Gandhi minus the Mahatma

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi - one of the most enigmatic personalities in the history. A man with different shades when viewed at different angles. Well, he was human after all.

Different people had different perceptions about Gandhi. I, on my part, have had different views about him at different stages of my life.

When I was younger, I had loads of issues with Gandhi. Why did he not save Bhagat Singh? Why did he let the partition happen? Why did he not support Netaji? These questions had skewed my perceptions about Gandhi. Believe it or not, I was a part of that population of India who hated Gandhi.

Now I think of him as a man who was a great human being. He may or may not have been a great leader for our nation. I am still trying to figure out if his policies gave India any better results.

He was a man of many names : Bapu, Gandhiji, Nanga Fakir, Mahatma. But the name that really stuck to him was Mahatma, a great soul (he was first called a mahatma by Rabindranath Tagore). Was he really a Mahatma, a saint? I don't think so. Nor did he, I suppose.

He was a common man (the mango man, aam admi), with an uncommon resolution. He made his mistakes. He was proud. He was honest. He was adamant. He was understanding. He was naked. In short he was all that we are, a normal human being.

But then what made him the superhuman we are supposed to think him to be? The press? The Congress? The skewed historians?

Dunno for sure. India needed a hero to look upto after Independence. Every fledgling country does. So we had our very own George Washington. History was written according to the directives of the rulers of the land (the Congress) and the historians, true minstrels that they are, godified Gandhi. Maybe Gandhi would have liked this. I would like to think otherwise, but then who knows. He didn't stop the angrejs from executing the non-believers in non-violence (the Bhagat Singh fiasco), did he?

Hmmmm.. so Gandhi was not a real mahatma. Why the hell then did so many people followed in his wake?

My answer to this question would be his honesty. I came to this understanding when I read his "My Experiments with Truth". He tells us the truths that demean him, his character and are bound to hurt his family and friends. He tells about all his mistakes from stealing to indulging with his wife when his father was dying. All these when he knew he was being followed by millions of people.

It was written in 1920s when Gandhi had become a public figure. People had started believing in him and his principles. To write an autobiography of such sort could have been a big political blunder (a la "Jinnah" by Jaswant Singh). But still he went ahead with it. Ah! History would have been rewritten if the Nehrus and Patels would have been Adwanis and Singhs.

What my point here is. it takes immense courage to do so. Specially when you know people are looking up to you as their mentor. I salute the man for the truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth principle that he followed.

According to Gandhi (in the Introduction to his book):

"It is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography..."

I believe these are the words of a man who considers himself to be honest to his conscience. These are the words only Gandhi could have wrote.

I know Gandhi had his share of controversies. Sure he had his shortcomings. But still, he was better than the breed of gullible politicians we have today. Maybe we need a Gandhi again to clear this mess we have managed to pull ourselves in.
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☥ ѕωαмι ηανєєη said...

"Nanga fakir" ... Never heard this on :O
Though am not his fan .. but he deserves respect , cos he moved masses like none before him :)

Paritosh said...


Winston churchill called Gandhi a half-naked fakir or nanga fakir.

R S V said...

i have read hi autobiography and I totally agree with you on Gandhi's truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth principle....he was a man to be followed not entirely but on some points yes...

btw I should share one of my experiences here....once in a usual bakar session with my friends, we started talking about MKG, and guess what one of them said Gandhi was a bluff....well I was aroused and asked him just a single question: if Gandhi were not there what would you be doing now? cleaning some englishman's toilet??
was I right?

Paritosh said...

if Gandhi were not there what would you be doing now? cleaning some englishman's toilet??
was I right?

Maybe yes... Maybe no...

Gandhi as a person was not the one who got us freedom. Gandhi as a philosophy was the reason for our independence.

If not for Gandhi, some one else may have taken up the mantle. There were several great leaders in Congress apart from Gandhi.

Gandhi got prominence because the English thought of him as submissive and malleable.

Holy Ash said...

Ah..Yet another take on Gandhi..bold, well thought about, clear- not- muddled- with- diplomacy viewpoints..
Ur post has truly made a good read..
Blog on!!

Avada Kedavra said...

Nice post.. but "Why did he not save Bhagat Singh?" is not true.. nobody could have saved him.. because the British played a trick.. he was supposed to be executed on some day but they executed him the previous night without any announcement.. because people had planned to protest the following day.. I had read some articles written by Bhagat Singh's mother in school..

Paritosh said...

@Holy Ash

Gandhi is an enigma. To understand him needs a blunt approach, without any malice or love towards him.

BTW Welcome to my blog.


Hmmmm... Before Bhagat Singh was hanged, Gandhi got release of around 90000 political prisoners from the british jails. This was a major point in Gandhi Irwin pact (signed on March 5th, 1931, 19 days before Bhagat Singh and his 2 other friends were hanged). Now, the trickiest part here is that the 90000 people were not a part of Gandhi's Satyagrah movement. Couldn't he have got these three's death sentences commuted to a lifer?

This is what Gandhi said about Bhagat Singh's execution :

"The government certainly had the right to hang these men."

avada kedavra said...

oh is it? I didnt know about this.. that's sad.. should read about it