Remembering Mahatma

Remembering Mahatma

It is a surprisingly cloudy and quiet morning in New Delhi as I enter the portals of the National Gandhi Museum. Known for its extensive collection of Gandhi memorabilia like letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, recordings of his speeches and personal objects of use, the museum is a veritable mine of information on ‘the man and his mission’.

In the quietude of the museum interiors, one is effortlessly transported to the times of Bapu. The efflux of time has in no way diminished the value and relevance of Gandhiji’s work and message. Ascending the staircase, Rabindranath Tagore’s words “Here was living truth at last, and not only quotations from books. For this reason, the “Mahatma”, the name given to him by the people of India, is his real name...” strikes the eye.

Yes, was this being not truth in flesh and blood who spoke the truth and lived it? Every word said about this man is a repetition, a cliché. It may appear hagiographic. Yet, however hard one may try, an overarching sense of reverence for this selfless soul, whose prescient words ring true even today, is hard to avoid.

Certitude in his convictions, pertinacity in his struggles, benignant in his demeanour, simplicity in his living, pragmatic and grounded in his outlook, Gandhiji was a personification of the scriptural injunctions of a life of work, giving and service.

Seeing his well-thumbed copies of the Tulsi Ramayana and the Bhagwad Gita, one understands that real spirituality lies in living the morals and ethics enunciated in the scriptures, transcending all intellectual exercises and polemics.  

A man who rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty, who commanded the respect of the likes of Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Romain Rolland and Martin Luther King could equally be at home with the inhabitants of the hovels of India, the ‘Daridranarayan’, who, as Tagore said, “stopped at the thresholds of the huts of the thousands of the dispossessed, dressed like one of their own.”

His one aim was to lift them out of their wretched conditions, not by simply giving them something monetarily or otherwise, but to make them self-reliant by providing them some self-occupation to enable them to lead a life of dignity.

Says he in Young India, “For a person suffering from the pangs of hunger and desiring nothing but to fill his belly, his belly is his God. ...To give alms to such persons who are sound in their limbs is to debase oneself and them. What they need is some kind of occupation...”

It is difficult not to compare these words with the present scenario of free dispensation of benefits to all and sundry. If frugality and austerity were the hallmarks of Bapu’s life, sermonising from Lucullan mansions is today’s benchmark. “‘Tis death that is dead, not he,” said the Bombay Chronicle touchingly on Gandhi’s demise. Yes, the man who said “my life is my message” lives on this predacious and iniquitous world.