02/10/2015 by Aruna Kamath
My six-year old neighbour came running to me and said excitedly “Aunty, tomorrow is a holiday for us.” I said, “Really? What for?” Jumping and skipping about he said “Don’t you know? Tomorrow is Gandhiji’s birthday”. To which I retorted “Oh yes, I had forgotten.” Continuing my conversation, I asked him “So, what do you know about Gandhiji?” Widening his eyes and puffing his chest out he said “He was the person who got freedom for us from the nasty Britishers.” When I prodded him for more he just shrugged his shoulders and ran away.
Yes, M.K Gandhi, or Bapu, as he is fondly known, was arguably one of India’s greatest freedom fighters. The history lessons we learn about India’s struggle for freedom are rife with stories about the many sacrifices he made. But very little do we know about the person that he was.
The Mahatma (Great Soul) was a person with great character. Behind that unassuming façade, there was a strong, gutsy persona. A principled and self-righteous man who emulated many values which remain to be an inspiration to hundreds of thousands people to this day!
This year, as India celebrates Gandhi Jayanthi – the Mahatma’s birthday – on October 2nd, let’s look at some of the values and lessons we can draw from his life incidents and inculcate them in our children.
The Mahatma was one of the greatest perpetrators of honesty. Even as a child he believed in this value strongly. Once, during an inspection in school, Gandhiji had misspelt the word “kettle”. His teacher, who had noticed this, quickly told him to copy the correct spelling from his neighbour. But he simply refused to do so as he knew it was not the right thing to do.
In today’s world, where much stress is given to academic performance, parents often forget to focus on attributes that build character.
Gandhiji was humiliated by the British many times. But it did not deter him. Instead it made him stronger and he continued the fight for freedom with greater fervor. He pursued doggedly, day and night, to achieve his goal of setting India free from the clutches of the British.
In our lives too, we face many stumbling blocks. When things don’t go our way, we get frustrated and give up. But only those who persist and survive the odds will achieve success. One of Gandhi’s famous quotations that young minds can take inspiration from is “I have the belief that I can do it. I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I do not have it at the beginning.”
Teaching our kids perseverance from a young age will help them to focus on their goals and aspirations
Be true to yourself
As a young man, Gandhiji had gone to London, to pursue his studies in Law. During his tenure there, he realized that he stuck out like a sore thumb in his Indian attire. So he splurged on new clothes to blend in with the crowd. He even tried to imitate the British by putting on a false accent. But soon, he realized he was pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Being in someone else’s garb won’t change your inner self or your thoughts and actions.
In an age, where the young generation in India is highly influenced by the western culture, this example couldn’t be more apt.
Practice what you preach
‘An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.’
Who can forget the Salth Satyagraha where Gandhiji led thousands of followers to the beach at Dandi?
At Dandi and on many occasions before and after it, Gandhi led from the front and led by example. Even while encouraging others to follow non-violence and lead a life of simplicity, he made sure he practiced it himself first. This was what inspired his followers then and continues to do so to this day.
‘If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.’
Patience was perhaps, one of Gandhiji’s greatest virtues.
When Mahatma Gandhi returned to India after a long and successful stint from South Africa, he joined the Indian National Congress and subsequently the movement for the rights of Indians. The fight for India’s freedom was a long and painful one that lasted 32 long years before India won her independence.
In an age where instant gratification and quick results are order of the day, patience is in great short supply. It would do us loads of good, if we tried to practice it our daily lives.