Portrayal of Mini Gandhis in Indian Writings

in English

The article is jointly written with Dr. Anshus Bhardwaj

In order to make a fair assessment of Indian writing the readers’ eye strucks on ‘mini Gandhis’ who have a staunch believe in Gandhian ideology. Gandhi, was no emperor, military general, president or prime minister. He was just an ordinary man who identified himself with struggles and pains of the people of India. His mind was a receptive soil to the seeds of thought that aimed at the regeneration of man. He stressed the importance of chastity, voluntary poverty, truthfulness and fearlessness.

It was the phoenix hour, and Gandhi the Mahatma gave the signal, and a whole nation awoke from its suspended animation and felt the blood-streams of a new life coursing through its veins. He said, Awake, arise, and realize this truth. I give you abhaya, fearlessness. You are slaves no more Awake and realize the truth that you are free![1]  He was a practical man who was more keen on doing the right thing under all conceivable than in making an exhibition of tight-rope dancing in the interests of theoretical consistency.

Truth alone was his pole star, and he was content to act with his eyes unfaltering turned to it; and the words he spoke – the ideas he expressed are to be studied always in relation to his religion of Truth. Undoubtedly he had been a great soul to our national life-politics, economics, education, religion, social life, language and literature – acquired a more or less pronounced Gandhian hue. Thus it was that Gandhi exercised a potent influence on our language and literatures, both directly through his own writings in English and Gujarati and indirectly through the movements generated by his revolutionary thought and practice. His revolutionary thought has achieved universality is as relevant today as it was during his life time.

It had so tremendous influence on the people that it produced hundred of ‘mini Gandhi’ throughout the country. Even the writers started drawing their characters on him. As regards the choice of themes and the portrayal of character, his influence has been no less marked.

An idealist Moorthy, the hero of the novel Kanthapurua is one of them. If Gandhi is the invisible God, Moorthy is the visible ‘avatar’. He taught the people what he learnt from Gandhi. There is but one force in life and that is truth and there is but one love in life and that is that God of all.[2] On his arrest he showed them the true path of Satyagrahi and pleaded for peace, love and order, As long as there is God in Heaven and Purity in our hearts evil cannot touch us. We hide nothing. Give yourself to them. That is the true spirit of Satyagrahi.[3] He is the mouth piece of Gandhi. That’s why, there is a long line of his followers who appear chanting Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai / Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai! In fact at one evening he came back from college, threw away his foreign clothes and foreign books into bonfire and walked a Gandhi man. Now the villagers addressed him as their Mahatma: He (Moorthy) is our Gandhi. He is the saint of our village.[4] Thus he translated the villagers into true Gandhian spirit and became the true Gandhi of Kanthapura in their eye.

Murugan in Murugan the Tiller is an exponent of Gandhian economics. He tells Thoppai that evil is in the system and not in the man. It is only the system that makes one exploit the other. He also cultivates the true spirit of Gandhi in Ramchandran (Ramu) by changing his outlook on life as he shows him (Ramu) the true picture of those people who suffer and die in poverty. As Ramu sees the simple world of the starving millions through the strange, hollow, rattling eyes, and trusty and loyal soul of Murugan5, he feels pain for the poor. Like Gandhi he hates the sin, but not the sinner and advocates female education and spinning both as a means of earning and a source of peace of mind. He preaches the people truth in thought, word and deed and motivates them for doing the work without waiting for the result. Do action without fruit. Seeing the changes in the attitude of Ramu the local people regard Murugan as the first installment of Ramu. Like Murugan Kandan in Kandan the Patriot is also a true exponent of Gandhian politics. He not only works for the uplifting of the downtrodden and the under-privileged who toil day and night but remains a bachelor also. He leads an ascetic’s life and favours brahmacharya by saying that Brahmacharya alone can lead us on to victory in the cause to which we are wedded. Touch no great work till you are fit in mind for this self-conquest and purity.[6]

Thus, ‘brahmacharya’ is only a means to give strength to everyone to face all problems because it cultivates the seeds of selflessness in one. In the admire of Kandan Pavadi points out: Kandan is a saint, a noble soul. I saw him in his Ashrama this morning, disturbing charka and khaddar to the suffering people.[7] The off-quoted lines reveal kandan as ‘mini-Gandhi’ whose ideas of brahmacharya and social uplifting work find favour with Gandhi. At one place he elaborates Gandhian ideology of politics by saying. The test of our new life is not only in winning freedom but in applying it selflessly and courageously to the freedom of all, even the humblest in the land.[8]

Another ‘mini Gandhi’ is seen in the figures of Yanchina Sastry in K. Nagarajan’s The Chronicles of Kedaram and Anwar in Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’ Inqilab. Both have tremendous influence of Gandhi and support his idea of wearing home-spun khaddar as if wearing ‘khaddar’ is the only way to open the doors to the hearts of the people. In this reference Yanchina Sastry remarks: Now khaddar has become the symbol of India’s National Struggle. It is uncomfortable to wear, so is the struggle for Freedom to wage.[9] After coming under the influence of Gandhi, Anwar becomes his spokesman and always appears wearing home-spun ‘khaddar’ with the little white cap and prefers to go to jail in place of involving in violent. He thinks that only freedom gains through non-violence can be more enduring and further says that only by following the Mahatma’s weapons the enemies can be converted to our point of view. Thus, like Gandhi he wants to get victory over violent and injustice with the help of non-violence.

