bad at remembering anniversaries or birthdays of all kinds! – let me go on to something more relevant to today’s spirit.
I am watching Sir Ben Kingsley as Gandhi on TV. It is impossible not to be moved by this film each time one watches it. You forget Sir Ben is an actor as you watch him bring Gandhi alive. So many nuances breathed into the character of a man, many of us in today’s generation know only from history books.
Watching this movie as a child, I remember feeling reverence and spiritedness, knowing that Gandhi was an Indian and that he had scripted the freedom struggle for our country – I remember my chest swelling with pride even though I really never understood what it meant for a human being to sacrifise as much as he had done.
Seeing the movie today, I feel a different kind of reverence. Gandhian ideologies may seem impossible to follow for many (atleast till Munnabhai brought this into the masses with Gandhigiri ) and even amusing. But I realize today that it is not a matter of showing your other cheek when someone slaps one. Those are only symbols.
What it really is, is about courage. About sticking to one’s ideologies and challenging a force so strong that even the strongest may run for cover or hesitate. How easy is it for one man to speak out and demonstrate persistence towards a vision in the face of tremendous resistance? How easily we all resort to mob mentality and cower away from charting out a path different from the crowd? Have you ever stood up to exploitation? To injustice of any kind – at home, in the office or in the society? Have you swallowed humiliation believing that you were powerless? Watch Gandhi. And understand the symbolism of standing up for yourself. And for people you know.
The film shows, albeit in glimpses, a man whose mission left him little time for familial duties. A wife who had to go along his chosen path, and accept his beliefs, more out of duty than identifying herself with it too. But there is a scene in the movie, where on her deathbed, he tenderly holds her hand till she dies. When the doctor confirms her death, he says nothing, but imperceptibly shakes in tightly controlled emotion, a tear dropping out of his eye - and we need nothing more to understand the gravity of the loss.
Nothing can undermine the value of a partner in life, even though we’re always quick to take them for granted and demand forever that they conform to our beliefs. To lose a partner is to lose a part of your soul.
Then there was compassion. Only a man of intense compassion could appeal for a nation of people, identifying himself in each one of them. Isn’t it just so difficult to find compassion anymore these days? Ruthlessness seems to be a more revered trait. *Sad smile*.
Running behind mindless pursuits has left many people an empty shell. (Are you one of them?)
The last aspect of what struck me as I watched Gandhi today, was that he was an incredibly lovable man with a keen sense of humour. Humour that enabled him to take himself lightly and not get caught in his own magnetism, his effect on people or his successes. Humour that kept him grounded even when adversities could have broken his spirit.
If he had lived till today, I am sure he would have found his caricatures and funny ads on him, very amusing . I think the people who opine that such caricatures undermine his value, should start taking themselves a little less seriously too . The value of a human being is not expressed through monuments and roads built in his name, or statues or putting him in a glass cage where people can look at him with reverence. Value is in insight. Knowing that Gandhi lives as a symbol – not just of non-violence or of freedom struggle – and not just to be thought of once in a year. Maybe this is where I concur with the makers of Munnabhai: Gandhi stood for a lot of concepts that are valid forever – courage, love, moral values, compassion and humour.
The film ends on a somber note. In the background of the partition, you see Gandhi’s indomitable spirit broken to see the people of his land fighting in the name of religion and killing one another. Yet there are moments that tell you that even if people believe he failed as a political leader, as a human being and not just a visionary, he surpassed everyone else.
There is a scene where Om Puri, comes to him while Gandhi is on a hunger strike (a bid to end the violence). Om Puri throws a roti at him and tells him to eat – saying that he (Puri) will go to hell anyways, but does not want to do it being responsible for the death of Gandhi also. Gandhi replies that going to hell is decided by God. Then Om Puri breaks down and says that he killed a muslim baby, striking his head against a wall, because Muslims had killed his son – and he weeps, from his loss and from the guilt of doing exactly that which caused him the loss. Gandhi (despite being weak from his fast) pats him on the head and brings him close to his chest.
I felt the scene was a testimony of how non-judgemental Gandhi was; and how his love for his nation and people was pure and forgiving.