Celebrating Gandhi through true Gandhians
As we celebrate Gandhiji’s birthday today, I thought that I would recognize people who represent Gandhian values. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but an indicative list. My father was a khadi-wearing, unabashed admirer of Gandhi who had the opportunity to work with Gandhiji as a student leader. He is the only one in our family who can say, “I went to jail” and be proud of it. As I was growing up, I heard stories of his life in jail, cooking for 500 people, of leading student groups during Gandhiji’s visit to Chennai.
I understood from him that to be truly a Gandhian is a way of life. It is not about knowing all the facts about Gandhi or reading his books or striving for equal rights or justice for or all wearing Khadi or even being Indian or loving India. To me, the main value of being a Gandhian was what I saw my father practice – which is to see the best in everyone and to treat everyone equally. To take care of others as though they are your own. At times, I used to get irritated with him as to why he would spend his valuable time and petrol money to sit in some government office to get a job for someone else, or why make international calls to ensure that a musician gets an invitation letter to go to on a cultural tour. And I would point out to him that all his time and money would not result in any benefit for him.
All those who got his favors would promptly forget all that he did the moment they achieved fame. What I did not understand then was that he never did any of these expecting any return. For him, helping that other person was the same as helping me or any of his family. It was a value.
In today’s world, we do not see too many people who have the ability to treat others as their own and be authentic in their own way. So, I wanted to recognize four people who I met who represent these values – from the four corners of India.
For the next four days, I will write about a person each day. I chose four people from West, North, East, and South of India and will share their stories. Look forward to your comments. And a big thanks to my father who was a true Gandhian.