Freedom of choices

badshahkhanIn the context of all relationships, the best ones are the ones where we understand each other, despite having differences.

Unfortunately, being judgemental about others,  even in the food choices we make seems to be the name of the game today. This often results in more divisions and unity as it only creates more barriers between ourselves.

In this context, I remember reading somewhere about the time when Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Badshah Khan came to visit Mahatma Gandhi in his ashram along with a young child.  We know that Gandhi was a staunch naturopath.  Still, he did know the food in his ashram would not be suitable for his guests. He immediately ensured that a suitable non-vegetarian diet was served to them.

He could of course have enforced his own diet on them. Surely, they would have accepted it but this gesture of Gandhi in going beyond his own beliefs endeared him to them as nothing else could have.

This also does show us the true hospitality and humaneness of Gandhi who at other times, chose to live in a Dalit home, during times when they were considered sub-human, cooking and doing all the work that they did and bonding with all.  Mahatma Gandhi called them “Harijans” or people of God. People may criticise the term but to Gandhi, everyone was a child of God, be it Dalits, people of other faiths, or even other nations. Equality to Gandhi was equality in all domains, which is what he considered real freedom.

Freedom to be who are, freedom to fight your battles, freedom to pronounce all your choices is what true independence is to every individual and by extension, to societies and nations.  This to Gandhi and other stalwarts of that era was what true freedom and independence was all about.



Means are as important as the ends

Very often, we justify all kinds of actions of ours by justifying it in various ways. In various ways, we point out a finger at others when we have done something wrong. We do know two wrongs don’t make one right but that is the most commonly used philosophy/ justification today.

moralcompassWhy just personal life ? Even in social and political life, the way we function is more or less the same.  Which is why it helps if we examine morally sound people and movements.

Many may deride Gandhi today still if we think deeply, he was one who  genuinely believed that a freedom won by bad means would be a bad freedom. He has been proved right by every other country freed from colonialism by adopting any means possible (Indonesia, Kenya, Algeria, to name a few).

“The guns that are used against the British”, Gandhi once said, referring to those Indian freedom fighters who saw assassination of British officials as a reasonable retort to British oppression, “will tomorrow be turned against Indians”. The need to build a group where the discourse of ideas, not the discharge of weapons, would win the day was evident to Gandhi, but was not evident to impatient but short sighted hotheads across the country. Here, Chauri Chaura is something we all need to note, remember and learn from, at least now.

When Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement was in full swing in 1921-22, a group of non-violent protesters was beaten up by some policemen in the small town of Chauri Chaura in Northern India. The instructions to the satyagrahis was very clear, they would take the beatings but not respond in kind.

In this instance, however, the protesters were provoked enough to chase the policemen who, finding they were outnumbered, locked themselves in their police station. The crowd then set fire to the police station, killing 22 policemen.

That the atrocity at Chauri Chaura happened despite Gandhi’s efforts to keep the movement peaceful, that such misfirings were rare in a huge national movement involving hundreds of thousands, made no difference to Gandhi. He took total responsibility as the leader of the movement, and staked his entire career upon it. What happened later, something everyone keeps taking about, is not as important as the fact that Gandhi never compromised on his principles and hence set a remarkable example for us.

Let us all strive to at least recognise people like Gandhi, whether they are leaders now or not.  This is the way morally sound movements are born.

For the world to survive, what we need now more than ever before, is a moral compass guiding us.

This shall happen only if we ourselves are morally sound. For this, change needs to begin from within. This can and shall happen once we recognise it as the right direction for us and the world.

Parenting lessons from Gandhi

parentingimgeGandhi and parenting?  This is an area that has been hugely debated and often criticised. In fact, it has often been said Gandhi was derailed in parenting his children and even giving a proper direction to his followers  as the “father” of the nation. Personally, I think he was a true visionary whom some of his children and many of his countrymen have not completely understood. Whether we think of him as a Mahatma or not, the principles of non-violence and ethics that he swore and lived by certainly teach us many important values, like the effectiveness of non-violence and love in all areas.

