2nd October on Friday! Awesome! I am going to enjoy this extended weekend – probably the thought running through most of our minds. Many of us might even be thinking of going home or on a trip. But we need to understand that National Holidays should not only be seen as ‘holidays’ but also as a day when we must show our respect towards their significance. Don’t worry we are not going to judge you for your partying plans but at the same time one must ask that Should we squander the significance of these holidays?
So, let us try and fulfill our duty of paying respect to the greats responsible for our national holiday. A million pages wouldn’t suffice to shed light on the life, achievements and contributions of Gandhiji and we aren’t even attempting to do this! This Gandhi Jayanti, we try to pay a tribute to Gandhiji by bringing to you some of the lesser known facts and stories about him.
In this article, we try to present to you not a saintly, pure and next to God “Mahatma” but the real Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. We try to see Gandhi as yet another human and because the very existence of human means imperfection in some form or the other, we attempt to put forth a human sized “Father of the nation”.
Gandhi did not attend the Independence Day celebrations on 15th August, 1947. He declined to join the festivities in New Delhi. While his follower, Jawaharlal Nehru, spoke in the Council Hall about India’s tryst with destiny, and the crowds danced on the streets outside, Gandhi was in Calcutta, seeking to restore peace between Hindus and Muslims. While Gandhi was distressed by the religious rioting that accompanied Independence and Partition, he did not gainsay the value and achievement of political freedom. But he remained concerned with what his fellow Indians would make of their hard-won, and somewhat belated, Swaraj.
Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1947, but never received the award, which was first handed out in 1901. He also was nominated in 1948, the year he was assassinated, but the Nobel committee opted not to bestow him with the award posthumously. Instead, the committee announced there was “no suitable living candidate” that year and no winner was named. American civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, acknowledged Gandhi‘s work in his acceptance speech, and the 1989 Nobel winner, the 14th Dalai Lama, called his award a tribute to “my mentor, Mahatma Gandhi.” In 2006, the Nobel committee publicly expressed regret that Gandhi had never been given the prize.
Gandhi was perhaps too fond of walking. He travelled almost 18km a day throughout his lifetime which is enough to walk around the world twice. Walking, he said, “is justly called the prince of exercises.” He began to enjoy long walks in high school, preferring lengthy rambles to organized sports. As a law student in London, he saved money by walking as many as eight to 10 miles a day. It was primarily those long walks, he said, that “kept me practically free from illness throughout my stay in England and gave me a fairly strong body.” All those years of walking served him well during the Salt March of 1930 when, at the age of 60, he walked 241 miles from his ashram to the sea at Dandi.
He also gave the world it’s most expensive modern stamp. The 10 Rupees Postage stamp depicting Mahatma Gandhi issued by India in 1948 is one of India’s most famous stamps. A set of 100 of these stamps were overprinted with the word “Service” and provided only to the Governor General of India for his official use. This “Service” overprinted stamp is one of India’s costliest and rarest stamps. This stamp was a part of the 1948 “Service” set which was auctioned for 38,000 Euros in the David Feldman auction sale on 5 October 2007.In an auction on May 19 2011 at Geneva, David Feldman sold the 1948 10 Rupee Mahatma Gandhi stamp of India for a World Record price of EUR 144,000 (US$ 205,000).
Something notable about him was opposition to modern technology and his hypocritical attitude. Gandhi’s opposition to modern technology, including modern medicine, took odd turns. He didn’t want his wife to take life-saving penicillin, because it would be administered with a hypodermic needle. He did, however, allow himself to be treated with quinine and even to be operated on for appendicitis.
Although Gandhi became famous for his pacifism, his beliefs here evolved considerably over the years. In fact, until the British massacred hundreds of peaceful Indians at Amritsar, Gandhi was such a faithful British subject that he served in the imperial army. Gandhi also volunteered to serve in World War I, one of the few Indian activists to support England unconditionally. A bad case of pleurisy prevented him from serving, and in fact forced him to leave England and return to India.
Another startling fact as it may seem it that he was a supporter of Hitler and his ideologies. He used to write letter to his ‘friend’ Hitler. Gandhi once wrote to Hitler “We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents.” Gandhi, who was one of the supporters of upliftment of poor in India was so much influenced by Hitler’s ideology that he advised the Jews to —Commit mass suicide. He says “It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.” Gandhi believed this act of “collective suicide”, in response to the Holocaust, “would have been heroism”. These remarks have drawn heavy criticism from historians and are the subject of widespread debate until the present date.
We hope that these facts and stories would have touched quite a lot of you and raised some very important questions in your mind as well.
Is the title ‘Mahatma’ bestowed on Gandhi justified? Does he deserve to be called the ‘Father of the Nation’? Are these criticisms exaggerated? Were his actions or speeches misunderstood? We leave you it to you to ponder over.