Remembering Gandhiji today (Recollections of a Communicator)

By I. Ramamohan Rao New Delhi [India], Oct,2 :The nation today is observing the 147th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and is recalling the contribution made by him during our freedom struggle, reminding us that his teachings are relevant even today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has underlined the importance of Gandhiji's teachings, by observing Gandhi Jayanti, as a Swatch Bharat Day, and will be participating in a nation-wide campaign for cleanliness.

I recall that as a young officer, when I arrived in Delhi in the middle fifties, my uncle, the late U.S.

Mohan Rao, who headed the Publications Division, presented me a copy of Mahatma Gandhi's biography. He told me that I should read the book and observe how Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an average young man, made mistakes in his life, but decided never to repeat them, and grew step-by-step to become a Mahatma.

As stated by him, it was a slow and uphill climb all the way, the vision widening at every step, till at the end, he seemed a superman.

If his example and precept inspired millions of men and women, it was because his life was an open book.

He had no secrets and he did not encourage any. As a young officer involved with news dissemination, I was told how a correspondent of the Press Trust of India, Sailen Chatterjee, broke down when Gandhi was shot by Nathuram Godse at Birla House in New Delhi.

Sailen had covered the visit of Gandhi during his visit to Noakhali in East Bengal. The rival news agency broke the news first, a fact which has remained a part of history. Sailen Chatterjee became a close friend of mine and together we travelled to cover how the Indian Army was strengthening defences along the India-China border in Ladakh.

Sailen also contributed articles relating to his experiences during my editorship of the Indian and Foreign Review, a fortnightly journal printed on rice paper for circulation abroad.

As editor of the Foreign Review, On Gandhi Jayanti, I used to approach the Chief Editor of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Professor Swaminathan, to contribute an article.

He would respond readily. The Publications Division published the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -- in 100 volumes. They are still available, also in a digital format. Mohan Rao also authored a small book entitled the "Message of Mahatma Gandhi", which tells us how Gandhiji-the icon of truth and non-violence-had become a statesman saint during his life.

To quote extracts from the booklet: "From his entry into politics of the public domain; from his South African days to his magical re-christening of India's freedom struggle, this simple man with a loin cloth, steel-rimmed glasses, rough sandals, a toothless smile and a walking stick, evoked an unprecedented mass following among the rich and the poor, and the mighty and the meek alike, both in India and outside".

There have been great saints, philosophers, thinkers, scientists, statesman and political leaders whose contributions in their own fields have been outstanding, but Gandhiji was unique, because while he was actively leading a mass struggle for freeing his country from foreign rule, he also conceived Swaraj (Independence) at once in individual and political terms, and tried through reflection and experiment, to evolve a philosophy of life which would have permanent validity.

"This half-naked fakir shaped much of civil society philosophy of the last century as done before by the Buddha and Christ." Gandhiji's views on conception of God and religion, truth and non-violence, his concern for the poor and down trodden and the unity of India are still relevant.

Gandhiji said: The world outside did not know us as Gujaratis, Maharastrians and Tamilians etc., but only as Indians....Everything that the provinces do, must be for the glory of the nation" Gandhiji respected womanhood and regarded women as the embodiment of sacrifice and suffering.

As the nation observes Swatch Bharat day today, citizens of India should remember the value of truth and non-violence and follow them in our everyday lives.

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer to the Government of India. He can be reached on his e-mail:

Source: ANI