I am not a visionary; I claim to be a practical idealist...."
One of the earliest memories we have as Indians, about the Mahatma is from our textbooks! To me he was just another man who was to be loved and respected like a lot many others during my school days. Naiveté does make you do things even if you hardly understood them!
Growing up is a cauldron of so many ideologies being thrown up at you at varied degrees, to say that these ideas, many of which are of conflicting nature, influence the mind is an understatement. Many of these ideologies are carried to the pyre; most are rethought about, re-inculcated as one is exposed to newer themes and ideas!
It was one of these regurgitating phases when i chanced upon the? Biography Of Gandhi (the book-not online version). The book brought me a step closer to a leader we all know and most of us admire. The mundane scenes depicted in the book demystified him to my quite volatile mindset! I was yet to look upon anyone as a role model and as most are prone to convention, i desired to look up to Gandhiji.
"The religion of non-violence is not meant merely for the rishi?s and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law-to the strength of the spirit...."
The Mahatma didn't disappoint, but it was him who encouraged me to look beyond him, beyond his philosophies, beyond look towards alternative religions, Buddhism being one of them! His book, "My Experiments With Truth" is still on my list of "Books i really want to read". Modern life hardly provides any allowances of leisure!
The way he nurtured his little garden, the way he lead a simply life, the way he controversially had female attendants. It was a difficult life, especially for a rich lawyer unaccustomed to Indian poverty. That he did it on his own accord, trying his best to teach Indians the value of self-labour.
If he was the man who called off the non-cooperation movement due to an incident at chauri chaura then it was because of him that there was plenty of goodwill left when the British left India. The Mahatma didn't want to just free Indian society from the British Raj, but also the evil vices which he had perceived to exist then.
He had a vision of a modern India, a post-independence India and a society which could have or would have served as an example for the rest of the world. Sadly, much of India's problems remain post-independence! The alarming growth rate of Indian population, though now scaled down by a significant level, does not help matters!
Finally, for the proponents of "pick up the sword and slay them" ideology, in his own words, "Non-violence is an active force of the highest order. It is soul force or the power of Godhead within us. Imperfect man cannot grasp the whole of that essence--he would not be able to bear its full blaze, but even an infinitesimal fraction of it, when it becomes active within us, can work wonders."
I have also had an opportunity to read a little about the controversy ridden play, "Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy". Another view, another ideology, a defense for a "criminal act" to many, simply another ideology, to some!
Ironically his play was squashed and banned, a failure for Democracy, a failure for India, a failure for Mahatma Gandhi.
"I must not...flatter myself with the belief--nor allow friends...to entertain the belief that I have exhibited any heroic and demonstrable non-violence in myself.", very humble, very Mahatma.