In the turbulent times we live in today, the question is both pertinent and relevant.
He was a frail man of 78 years as he walked the final steps of his life, towards a prayer meeting, when a misguided fanatical assassin pumped three bullets into the Mahatma.
The man who shot Mahatma Gandhi is irrelevant but what is of relevance is his failure to silence the man who inspired an entire nation to come together and walk the path of non-violence in reaching a common goal of freedom. Not just political freedom but freedom from the evil that lay within ourselves.
Today happens to be the Mahatma’s 69th death anniversary but he is far from dead; not for the millions who still look upon his life and message as a guiding light, as they search for strength to fight the moral turpitude within.
Mahatma Gandhi is perhaps the most charismatic and inspirational leader of the 20th century, whose life and message continues to inspire millions around the world, even today. His message of peace, equality, inclusiveness and non-violence, remain aspirational values for people from all cultures, communities and nations.
So on this 30th January, should we mourn the Mahatma or should we use this day to reaffirm our commitment to the values he imbibed and espoused?
Rajghat to get a facelift
The government of India has just announced its intention to give Rajghat a much needed facelift. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) will be working in close cooperation with the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) in executing the revamp. They will get inputs from Rajghat Samadhi Samiti.
The plan involves inscribing quotes and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi on the granite gates using white marble. The main gate and VIP entrance will have around 30 quotes of the Mahatma prominently displayed. The main gate will have his signature and his iconic spectacles put up.
Security has been an issue here for some time and the government plans to upgrade and expand the existing 27 CCTVs covering select areas, to covering the entire memorial campus.
There are some dilapidated built-up structures on the campus and these will be demolished and a new guest house is expected to come up instead. The proposed guest house will run on electricity generated by a solar power generating unit with solar panels in the parking area. Only LED lights will be used henceforth. The electricity generated will meet the power requirements of the entire memorial and save at least 60,000 kwh of electricity from the grid.
But what about revamping Bapu’s India?
Gandhi’s memorial requires the facelift and the government must do all to ensure that the place gets the necessary investment and attention it needs. But what are we doing about Babu’s India? The India he dreamed and gave his life for?
After 68 years of Bapu’s assassination, do we not need to rediscover the values of Bapu we lost on the way to transforming India? Is this the India that Bapu would have been happy to see?
At an individual level, were we to come face-to-face with Bapu today, could we look him in the eye and honestly say “Bapu, we accepted you as the father of our nation and we have continued to walk the path you showed us?”
Whatever happened to the spirit of India? Remember, we were once the spiritual capital of the world. We were the thought leaders that other nations envied and admired for centuries, so how did we lose our way to the point that we are not able to look at Bapu in the eye today?
Beyond the usual jingoistic pseudo patriotism and the annual lip service we ritually pay Bapu on his birth and death anniversary, can we sincerely accept that we have indeed frayed from the path Bapu showed us? And if so, is Bapu relevant enough today for us to once again fight to bring back his message and values as the guiding principles in our life?
It’s one thing to revamp memorials and speak admirable platitudes to the Mahatma on his birth and death anniversary, it’s another thing to be true to the man who spent his life spreading the message of equality and inclusiveness.
Searching for the Mahatma on the streets of a turbulent world
The world is undergoing religious, political and cultural turbulence, as a new order struggles to evolve. There are polarising contradictions between technology and freedom, religion and lifestyle, identity and acceptance. In all of this, there is a desperate search for a path of simplicity and sanity that seems to remain as elusive as the legendary mirage. Mahatma Gandhi showed the way forward and the world acknowledged and applauded wholeheartedly.
Nations, along with India, recognise the value and relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in contemporary times but yet he remains relegated to the back lanes of our consciousness when he should be our guiding light. After all, we did follow him once and he did deliver.
The time has come for the world to give themselves another chance with Gandhi. Let’s begin with ourselves in reclaiming the values of the Mahatma and then let us hold ourselves as role models for the world to follow, as we once did, generations ago.
That’s the relevance of today – the 30th of January.
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