What Gandhi means to me

A man with thin legs, fragile look, bald and short. I am surprised at myself how he always struck me as a short and weak man. I do not know exactly why I say this, since I never met him. I have never came across someone who met him. Yet, this appearance of his is anchored in my mind.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, to me, represents a person with extraordinary power, full of compassion for humanity and without ever having feared anyone or anything. The fact that he was known as Mahatma or ‘The Great Soul’ gives proof of his true valour for the world more than my poor impressions can ever provide.

His capability of challenging the power of the British Empire and, at the same time, of improving the plight of the poorest people in his country, is something too great to appreciate, and, yet, all pictures of him depict him as a calm person, almost timid. Not in the least concerned with what he intentionally was arousing around him with his actions and ideas.

And, in spite of everything, he was full of humour. I always appreciate his reply to a journalist who asked him his opinion on the Western Civilization. ‘I think it would be a great idea,’ was his laconic reply. Another statement of his was, ‘You claim to be the change you wish to see in the world’. How could you not admire someone who could, in short, portray the true essence of all that in which he was involved?

To me, his greatest asset was how he knew how to exploit his enthusiasm for the quest of independence in an absolutely non-violent way. Of course, he could not stop all violence, but his example of ‘satyagraha’ (the notion of non-violent civil disobedience) was inspiring not only for his generation, but also for the protest movements in the West in the sixties.

Notwithstanding his international fame, he lived his life in all humility. He used to wear traditional Indian clothes, wherever he went, whoever he encountered, he was vegetarian, and he used to insist that the art of basket making was a sufficient means to make a living. He used to fast, sometimes for health reasons, but sometimes also in order to express civil disobedience.

In other words, Gandhi, the Founder of the Indian Nation, was not humble only in appearance, but lived humbly indeed. He always kept his word and always sought to live his principles, whatever provocation he encountered. Consequently, his opposition to the British conquest, even during the Second World War, hardly made him a popular man. Yet his attitude was that if it was just that something be insisted upon, one should immediately go about achieving it whatever the current conditions.

Keeping Gandhi in my mind, I am highly inspired by the life he lived, and I try to imitate him as far as possible. To me, he represents the fact that living one’s life in truth and honesty is the greatest achievement possible. His philosophy of no violence, his humour and his general approach are what put him on a special level different to other revolutionary and visionary thinkers.

Above all, he is the proof that words are not important, but actions, and a belief in the truth of one’s convictions. Indeed, a great man.

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