To make us understand this in a better way, I take the liberty of sharing Arun Gandhi, his grandson’s experience that he has shared in the public domain.

Arun says, “When I was sixteen years old, we lived in South Africa about eighteen miles outside the city. One Saturday my father had to go to town to attend a conference and he didn’t feel like driving so he asked me if I would drive him into town and bring him back in the evening. My parents also gave me many small chores to do in town, like getting the car serviced and the oil changed.

When I left my father at the conference venue, he said, “At five o’clock in the evening, come here and pick me up, and we’ll go home together.”

I said, “Fine.” I rushed off, did all my chores as quickly as possible, left the car in the garage—and went straight to the nearest movie theatre. I got so engrossed in a double feature that I didn’t realize the passage of time. The movie ended at 5:30, and I came out and ran to the garage and rushed to where Dad was waiting for me. It was almost six o’clock when I reached there and he was wondering what had happened to me. The first question he asked me was, “Why are you late?”

Instead of telling him the truth, I lied to him, and I said, “The car wasn’t ready; I had to wait for the car,” not realizing that he had already called the garage.

When he caught me in the lie, he said, ‘There’s something wrong in the way I brought you up that didn’t give you the confidence to tell me the truth, that made you feel you had to lie to me. I’ve got to find out where I went wrong with you, and to do that I’m going to walk home.” There was absolutely nothing I could do to make him change his mind—and I couldn’t leave him and go away. For five and a half hours I crawled along in the car behind Father, watching him go through all this pain and agony for a stupid lie. I decided then and there that I was never going to lie again.

It’s almost fifty years since the event, and every time I think about it I still get goose bumps. That is the power of nonviolent action. It’s a lasting thing. It’s a change we bring through love, not fear. Anything that is brought by fear doesn’t last. But anything that is done by love lasts forever.”

Fortunately, I have never succumbed to using physical violence on my children. Still there certainly has been some yelling, shouting and threats which is also a kind of violence. Reading Arun Gandhi’s experience has made me swear I shall never use any kind of violence on my children, whatever the situation may be but use love. The lesson they learn in the process shall surely last forever which is what effective parenting is all about.


Yogic Principles of Gandhi

In all the brou-ha-ha about Yoga and its efficacy, I think many of us have forgotten the true essence of yoga that is about the mental and spiritual angle. We all must remember that yoga is not just physical exercise but a system that seeks to make us better in all respects.

yogaforblogBased on yogic principles, some of the principles that Mahatma Gandhi recommended and practised himself are :-

Ahimsa (cultivating non violence)
When we refuse to allow violence to reside in us, even in thought, our soul shall indeed bloom, unfettered by negativity.


Satya (sticking to truth)
Life does get simpler and uncomplicated when we stick to the truth

Asteya (never stealing)
This is not just actual stealing but acts of minor or major embezzlement like not buying tickets when we ought to.

Brahmacharya (being disciplined)
This is not celibacy as it is often understood but discipline. He who revels in Brahman is the Sanskrit etymology of this term and naturally such a person is in full control of his senses. The choice of whether we make our senses our masters or slaves entirely depends on us.

Aparigraha (not craving for material possession)
Today, the market is constantly offering new products and gizmos. Do we, however, need any of this? Truly, multiplication of wants is one of the malaises of the times we live in and this principle is more relevant than ever to retain our sanity, if nothing else.

Shareera Shrama (doing physical labour)
The contribution of physical labour in keeping the ego under check and fostering humility has been emphasized by many masters, over the years. Even if the nature of our job is not oriented in this direction, we could take up an activity that involves physical exertion

Aswada (controlling one’s palate)
Eat to nourish your body, not to please your tongue. This will pay off rich dividends in making us calmer, fitter, healthier and happier.

Sarvatra Bhaya Varjana (remaining fearless)
Be truthful and fearless in expressing your opinion. This will do wonders for our self-esteem and the ultimate victory will be yours.

