By Narayan Desai
Even though Gandhiji went through several turning points while becoming a mahatma from an ordinary Mohan, basically his life was like a straight line. The starting-point of the line was the faith in Rama instilled by the mantra of 'Ramanama' and given to the boy Mohan by Rambha, the maid servant. When the stick of Mir Alam hit his head during his middle age in South Africa, the name of Rama came out of Gandhiji’s lips, and when the three bullets pierced his chest 50 years ago, the same word, ‘Hey Rama’ and no other was uttered by Gandhi. The intense faith in Rama and in Ramayana, joined the three crucial points of his life―the beginning, the middle, and the end. This clearly indicates that his life was a straight line like a thread through which the faith passed.
When Gandhi came to India from South Africa, the words prevalent for politicians were ‘moderates’ and 'extremists’. Some wanted to attain ‘Swaraj’ by means of the bullet or the bomb. To others independence was not only political but also contained spiritual dimension. Gandhi synthesized in his ‘Satyagraha’, four different attitudes-the humility of the moderates, the intensity of the extremists, the readiness of persons like Bhagat Singh and Khudiram Bose to sacrifice themselves happily for the country and the superior ideology of Shri Aurobindo to raise patriotism to a higher level. His Satyagraha consisted of a humility of love even for those who considered Gandhi as their enemy; it was intense enough to enable Gandhi to tell his adversary, the British Government, that it was for their own good that they should give up India; his satyagraha contained the readiness to sacrifice one’s life with a smile and the name of Rama on one’s lips; and it had in it the spiritual fervour which could endow the 'Sattvika’; luster of purity to the people of India, just awakening into Rajas (activity) from its centuries old Tamas (darkness and inertia) these were the four basic principles of our country which found a synthesis in Gandhi.
Thus Gandhi has reassured us, saying: “I am not going to keep quiet even after I die."
A few days ago, I was in the village Vatva of Dehgam taluka. The people of these villages were demonstrating peacefully and fearlessly, with good will for the adversary to regain the land of their village, which had been snatched, from them in an unjust manner. This Satyagraha convinced me of the truth of Gandhi’s statement.
About seven or eight Sarvodaya workers travelled from Dandi to Sabarmati to bring to people’s notice, the unfairness behind the order of the government banning the sale of ordinary salt (as against iodised salt). That the Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal should be inspired to fight this injustice the way Gandhi did in 1930 is a proof that Gandhi refuses to silenced.
13,000 miles from here, is a city called Sao Paulo in Brazil. Out of it’s population of seventeen million, seven million people live in slums.
In the north western provinces of Brazil there is widespread hunger. Several hungry people left their province and headed for Sao Paulo. The citizens of this comfortable city were so scared that they wrote letters to editors, suggesting that shop-keepers of ration-shops selling grains be given licenses for guns to prevent the hungry mobs from ransacking grain shops. This crass inhumanity deeply pained Father Kuns, a clergyman residing in the slums. He went to the main Church of the area and commenced a fast for 21 days. Initially, most people laughed at him. Gradually, a few persons came and asked him if they could join him in his fast. The Father said, “No one should for more than one day as a mark of sympathy. What I would like you to do is something better. Those who feel real sympathy for the hunger-stricken refugees should put up a board in front of their own homes inviting them in. Tell them you are ready to share your bread with them till the food lasts. When there is no more food you will share your prayers with them." On the last day of the fast of Father Kuns, there were ten thousand homes in San Paulo ready to share their meals with the refugees. The idea of providing shop-keepers with guns had simply evaporated.
We should feel convinced that Gandhi goes on living today through persons like Father Kuns.
About 300 miles from the North Pole in Canada there lives a tribe of native Americans. When I was there, Charles, a representative of the Innus, was taking me in his car to a place where the Innus had organized a Satyagraha some time back. They were fishermen, and the fish on which they made their living was being destroyed. Air-force planes used to conduct practice–exercise in that snow-covered area. The planes would zoom up and then descend at great speed, stopping short only of the bombing. The noise pollution killed the fish living under the snow, and deprived the Innus of their food. The Innus made a human chain and surrounded about a mile-long airport area. Their Satyagraha succeed and the practice–exercise of the Nato planes was discontinued. Gandhi lived in this Satyagraha.
While Charles was driving the car in which I was travelling, he asked me about my life. Naturally, I talked about my childhood. The Sabarmati Ashram and Gandhiji’s residence Hridaya Kunj came before my eyes. I told Charles how we, as children walked with Gandhiji’s hands on our shoulders; how we would go up to the Sabarmati prison touch the gates and return to the Ashram. Suddenly the speeding car showed down. I asked Charles “ What happened"? He replied, “A miracle, that’s what happened". I was confused. Charles continued “Never had I even dreamt that I shall ever meet a man who had lived with Gandhi, that a man on whose shoulder Gandhi had leaned would be sitting in my car! If this is not a miracle, what is it?"
So Gandhi lives on, not only amongst Sarvodaya workers, but in every corner of the world!
In India as also in so many countries of the world, women have woken up to the injustice meted out to them and are seen fighting that injustice in nonviolent demonstrations. The Dalits are also found to be demonstrating against injustice in a disciplined and non-violent manner. I believe that Gandhi lives on in all these.
If we are under the impression that the Gandhian age is over because 50 years have passed since Gandhi's assassination, we are wrong. It is quite likely that the Gandhian era is just commencing, that what we see are the first indications of that new beginning. Tomorrow belongs to Gandhi. Wherever there is resistance against the forces of death, Gandhi is present. About this, we must firmly convince ourselves.
Swaraj (self-rule) is normally understood as the rule of self. Gandhi said, it meant not rule of self but rule over self. When one talks of ‘self-rule’, one should be able to control his own self. The first meaning represents the culture of the senses and of consumerism. The second meaning represents the culture of sacrifice, of the soul.
Gandhi had first presented this idea in 1909. The conflict between the two cultures that of enjoyment and that of sacrifice is far more clear today in our lives, in our families, in our daily happenings. This self-centered culture deserves a careful analysis. Man today has stopped worrying about others and keeps emitting poisonous gases and poisonous chemicals. He just does not think of tomorrow. He is leading humanity towards a mass suicide. Thinkers all over the world are warning the human race against this inevitable danger. And, I feel that the Gandhi of tomorrow will speak to us in the language of the environmentalist.