It is an unimpressive boulder that is transformed into a stunning monolith with the inspired consistent effort of a man. And the same stands true for the development of a person – it is persistence and dedication that leads to the creation of a legend who remains etched in history by virtue of his actions. No man is born great. The tale of Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian leader whose steadfast beliefs and near-miraculous achievements make him an internationally respected person, is yet another testimony to this fact.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, thus named on his birth in Porbandar on October2, 1869, was presented with the title Mahatma (literally translating to “great soul”) when it was observed that the man harbored within him iron-strong will and legions of love that allowed him to propagate non-violence even though he was at the receiving end of oodles of violence and injustice.
A cursory glance at the life of Mahatma Gandhi sure paints a surreal picture of a flawless man who seemed to be on the path of righteousness and justice all his life, but a closer examination of his life reveals that Gandhi committed his share of mistakes and his personality is flawed as every man’s is. And it is this aspect that inspires millions of his admirers around the world today – the possibility of rectifying one’s mistakes and turning over a new leaf so as to lead a fulfilling life by emulating the actions of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi’s childhood was by no means a smooth journey. He was a timid young boy who was academically moderate. In fact, there is no achievement bejeweling his childhood, and the only note-worthy element of this period of his life is that he displayed great integrity of character even as a child. Not only was he disciplined, but he had admirable moral values. It is chronicled that he refused to copy from his class mate even though the student voluntarily revealed an answer to Gandhi, and opted to score low marks over cheating in a test. It may also be noted that the young Gandhi has great stage fear and could never deliver a public speech.
It was with the death of his father in 1885. Married and soon to be a father, Gandhi was faced with poverty and chose to travel to England to complete his education. At this juncture, he encountered the adverse effects of the restrictiveness of his caste members when they threatened to ostracize him if he went abroad as it was believe to contaminate a man. Gandhi, however, stood his ground in an age when caste was the base of a community.
It was his stint as a barrister in South Africa after he completed his studies that changed the course of his life. Gandhi was traveling in the first class compartment of a train to meet a client when a white man entered the compartment. In Africa, racism was thriving and a white man looked down upon colored men as slaves, irrespective of the qualifications of the latter. The white man ordered that Gandhi leave that section of the train, and when he refused to comply, Gandhi was evicted from the train. Soon after this, he was forced to sit beside the driver of a coach on a cold night though he paid the fare of the ride in full, for the sole reason that he was a colored man and the coach was filled with white folks. A few years later, Gandhi was also manhandled brutally by a policeman in the night simply because he was belonged to the “lower” section of the society. Mahatma Gandhi transformed from a timid young man to leader who would lead the oppressed Indians in Africa into securing their rights.
Enriched with the experiences of South Africa, and having been introduced to the concept of “sadagraha” which called for holding on to truth and righteousness. It is from this concept that Gandhi formulated Satyagraha (insistence on truth), a virtue he preached and practiced all his life, and it is through Satyagraha and ahimsa (non-violence) that Gandhi liberated India from the clutches of the British rule.
Taking a vow of celibacy (after siring 4 children with his wife), vegetarianism, non-violence and non-attachment, Gandhi passionately launched his mission of spreading love among the people of India and worked relentlessly for the welfare of the neglected, suffering section of the populations. Untouchability, discrimination along religious and economical lines and violence were a few things he strove to eradicate.
What is truly amazing about the life of Gandhi is that he became a person who elicited unexplained worship from people who never saw him in their lives. Gandhi had threatened to fast unto death at certain points in history when people were becoming restless and were resorting to violence to achieve national freedom, and magically, violence did stop for this man.
Gandhi was a self-made legend. He sure did make mistakes – he consumed non-vegetarian food though his religion forbade it and he aped the English man for years before realizing the importance of his own identity. Some people may argue that he was a bad father and husband, but it was a sacrifice he made for greater good. His thoughts on dieting, dressing, spirituality and emotions that are popularly quoted by luminaries today were not whimsical, they were carefully and painstakingly studied over years.
Gandhi was thrown in jail a zillion times during his fight for justice, but that never broke his will. He believed in the love of man, and ventured into scenes of brutal crimes without any police protection. His actions and words were resented by many, but that did not persuade him to change. In fact, he was murdered by an angry Indian for his insistence on the maintenance brotherly relationship between Hindus and Muslims in the country. All the same, his life stands as a reminder than with belief in yourself, faith in God and relentless work, it is possible to make a change. “Be the change you wish to see” is an adage that seems to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s life.
Photo Credit: Soba
Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.