Sarva Dharma Samanatva (respecting all faiths)

Take a stand on religious conflict without looking the other way, whether or not it is your faith that is being attacked. .

Swadeshi (using locally made goods)

This helps us connect with our own surroundings and helps the society progress too.

Sparsha Bhavana (shunning untouchability)

Biases are the worst thing that can happen to us and by extension, to the nation. Let us shun all biases, whether it is against another caste, creed, nationality, region, economic background, religion, race or even against people with certain preferences such as gays, lesbians, ailments such as AIDS or leprosy or professions such as bar dancers or sex workers.

By following all the above principles we shall indeed create a better life for ourselves that will create a better world too, slowly but steadily.

This may take a while but the most important aspect would be that we would be moving in the direction.


The end of cynicism towards a hope for swaraaj

Towards Swaraaj

Towards Swaraaj

Arvind Kejriwal has ushered in hope and belief in the political system for millions of Indians, the students, the slum dwellers, the auto rickshaw drivers , the media., the businessmen and indeed, the entire nation. Is this the first step towards marching towards a clean system of governance ?


India, which had once shown the entire world, a radical way of conducting politics as service to the people, had become extremely quagmired with issues of corruption and extremely dysfunctional governance. We all felt we must do something but the tragedy was we did not know what to do or whom to turn to.

I used to often feel bad that there was hardly anybody worth respecting as a leader in our entire nation. Politics itself had become a dirty word and a murky profession to enter. In fact, we had reached an all time low.

It was at this time that Arvind Kejriwal entered the political arena.

We, at Life Positive, had written about him earlier, before he donned the political hat. In an article that spoke about people the Age of Gandhi (Life Positive, March 2009), we had written about Parivartan, the NGO co-founded by Arvind Kejriwal and quoted Arvind Kejriwal saying that satyagraha and RTI combined can solve all the problems of the country if implemented well.

When I heard about the movement for the Jan Lokpal bill I, like many other Indian citizens, did feel something would emerge from the movement to bring about a change in the way politics is functioning in our country.

The AAP started talking to the real aam aadmi or common people, auto drivers, shopkeepers and people of all hierarchies. Most people were impressed but did not really think the party could actually make its presence felt in such a short time. Still, for the first time, people did wish to cast their vote. For the first time, they were not confused but clear that they were voting not just for change in the party but a change in the way of governance.

Almost miraculously, the party actually won the Delhi elections. People of all classes celebrated the victory not just in Delhi but all over India as they did feel democracy was functioning at last.

Gandhi had said “What we mean and want through Poorna Swaraj ……is an awakening among the masses, a knowledge among them of their true interest and ability to serve that interest against the whole world, ….. harmony, freedom from aggression from within or without, and a progressive improvement in the economic condition of the masses”. Arvind Kejriwal says in his book, Swaraj “The decisions on what to do and what not to do should be taken by the people. Political parties, political leaders and government agencies should only implement them.”

Arvind Kejriwal also says in the book, “Today there is complete control of corrupt leaders, corrupt parties and criminals over the Indian politics. That control will start to wean. (when we have Swaraaj) Then people will start to have direct control over politics and governance of this country. This will bring about all inclusive progress, remove unemployment and eradicate poverty.”

Apart from the political dynamics, there is another development on the personal front that we should take note of. Arvind Kejriwal, who was an atheist earlier, is now a believer in a higher power. He says it would not have been possible to go from where he and his party were they are today without divine support. Apart from his belief, this clearly shows us when atheists turn into believers, they are the most pristine ones. They believe in a higher consciousness for the right reasons and not petty, selfish ones.

Will Arvind Kejriwal continue to win in Delhi ? Will he also carve a national presence ? Will politics change for the better soon ? We do not know.

However, all we can be sure right now is his intent. The intent of ushering in a new era of politics. The intent of stepping into murky waters that politics is today to clean up the mess. The intent of ushering in swaraaj into our nation.

Isn’t this what makes him a leader and karmayogi and not  a self serving politician ?

I do think Gandhi would have given him a pat on his back.

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