The donning of the Gandhi cap by celebrities and commoners alike during the recent Anna movement became a symbol of resurgence of the Mahatma’s ideology. But, for Young India, is there more to Gandhi than such passing, public-propelled displays of his philosophy?
A frail man attired in a loincloth... a stalwart who stirred the conscience of the multitude of masses... a calm, composed man who was an apostle of peace ... a dynamic leader who brought down the mighty British Empire. Mahatma Gandhi, the man, has never been easy to understand. His philosophy of ahimsa and soul force has intricacies which are hard to escape. Yet, it’s the very depth and fullness of his philosophy that has given generations of people an opportunity to reinterpret and relive the philosophy, albeit in parts.
In his own country, Gandhi is being rediscovered. More so by those in their twenties and thirties. Post-Anna Hazare’s movement, there’s a resurgence of interest in the Gandhian thought.
Suddenly, the Gandhian ideology has become a potent weapon that can be wielded effectively. People have found a recognisable technique of self-assertion. If the ‘here and now’ falls short of their expectations, they have history to fall back upon. And a man like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whose moral force was acknowledged even by his worst critics, to look up to.
Did it need Anna Hazare to bring Gandhi back to the masses in general and the youth in particular?
"Gandhi has ever been present in the collective conscience of the Indians. It’s only that sometimes what’s on the fringes of our conscience, needs a trigger to come to the fore," says young Punjabi writer Karamjit Singh Grewal.
Any philosophy that’s buttressed by some tangibles evokes a public response easily. Bollywood found Gandhi caps a sartorial way to strike an emotive chord with those people who had found a worthy cause in the Anna andolan. Glamorous actresses spurned their signature style to don the Gandhi caps. Fashion and philosophy found a common platform.
Bollywood, with its penchant for seeking inspiration from whatever comes in handy, has not been exactly liberal while drawing on the Gandhian thought.
Slick, fast-paced films with a surfeit of amoral heroes, who love hanging out in the grey zone, are the Bollywood staple. "Yet, it’s Lage Raho Munna Bhai, with its message of Gandhigiri, that wins hands down in making the masses connect to Bapu’s philosophy," says Punjabi actress Neeru Bajwa. "Gandhigiri can, and invariably does, have a quiet win," says the actress, who spent her adolescent years in Canada.
"No journey is ever easy. I may not measure up to the moral courage of Mahatma Gandhi. I can, at least, try to stand up for myself. That’s how I interpret his philosophy," she adds.
For the decidedly competitive world of television, the Gandhian thought may not translate into high TRPs. Yet, Gandhi’s role remains a coveted one for actors. Ruggedly handsome actor Vikramjeet Virk is the most unlikely candidate for the role of Gandhi. But for his looks, which would make him the most unconvincing Gandhi ever, he would have been too happy to play one of the most challenging roles of his career.
"My looks hardly qualify me to play the role of Mahatma Gandhi. No wonder, I play the character of Mohammad Ghaznavi in a Zee tele-serial," he adds.
On a personal note, this actor from Karnal in Haryana believes that the language of love is powerful. But he does not mind shifting his stand if it fails to bring the desired effect. The finer nuances of the Gandhian philosophy can be good for intellectual debate. For the hard grind of life, you have to keep your options open, he says. "Sometimes, your moral courage strikes against a dead wall. Then, you need to look beyond the Gandhian perspective."
Gandhi has become the new poster boy, post-Anna’s andolan. For the young and the restless, the Gandhian ideology is tantalisingly attractive. It’s open to interpretations that are in consonance with the actualities of the contemporary life. It has an academic resonance, too, as Yatin Garg, a student of management from Ludhiana, has discovered. "When I read The Story of My Experiments with Truth, I found a new Gandhi, who was markedly different from what I had been told about. The book has had a transformational effect on me," he says.
He thinks that the Gandhian philosophy can very well be taught as part of the management curriculum.
Mahatma Gandhi’s talisman of ‘removing the doubt’ is amazingly practical, believes Shaina Kaplish, a student of computer applications. "When you are unsure about your next course of action, take some time off to think whether the action would help anyone. If you get ‘yes’ as the answer, go ahead," she paraphrases the talisman for us.
"Openness to experience and willingness to learn from it are, for me, the key components of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy. I learnt this after reading his autobiography." That’s the take of Deepak Nagpal, who is pursuing an MBA degree from the Punjab College of Technical Education in Ludhiana.
Twentyone-year-old Dhruv Mendiratta, however, has a word of caution. He feels that Bapu’s name should not be invoked indiscriminately. "We have to be careful lest, while professing to follow the Gandhian philosophy, we end up doing just the opposite. We often tend to forget that violence can manifest itself even in words. And this violence can spill over to actions."