Experience taught Gandhi valuable lesson

Every experience in life that Mahatma Gandhi underwent taught him a valuable lesson which he has faithfully recorded in his autobiography.

The ill-treatment and humiliations that Indians were subjected to in South Africa spurred Gandhi to fight for the basic rights of Indians there, foremost among them being discrimination based on skin colour.

Having gone to South Africa and personally experienced all these tribulations, Gandhi set up practice there as a lawyer. His sense of justice further saw him drawing up plans to garner support for his struggle from educated, influential people in India.

Thus he came back to India and went to Bombay where he hoped to commence contacting people whom he hoped would assist him in his endeavour. One such person he met was frank in dissuading Gandhi from taking up this struggle.

He told Gandhi there were so many problems in India itself, poverty being an ever present monster. With so much work to do at home, he said that despite understanding the problems of Indians there, it would be far better if Gandhi could concentrate his efforts in India. Thus he refused to help Gandhi.

Gandhi's reaction to this is truly memorable. He says, "Though I did not like his advice, it increased my regard for him, his love for the country... I could understand his point of view.... but I became firmer in my resolve. A patriot cannot afford to ignore any branch of service to the motherland."

Here he quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, wherein it is said that it is better to do one's ordained task to the best of one's ability, even though it may not succeed, rather than taking up alien tasks, though they may appear good. Performing one's duty is of utmost importance.

Another instance of Gandhi's mature, practical wisdom is seen in his comments on the reaction of newspaper editors to the numerous letters, calls and personal visits of people seeking an opportunity to air their grievances.

Gandhi says that though people may have genuine problems and it is natural for them to seek the help of the press and expect to see their words in print, the editor has his own problems, too.

The common man imagines that the editor has unlimited powers, but the reality is different. It is natural to mope over the misfortunes in life and think about the rights and wrongs of past incidents.

In Gandhi's opinion, it is a futile exercise. Instead of regretting, Gandhi advocates looking upon such incidents as learning experiences so that we may not commit the same mistakes again.

Further, he significantly observes that it is difficult to say how a man will act in a particular set of circumstances. Rather than erroneously judging a man based on his acts which may be due to compelling circumstances or on inaccurate or insufficient information, Gandhi suggests respecting an individual based on his intrinsic qualities of head and heart.


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