Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti – An Inspiration For Children And Youth

By Zile Singh


Second October, Mahatma  Gandhi’s birthday,  is celebrated in India as Gandhi Jayanti every year.  It is one of the National Holidays. The other two National Holidays are: August 15, the Independence Day and  January 26, the Republic Day.  Floral tributes are paid by the leadership as well as the ordinary masses at  Raj Ghat, his  Samadhi  in Delhi.  His statues elsewhere in India  and  in the world are garlanded by the public.  One such function was arranged in Vancouver jointly by The Thakore Charitable Foundation, The Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University and the J.S. Woodsworth Chair SFU.  I had  the opportunity to pay my homage to the Father of the Nation and an apostle of peace and non-violence.

Gandhi is well  known for his fore-front role in  the Indian Freedom Struggle from the British  rule.  There were many leaders also who fought  for the freedom, but Gandhiji  is known particularly for   his non-violent methods to fight the imperialist power and  for turning the Congress Party  from prominently an upper middle class organization into a social mass movement by including the ordinary peasantry into it.

Ethics were very close to his heart.  He studied Bhagwad Gita, the Holy Quran and the Bible.  “ I see the same God in Gita whom I see in the Bible or whom I want to see in the Quran”.  According to him the best religion of the world is one which contains the best elements of all the creeds of the world.  For him Truth was God.

Rabindranath Tagore, the  Nobel Laureate, gave Gandhi the title of “Mahatma”, which literally means  “Great Soul”.   Gandhi,  titled Tagore as “Gurudev”. He is unofficially called the Father of the Nation (Bapu in Hindi).  Also, October Second is  celebrated  worldwide as the ‘ International Day of Non-violence’.

His two important ideas:  “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.  It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction  devised by the ingenuity of man”  and   “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Gandhiji belonged to an orthodox Hindu   family from Porbandar in Gujarat ( Bombay State at that time).     By birth,  he was of a  shy, fearful and  timid  nature. He used to be afraid of   to go to his own  room alone   after dark.  In school, he was a mediocre student and  did not like  sports and kept himself  aloof from physical activities. His handwriting was illegible and he  regretted about it  throughout his life.  He never mixed up with his classmates.  He would reach school at the stroke of the hour and to  run back home as soon as the school closed. Once an Inspector came to his school and gave a test of spellings.  Gandhi could not spell ‘Kettle’ correctly.  His teacher hinted him to copy the correct spelling from another student sitting in front of him.  Gandhi refused to copy. He was very careful about his character.   Shravana Pitribhakti  and Harishchnadra Nataks (plays) left an indelible impression on Gandhi’s mind.  These plays taught him the obedience to the parents and role of truth in daily life.

He got married  at the age of 13 to illiterate  Kasturba.   After Matriculation when he left for  London to study Law, he was a father to a three- month old son at the age of 18.   In those days, the Hindu tradition was against   taking  a sea journey.  When the community could not persuade Gandhi to change his plan to study in England,  he and his family were treated as an ‘outcaste’.  Before leaving for London his mother took a vow from him that he would not touch, wine, women and meat there.

While in London,  he had  a difficult time to adjust to western life-style. The most difficult part was to remain vegetarian.  Once he ate goat meat. He could not digest and had to vomit.  During that night he heard the  cry of a goat in his sleep.  After finishing his law degree from London, he returned to India.  On arrival, before taking him  home, his brother took him to Nasik  and gave him a bath in the sacred river to purify him.   The family had a great hope that he would soon be a successful lawyer and will add to the earnings of the family.  But,  initially he had to face failure in his  profession.  In the first  legal case,  his head reeled before the Magistrate and he could not plead properly.  He had to return the fee he took from his client.  In connection with a Court case, Gandhi had to go to South Africa.  His public life began in 1893 in South Africa in troubled waters.

I have tried to bring out the essential  spirit from  Mahatma Gandhi’s life  for the children and the  young generation of readers to take a lesson that high educational standards, mighty physique, oratory eloquence, extroversion, dare-devil attitude and extravagance are not the main qualifications on which someone can reach  the pinnacle of heights.  Mahatma Gandhi’s early life is an inspiration to the children and the youth  in a  sense that how  a shy,  simple, frail, fearful,  and a mediocre student  can achieve international repute by following   the path of  truth, non-violence and frugal habits.   He stood by :  “Means justify the Ends”.  And not the other way around : “ Ends justify the Means”.

His message :  My Life is My Message. What is possible for one person is possible for all.

Zile Singh is a former Ambassador(Retd.) of India and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .



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