First of all, happy birthday! Since this morning, I have been thinking about you and ultimately decided to write a letter to you.
Who knows, heaven might be far more modern than our world and you might be scrolling through your divine social networking site and my letter may reach you.
In our generation of ‘cool people’, any critical engagement with you has been very difficult due to two reasons.
Firstly because you have been idealised since our primary school days. Our parents and teachers presented you as a superhuman with no human follies, blunders, and contradictions. Ruling forces have used you for their own mileage by trying to create ‘Bapu ke sapno ka desh’ (Bapu’s dream country). You have been associated with various symbols like khaki, charkha, and chashma. No one is concerned about your actual symbol that is freedom. Freedom to dissent, freedom from corruption and abuse of power, freedom from discrimination.
Secondly, it’s because there are people who think it is cool to be a member of the ‘Gandhi hate club’. I have interacted with such people. They portray you as anti-modern, a conservative-Hindu, and at the same time, anti-Hindu. There are various articles which scrutinise your sexuality.
I know you must be hurt by both these extremes. You were not superhuman and never had you claimed to be God. You were an ordinary human being without any divine power who acted extraordinarily under extraordinary circumstances. It is very natural for you to have human complexes, insecurities, and follies. Why were you not allowed to make some blunders and contradictions? Every person has countless shades in their personality and every shade cannot be liked by everyone. But how reasonable is it to overlook the extraordinary contribution made by a person because of their imperfections?
Bapu, honestly, I am so busy with my own daily struggles and weaknesses that I do not get time to think about you. But whenever I deliberately try to think about you, I have never been able to hate you. You were a genius. As an individual, you led a lifelong quest for self-transformation. You have always learned from your mistakes. You had the guts to accept your flaws. We only talk about the prevalent problems but you always chose to act. This makes you different from us. History is the evidence of your strength to stand for those who are exploited against those who exploit.
Bapu, a fascinating thing about you was your intellect to transform the poorest, most vulnerable, exploited and the weakest section of people into revolutionaries. The person who was starving for their basic needs, you gave them the courage to dream of freedom. You recognized that freedom of the nation can be won only through mass political struggle. The struggle was innovative and unique in itself. You had a successful experiment with tools like Satyagraha and non-violence.
We can learn the mantras from your struggles and apply them to other problems. We learned that to deal with a chronic problem, we need to address the root of the cause and then find an innovative solution. You gave Indians the tool of Satyagraha. You might have looked old and fragile but there was something in you that even the most brutal and powerful regime was unable to kill you and your struggle.
Lastly, I would like to say that I do not consider you superhuman. I accept that you also had follies and personality contradictions like many of us have. I do not have any problem with the critics who indulge in constructive criticism of your personality and decision-making. At the same time, I have a lot of respect for your fearless, intelligent, pragmatic, determined and compassionate persona.
No one can afford to ignore your life as a ‘hero’ and even your failures were ‘heroic’. I do not know whether we need another Gandhi but we always need a person like you who can bring pragmatic changes against undesirable chronic issues.
With lots of respect,