The year was 1869, the date 2 October.
A child was born in a dark and dingy ground floor room in the city of Porbandar in Gujarat. His sister Raliatbehn later said he was born with an incredible restlessness that continued through his childhood -- he was constantly on the move, sometimes pulling the ears of dogs.
This child was named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and going by what we know of him today, it would be safe to say that the restlessness he was born with was probably the first sign of the greatness that was to come and take the world by storm.
From the young age of 24, Gandhi had already set himself up to be the one-man army of reform that the country needed in areas of religion and caste. So, with a naïve but determined will, he proceeded to take his ideas back to India from South Africa to implement them, but was confronted with the harsh complexities of reality in India. This formed the turning point in his life and what formed the basis for the unprecedented movements and initiatives he started that led India to its Independence and gave Gandhi the unofficial honorary title of Father of the Nation.
"How would he have tackled all the different kinds of "violence" he would have come across in today's India? "
One of the ideas that is most strongly associated with Mahatma Gandhi (the title of mahatma or "great soul" was conferred on him by Rabindranath Tagore) is the idea of non-violence. Now, on the 146th anniversary of his birth, I couldn't help but reflect on this idea of non-violence that was championed by the Mahatma in the fight for India's freedom before independence. While he faced widespread criticism for his non-violent teachings and methods (he even went as far as saying that he felt the Jews should have "offered themselves to the butcher's knife" as an act of heroism he felt would have "awakened the world...to the evils of Hitler's violence"), scooping up and then losing many followers of his belief along the way, he never swerved from the idea of refusing violent combat. Instead, he urged everyone to embrace the idea of liberation through peaceful, "humane" means.
From Martin Luther King to Albert Einstein, from Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama, Gandhi has been an inspiration for many.
Today, the year is 2015 and while modern India has opted to shelve Gandhi's non-violent way in the face of its rising military and economic power, it certainly owes a lot of its politics and democratic stance to the Mahatma.
But I wonder if today's India needs another Mahatma Gandhi to revive the idea of non-violence among its people. I wonder if non-violence today is a lesson that needs to be taught not on a militaristic or religious level but on a human, altruistic level. The headlines in the news today are flooded by terrorist attacks, shootings, physical violence, sexual assaults and even political and social injustices. Just the other day a family known to us witnessed their 90-year-old relative being hit by the car of a bureaucrat in Chandigarh, who did not even have the decency to stop and help the family. Religion still forms the crux of an age-old animosity that only becomes uglier with time. War has rendered millions of people homeless and in desperate need of refuge.
And we are being run by a so-called secular, democratic political set up that although it has set the wheels in motion for progress, is moving backwards in other ways through often mindless bans, decrees and constant controversies over the imposition of its ideology.
I wonder what Gandhiji would have done had he been with us today. How would he have tackled all the different kinds of "violence" he would have come across in today's India?
On the occasion of the birthday of this great Mahatma who now lives with us and for us in our history books, let's tear a page from his book of ethics, even those of us who do not agree with his methods. Just for a day let's take a step back and view life from the lens of this freedom fighter's round-rimmed glasses.