The memory of Mahatma Gandhi today, in India is reduced to rituals. His ideals are forgotten and much of what he stood for is remembered only in parts and misunderstood. Many young people brought up on modern ideas wonder what wisdom there is in turning the other cheek if someone strikes you on one cheek. Similarly, there is no place for simplicity in one's life, when everybody is turning towards western life styles and way of thinking. In the care free money oriented attitude that pervades our life today, talk about morals and non-violence certainly seems out of place.
Gandhian philosophy is vast and contains many ideals. It is easy to take any part of Gandhian thought and criticize it. Gandhi belonged to everyone, so there is no danger of any minority community reacting and issuing a death sentence on those who do so. Any two bit politician or journalist who wants to get away with it. It is perhaps a reflection on the sorry state of the country that its icons can so easily be defiled without punishment.
But this easily answers the question about Gandhi's relevance today. If he was irrelevant, as many people are bound to say, why is he not forgotten like many other twentieth century thinkers and leaders who remain buried in library books? Why does Gandhi evoke strong emotions in those who criticize him? The answer lies in the universal relevance of Gandhian philosophy not only in the country but all over the world. Many ideas come back to us finding acceptability in the West; and Gandhism may also have to wait till it is discovered.
In an age when our bureaucrats cannot stand up for their beliefs and crawl when asked to bend, it is difficult to think of one man - "a half naked fakir" - who could stand up against the might of the British Empire. The courage of one man who was neither a dictator nor a politician can only be a cause of wonder. If the life in public life commanded only half the courage of the fakir, India would not be debating on the...