On Gandhi, Economics And Sexuality

Posted on April 11, 2013 in Inspiration, Specials

By Jit Shankar Banerjee:

Where I come from, the idea of Gandhi is perhaps a tad bit more complicated than it is in the rest of India. Growing up, I heard about the antithetical nature of his understanding of the future of this nation to that of Bengal’s first hero of choice, Subhash Chandra Bose. As my family reaped the slow but steady benefits of being middle class in a metropolitan city, India’s alignment with the economic model which has heavy industrialization as its stem made complete sense to me. The cyclical food crises in my state made me aware of the need for stronger pillars for the economy, and Gandhi remained a mere relic of the past, an icon of resistance who was now out of context.

mahatma gandhi

Today, there is talk of India regaining its dominant share in the global GDP over the next three decades, and the role of private players is being given more importance than ever before. The trite desire to jump on the bandwagon, and to figure out a strategy to do the same keeps me occupied day in and day out. In all this Gandhi props up in my head once in a while with his questions about whether or not this process dehumanizes us, and denies those that are not quite like us, Dalits, tribals, the rural poor etc. the opportunity to ever see the face of prosperity. And if his views are not unfounded, is my dream of being a part of the generation that makes India a developed country pitted against internal odds? The flattening out of so many local cultures, languages and practices that I have seen in my experience as a student in national institutes does give me the feeling that for a lot of communities, the bargain is just not worth it. Perhaps we could have foregone the pursuit of so-called global paradigms of development and looked at India from within. We could have fought harder to remove the web of stratification, the politics of fear that dominates us at the grassroots and then moved on to becoming a superpower on our own terms. Most regressive beliefs that underline our socio-political fabric today are a direct result of the material pursuits that our political class chose for us.

Besides Ralegaon Siddhi, it is impossible today to put a finger on a village that does not crave to be a town and a town that does not crave to be a city. And it is this lack of self belief and reliance on an external value system that lets our leaders get away with vote-bank politics and corrupt practices. In the wake of our modernization, we find ourselves at a point of no return to Gandhi.

If I knew Gandhi in person, I would perhaps relate to his younger self. He talks of how he came to terms with his sexuality after he married Ba in his autobiography and although never married, in retrospect it seems I had in my late teens unconsciously appropriated his experiences into the mold of the “modernity” I encountered in the society around me. The uncanny links between sexuality and death in his life would be something I would like to explore as someone interested in knowing how familial circumstances affect the psychology. His adoption of celibacy later in his life makes me wonder what the truth of my private life will be as I move to higher realms of experience, both physical and spiritual.

It’s hard to get a grip over the resentment about the education system that did not imbibe in me a closer sense of engagement with the ideas of the great man and shrouded him in a cloak of agenda instead. In turn, it is hard to imagine what Gandhi would think of the decisions I am making and the steps I am taking. It’s a predicament that only I can take myself out of. As much as it is a tedious process, one has to take the onus of self-education upon oneself and get closer to the ideas of the great and go beyond mere representations, to eventually arrive at a worldview which is out of the ordinary in a meaningful way.

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