Opinion: Looking back at the life of Mahatma Gandhi

Opinion: Looking back at the life of Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi, Bapu, Mahatma – 150 years from his birth in 1869 – the commemoration started today

By IndiaGBnews special correspondent Aline Dobbie

Gandhiji was born in Porbandar in Kathiawar, in what is now Gujarat, on October 2, 1869. Today, his birthday, marked the start of two years of commemoration of this great yet humble man who by his determination, commitment, courage and humility changed the way the 20th century world thought and behaved.

He became Bapu, the Father of India, and an inspiration to so many who came to prominence around the world in the later years of the 20th century and now the 21st – Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama and the rest of us ordinary mortals who have absorbed his wisdom and truths. Ahimsa, non-violence in the most difficult of circumstances was his credo.

Rabindranath Tagore said: “Occasionally, there appear in the area of politics, makers of history, whose mental height is above the common level of humanity. They wield an instrument of power, which is almost physical in its compelling force and often relentless, exploiting the weakness in human nature – its greed, fear, or vanity. When Mahatma Gandhi came and opened the path of freedom for India he had no obvious medium of power in his hand, no overwhelming authority or coercion. The influence which emanated from his personality was ineffable, like music, like beauty.”

Growing up in India the free Nation as a child I was always aware of Gandhi-ji…. the statues, the topic, the parents referring to him, and I imbibed his wisdom from my early years. At first of course it is not easy to comprehend, but in teenage years and later, the total wisdom and strength of his thinking – his very ethos for living, becomes a profound inspiration.

Mrs. Anju Ranjan, Consul General of India, Edinburgh.
Mrs. Anju Ranjan, Consul General of India, Edinburgh.

I personally was deeply moved to hear the praise and acknowledgement of this inspirational man today in the Indian Consulate General in Edinburgh. The Consul General Anju Ranjan and others all told of his greatness, but I kept looking at the little bust of him and thinking back to my visit to the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad; I also thought of the Mission area in which he had lived with Kasturba in South Africa which was not far from our own home in the 1970s. I thought of the ugliness of South African prejudice and discrimination which we as a couple tried hard to combat in opposition politics, but then sadly recognised as not going to change in a hurry therefore we left South Africa. I think of the stunningly beautiful film that the late Lord Attenborough made called simply Gandhi…it brought him again to the forefront for the next generation. Indeed, every time I watch that film I learn something new, and I have shown it to our grandchildren who were mesmerised. In Scotland, pupils in primary school learn about Gandhi the great man of peace so they were familiar with him in that sense, but they were spellbound.

Now, in these very troubled times, what would Gandhi-ji say to us all? Well look in the books, read his sayings, he can inspire us yet again. For India is now embarked on a great march to progress, this ancient yet modern land, and Gandhi was their Gift to the World.

We should continue to learn and be inspired by the Father of the Nation, and maybe the whole world should reassess what he tried to teach us over 70 years ago. It is relevant now. These are his words that continue to inspire me.

Be the Change you want to see in our world

Let us teach the Rich to live more Simply so that the Poor might simply Live

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

Woman is more fitted than man to make exploration and take bolder action in nonviolence.

Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity.

The final word on Gandhiji must be TRUTH is the most important value in life.

It was entirely fitting that on June 15, 2007, the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to celebrate October 2 from then on as the International day of Non-Violence in honour of India’s greatest son Mahatma Gandhi.

Personally, I feel strongly that the Nobel Peace Prize judges were supine and unwise in not bestowing the prize on Gandhiji in the 1930s, presumably because in his lifetime – until the very end when India had become a Nation – they judged him to be controversial and perhaps a bit of a trouble maker. Oh, he was that, he made trouble for the British Empire but without throwing a stone; for others it was difficult at that time to swallow their own hate and anger. It is to his eternal credit that despite all the challenges he never wavered.

Bapu we honour you today and always. You Were the Change in the World.


Aline Dobbie

Aline Dobbie is one of the UK’s foremost authorities on India. Born in India to Scottish parents she spent the first 16 years of her life in the sub-continent. An acclaimed travel writer, Aline is the author of a celebrated trilogy of books on India, including The Peacock’s Call – www.thepeacockscall.co.uk


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