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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gandhigiri—a toothless idea in India today

My friend and sometimes boss Chitra Ravi asks on Facebook : 'Hey Ram' !- will kids today recognize this famous phrase of a Mahatma ? Or to them does it just translate to a 'Hey, a 8 GB RAM!'? She should know as she is in the business of taking IT education to schools and to empowering teachers to facilitate a child’s learning, not merely loading them up with facts and figures.

The other day I the listened quite closely to the song “Kassu mele kaasu vandu” (money keeps piling on). It has a line that Gandhi remains only a toothless face on a rupee note. The fact is that Gandhi comes up in the news mostly when somebody has something negative to say about him…and strangely enough so does Jinnah when an Indian has nothing but praise for him.

Gandhi is truly the past and any effort to revive his relevance is restricted to a couple of generations who saw, interacted and were motivated by him to do something for the country. The post Independence generations have only inherited the dregs of his vision and values passed on to them by a diluted leadership. The Congress party itself has changed so much—including living the five-star culture, validating alcohol consumption and riding the poshest of imported cars—that they freely confess that they have lost sight of the grass root Indian, the Dalit and the common man. The scion of the party, Rahul Gandhi, at forty is being hailed as the youth icon and being spotlighted for his efforts to get back to the party image of being there for the ‘aam aadmi’. More power to him.

However, in rural India, Gandhiji is still the messiah, the avatar who will reincarnate to establish a Ram Rajya where the common man, the farmer, the untouchable and the down trodden will find human dignity and at least a modest living.

What is interesting is the cliché trotted out by everybody that ‘The youth are the future’. How can that be when the youth will become older in the future? A better statement would be to say that the youth are the present especially when you think of the major percentage of this segment of society in Indian demographics today.

In any war, it is the youth that sacrifice life and living to fight for the country. They have no fear and not much to lose, for they have few current responsibilities and commitments. They have the courage in them to revolutionize society, to tackle its evils today, to fight and legislate against global warming issues and social injustice and inequities.

A loin clad, teetotaller Gandhiji is today a much abused commodity/brand, a face on a beer mug (sic), T shirt, or ridiculously high priced pen, and for things which he would have vigorously disapproved. He remains as a name on the streets of cities and as a witness overseeing the multitude that passes by, mutely standing as a statue with a powerless stick in his hand.

Good grief! His name has even been high jacked by a family!


  1. Gandhi was right for the time and place of his time. His place in history is assured and we need not worry unduly about Gandhigiri not being practiced. Many more Indian things have been discarded in the process of modernization and in some cases, westernization and why single out Gandhi?

  2. You cannot talk about India or any thing concerned with it without associations with Gandhi, that is why!