India has come a long way since the times of Gandhi, and unfortunately, a long way off from his vision of the perfect India. We see his face every day on the rupee notes and go about our lives without giving the Father of our Nation a second thought. But in this present world of violence and corruption, we need to go back to the Mahatma’s teachings now more than ever.
On his 146th birthday, we must ask ourselves how far we have fulfilled Gandhi’s dreams of India and how much we are yet to achieve. This is my personal take on the disparity between a great man’s hopes and our 21st century reality.
Gandhi was one of the few people who spoke of “real progress” or complete progress of a nation, rather than only “economic progress”. Nearly a century ago, he had the rationale to proclaim that: “Western nations today are groaning under the heel of the monster-god of materialism. Their moral growth has become stunted… I would have our leaders to teach us to be morally supreme in the world.”
It is our misfortune that we have left behind such high ideologies and now measure our progress in GDP, while half the nation is below poverty line and lives a life of squalid penury with no access to quality education or proper health care. We have long abandoned Bapu’s somewhat idealistic dreams of self-sufficient villages as more and more village traditions of art and culture are lost; while our cities grow monstrous with high-rises and slums.
It has become rather fashionable these days to bash Gandhi for most of his silences on caste issues. Perhaps we are so intolerant towards human error that we cannot look past it. Perhaps we tend to forget that it was this great soul who laboured long for the eradication of untouchability. It was he who tried to remove their social stigma by naming them “Harijan” and attempted to prevent the decay of village industries solely for their upliftment. But we continue to live in a country where atrocities against Dalits continue with flagrant disregard to laws as authorities remain indifferent.
We have forgotten the Mahatma’s great ideals of “Ahimsa” that was supposed to lead us towards “Satya”. Non-violence and truth were inextricable in his idea, but we have possibly forsaken both. Violence is rife throughout India – we can hardly open the television without seeing another news of violence against women and children – and yet our political leaders and ministers either preach from a moral high ground or find excuses for rapists and murderers. Our nation sinks further and further into corruption while we watch on helplessly.
Perhaps it is time to wake from this stupor and remember the man who once united this great nation. The man whose ideas have inspired hundreds of thousands of people through the world – including the great leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. – can once again inspire us to greatness. I believe we can follow Gandhiji’s visions and ideologies which still persist somewhere in the depths of the underlying current history of our nation. It is up to us to explore those depths and reify the dreams of the Father of our Nation.