Posts Tagged ‘Mahatma Gandhi’

Gandhi versus the Nobel peace prize

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on October 11th, 2009 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Rajesh Kochhar

There are two annual exercises associated with Nobel peace prize. While Norway announces the winner in October, India bemoans why Mahatma Gandhi did not win the prize.

If Gandhi’s assassination had been delayed by nine months he might have died a Nobel laureate. Would this have elevated his place in history? It would have been ironical if Gandhi had got as prize money that was earned by selling dynamite.

Gandhi was nominated five times. There were three consecutive nominations in 1937, 1938 and 1939 filed by Western peace groups and Norwegian parliamentarians. The process stood interrupted during 1939-1943 because of the war. Gandhi was again nominated in 1947, this time by Indians including Gobind Ballabh Pant, and finally in 1948 just a few days before his murder.

In 1937 when Gandhi’s name was first proposed, the prize went to an individual, Lord Cecil, founder of International Peace Campaign. After this whenever Gandhi was in the reckoning, the prize was either not given or given to an organization. For a long time the peace prize was a club badge rather than a world honour. The first time it went out of Europe and North America was in 1960 when the president of African National Congress, Albert John Lutuli, was declared the winner. Gandhi would have approved of that.

Sir Winston Churchill who won the Nobel literature prize in 1953 gave a glimpse of his powerful prose in 1930 while describing Gandhi: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor.”

In London, Gandhi is said to have been asked what he thought of the Western civilization. Gandhi’s reply was: I think it would be a good idea. The implication was that as things stood the West was not civilized. The story is apocryphal; the said encounter never actually took place. But it is significant that the story gained wide currency and was considered believable.

South Africa-based Mohandas Gandhi, even as late as 1894, was a typical product of English education system haplessly appealing  to the colonial sense of noblesse oblige. Finally he chose to squarely placing the West on the defensive on ethical grounds and for all times to come. (In fact, Mohandas Gandhi became Mahatma Gandhi precisely when he accomplished this.)

Europe of Churchill’s time could not have honoured Gandhi. The West has had to come a long way to recognize Gandhi as the author of Gandhian philosophy. By this time Gandhi was dead.

Gandhi was and is bigger than the Nobel peace prize. If he had been linked with it, the prize would have been enhanced. India has no franchise over Gandhi. India should not regret that Gandhi was not Nobelled. Rather, the West should introspect on its blindness of yesteryears when it was unable to recognize Gandhism.

Mahatma Gandhi , Frank Buchman , need and greed

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on February 7th, 2009 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Mahatma Gandhi  ( 1869-1948) is far more relevant today than he was in his own time.Leading a simple  life, living within  your means,  buying out of your past savings rather than future earnings-these simple truths which the world has now  learnt the hard way bring to mind  what Gandhi used to argue all the time.

A very large number of Intenet  sites quote Mahatma Gandhi  to the effect that the eath has enough for everybody’s need but not greed. Various paraphrases of the quote are extant. Curiously each  version  is placed within inverted commas to imply that the words are actually Gandhi’s.  None of the versions is authentic, though the idea is his. Regrettably Gandhi was not a one-line person. The type of pithy aphorisms that we value these days was not his style.

Frank Nathaniel Daniel  Buchman ( 1878-1961), the founder of Moral Re-Armament did say :”There is enough for everyone’s need,  but not enough for everyone’s greed.”  But surely the quote needs a bettr author than him.As already noted, the idea is certainly Gandhi’s but these words are not his.

So , the question is : What exactly did Mahatma Gandhi say on the subject? I hope knowlegable people would come up with  the exact wording as well as the exact reference.Thanks

Ramachandra Gandhi : A reminiscence (2007)

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on December 9th, 2008 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

 

The enigma that was Ramu

Rajesh Kochhar

Indian Express, 25 July 2007


Ramachandra Gandhi would have suggested a correction to his obituaries. He was not Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, but Mohandas’s. The distinction was lost on most, leaving Ramu with a heavy burden. Not that he minded it. Only that he had a sufficiently high opinion of himself to demand that he be judged in his own right. He was conscious of humanity’s claim on Gandhi but did not approve of his branding.Eight years ago, as a new-comer to Delhi, I started visiting the India International Centre bar. Ramu was pointed out to me, just as later I would point him out to my guests, often to their disbelief. Most people expected to see Gandhi’s grandson in a dalit colony rather than at a bar. Ramu would sit at a table reserved for him by convention. If a newcomer did happen to occupy an empty chair, it soon became clear to him that he was not entirely welcome. Later, Ramu would bring in a chair from the garden and seat himself near the bartenders’ counter. This served two purposes: the chair was good for his back and it occupied less space. Upon leaving the bar, he would personally restore the chair to its original place. 

 

The plastic chair solved the space problem but the curvature that Ramu effected in space-time lingered. Most people came to the bar to unwind; for Ramu it was a solemn place. The tidiness with which he organised his thoughts he hoped to see around him too. Once, he rather rudely pointed out to a new member that he should not have taken off his shoes. But such instances were rare; by and large he was unobtrusive.
He lived in a room not too far from IIC. He was always dressed in kurta-pyjama and a jacket, with a scarf around his neck. Late into the evening he would proceed to the bar with his chair and drink rum in small doses. He would leave when the bar closed, take a simple meal, specially prepared for him by IIC. It is most befitting that he died in an IIC room rather than in his own solitary quarters. 

The last time I met him was a couple of months ago, when I was at IIC organising a lecture on female foeticide. He recalled the story of Krishna’s son who dressed himself like a pregnant woman and asked a sage whether it would be a boy or girl. As is well-known, the enraged sage’s curse destroyed the Yadava clan. Ramu’s contemporary interpretation of the story is remarkable for its originality. He said that the Yadavas were punished for inquiring into the sex of an unborn child. Ramu had deeply studied the Mandukya Upanishad. Was he planning to write a book? No, he was not yet ready. I remonstrated with him that instead of setting his sights too high, once he started writing, he would find his way through. He thanked me profusely for my encouragement but, I suspect, more out of politeness than conviction.

 

The writer is a former director of National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, Delhi