Many believe that he is not a Mahatma, a honorific bestowed upon him by the inimitable and peerless Rabindranath Tagore. Some, do consider him as an ambassador of peace, non violence and solidarity. World Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. found an inspiration and a reason to live in Gandhi’s devout and adamant ideologies. Worldwide, he is acknowledged as the man who fought racism and extremism with unparalleled grit and determination. In India, opinions are largely divided and not unanimous, often debated and fused with history and politics.
For me, Gandhi was an epitome of audacity. His was a personality that we will see once in a hundred years. A life laden with challenges and obstacles, it wasn’t easy to be ‘Gandhi’. Yes, I would have loved to see the ‘Mahatma’ devoid of political vendetta (Congress was a monopoly then and hence, politics was ‘Congress’) and just be a man of virtue and equality, the qualities which he so strongly demonstrated in South Africa.
But, again, 1940s was a turbulent decade for India (in particular), largely encompassing the difficult shadows of the gruesome second world war and the subsequent culmination of countries to recollect themselves and develop an organised world. In such times, Gandhi also got embroiled in ugly discussions, nasty decisions and significantly, surrounded by politicians and not patriots. A regret, and perhaps his as well, was that he could stand tall against the mighty British Raj but could not convince his own countrymen to avoid the most inevitable debacle – Partition. Yes, we can sit and argue all day that the world would have been a better place without this divide, but, are we sure? We don’t know that, and again, whose decision finally got the nod, is also a subject of national speculation. Yes, he largely took the brunt for it and his obvious kindness to the minorities did not help his cause. All this and more, led to his assassination. But that was not the solution. Perhaps, it was the beginning.
An individual with a monumental stature as his, is bound to attract controversies and his life was no different. As much as his movements of Civil Disobedience and Non Violence were an example to the whole world, his subdued and cold reactions to the contributions of some of the finest freedom fighters in the country was a huge dampener. His acts of celibacy may have been revolutionary and ahead of its times, but they were torrentially criticised for coming from a man who was largely known to be the face of a country that was desperately trying to force its way out of colonial rule.
I think we are in no position to judge Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. But I admit that my admiration for him supersedes the apprehensions that do not cease to exist and appear to cloud the great man’s enigma.
Mahatma to the world, a father to a nation. For me, he will always be a phenomenon who surprised the world with his diminutive ways.