Transgressing Gandhi

October 25, 2018 at 9:15 PMOct (Activism, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

Ahmedabad faced great trouble because of the rabies dogs in the year 1928. Coming under the influence of Gandhi the people of Ahmedabad had imbibed the value of non-violence and this put them in a serious dilemma when faced with the threat of these dogs. When the municipality decided to kill these dogs, the people of Ahmedabad under the leadership of Seth Ambalal Sarabhai went to Gandhi seeking his suggestion. To their shock, Gandhi asked them to let the dogs be killed.

Gandhi faced several questions by his followers and Gandhi answered them all.

Around the same time, a calf in Gandhi’s ashram had a serious injury and was suffering because of it. After trying all sort of medications Gandhi finally passed an order to kill the calf. Disciples of Gandhi protested and yet Gandhi stood his ground. A meeting was called after the calf being killed where Gandhi was put on trial. Facing the question, “How could you who preach ahimsa and non-violence get down to killing an innocent calf?” Gandhi said “I couldn’t see it suffer so i had to kill it.” The disciples argued further and asked, “So if a man is suffering will you kill him too?”. To this Gandhi replied saying, “Man can at least voice his suffering but the calf couldn’t even voice its suffering. It was suffering silently.”

The non-violence of Gandhi not just held a streak of violence in its womb but, more importantly, was not a value blind to pressure of time and the needs demanded by the situations, dictated by time and space. His value system was more of a sincere and honest response to the here-and-now.

Gandhi, who in his earlier days spoke only against untouchability and not the caste system, overtime welcomed inter-caste weddings, inter-community dining and also led them. More than being a strategic move of slowly taking the mass into new consciousness step by step, this was a sign of Gandhi’s change of vision and ideology. This change was caused majorly by the widening of his horizon and new awareness about the world, stemming from his honest engagement with the world and his experience of life. He was dynamic and open to learning. Another example for the same is his initial statement, “God is truth” being turned on its head at a later stage as “Truth is God.” When he witnessed the aftermath of partition, the same Gandhi who called God as truth and truth as God, desired the world had turned atheist.

Gandhi’s thoughts, vision, ideas and actions were never frozen and stagnant. They were not just like flowing river but also constantly and continuously testing itself and overcoming itself in order to refine themselves. They never desired to become timeless as each of his actions and his thoughts were determined by the need of the hour, without compromising with the larger goal. To make Gandhi relevant today means to respond to our times understanding the condition of today, caught in time and space, and doing the necessary without compromising with the larger goal of greater good. Gandhi continuously redefined himself, his worldview and actions by transgressing himself endlessly. The only way to be loyal to Gandhi now is by transgressing Gandhi.

[Originally written in Kannada for the monthly magazine Mayoora for their Gandhi-150 special issue, October 2018]

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