Among the pillars of Indian English novelists Bhabani Bhattacharya is one. He has almost drawn his characters on Gandhi so a perennial presence of Gandhi in all his writings is found here and there. In So Many Hungers! Devash Basu is an ordinary seventy year old retired teacher in Bengal’s countryside village of Baruni but becomes the ‘Devata’ in the eye of villagers because of a Gandhian echo. As a true Gandhian spirit he inspires millions of people to rise above their narrow interests and be strong, true and deathless but don’t betray the flag and yourselves.[10] He further says that their fight is not with the people of England but with their ruthless rulers who hold Indians in subjection for their narrow interests.

He tells his grandson, Rahoul. Why should you fight the people of England? They are good people. The people are good everywhere. Our fight is with the rulers of England who hold us in subjection for their narrow interests.[11] These thought provoking words inspire nor only Rahoul but the villagers also to join the freedom struggle. A Ganndhian spirit is also evident in Rahoul when he challenges the police only to find himself in the prison. There he declares that we must stand ready to carry out Gandhi’s command, Do or die.[12] Both prefer to go to prison for the sake of the freedom of country instead of involving in violent. The last stanza in the fiction describes Gandhi and his charisma in the form of Devash Basu. He was alone and in enemy hands. Yet he was far from alone. He was a ripple in the risen tide of millions for whom prisons enough could never be devised, nor shackles forged … Freedom could not drop from the skies … But there in the vast swamp of suffering and struggle, would it break into bloom, growing out of the seeds of spirit.[13]

In Music for Mohini Jayadev, the master of Big House, is a healthy mixture of the old and new, the Indian and the western values. So he brings an ideal synthesis between rural and urdan values, where the city absorbs a little of the ‘barbaric’ village, the village absorbs a little of the ‘West-polluted city.[14]

All these are Gandhian values. Gandhi imbibed Indian culture but with a progressive outlook but in Jayadev we find another synthesis of action with thought. Like Gandhi he voices for political freedom. He never cares his private life before the freedom of country. Instead of being ‘filled with bride’, he tries to conquer self in order to serve the country better: Jayadev girded himself for a struggle. He could not afford to be distracted – How could he pause and give himself to his private life at this great moment of history when India, proud with the freedom of which he had often dreamed, most reorient her national life on a new social basis?[15]

The minstrel, Meera’s roving grandfather in A Goddess Named Gold resembles with Gandhi who sacrificed home and health to arouse the Indians from lethargy. Like Gandhi he has half-mystic, half-realistic Sarvodaya ideals. By his ideals he dissuades Meera from her proposal to draw away spectators from the Seth’s cinema show. He tells her, you cannot fight one wrong with another. You cannot fight malice with malice.[16]  Like Gandhi he sings that freedom is a ‘state of mind’ as he gives a taveez to Meera and tells her that it would prove a touchstone and turn copper into gold every time she did an act of pure kindness. Owing to a misunderstanding the egregious Seth Samsundarji thinks that the taveez does really have this alchemie power and so he enters into a business deal with her on a fifty-fifty basis. After sometimes the situation becomes more and more complex. At last Meera casts away the taveez into the river. The minstrel says that not the taveez but ‘freedom’ is the real touchstone.

India’s freedom is like the taveez on Meera’s hand, there are Sethjis profiteers, political bosses, foreign financial interests who try to strike infamous deals with freedom, even as Samsundarji tries to with Meera’s touchstone.

The protagonist Satyajit in Shadow from Ladakh is an another mini Gandhi. He lives in Gandhigram patterned after Gandhiji’s Sevagram. Like Gandhi he is not against the use of machines but is against the unemployment provided by the machines. Only for this purpose he undertakes a fast to save Gandhigram from encroachment by Steeltown. Like Gandhi he wants to convert hate into love because he thinks to give hate for hate is only to make the evil grow stronger and it may be defeated in the moral struggle.[17]

In the admire of Mahatma Gandhi Lord Casey remarks a particular sort of light went out of India [18] but our Indian writers have tried to make a perennial presence of this particular sort of life in their creative writings and it appears sometimes in the figure of Moorthy or sometimes in Devash Basu whom we address ‘mini Gandhi’ with love.

1. Srinivasa Iyengar, K.S., Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Writing in English, Sterling Publishing Private Limited, New Delhi, 1995, p. 248.
2. Raja Rao, Kanthapura, Oxford University Press, Madras, 1938, p. 48.
3. Ibid, pp. 120-121.
4. Ibid, p. 133.
5. Venkataramani, Murugan the Tiller, Svetraya Ashrama, Madras, 1929, p. 57.
6. Venkataramani, K.S. Kandam the Patriot, Svetraya Ashrama, Madras, 1934, p. 254.
7. Ibid, p. 14.
8. Ibid, pp. 38-39.
9. Nagarajan, K. Chronicles of Kedaram, Asia Publishing House, Lucknow, 1961, p. 83.
10. Bhattacharya, Babani So Many Hungers! Jaico Publishing House, Bombay, 1964, p. 101.
11. Ibid, p. 19.
12. Ibid, p. 67.
13. Ibid, p. 205.
14. Bhabani, Bhattacharya Music for Mohini, Jaico Publishing House, Bombay, 1964, p. 156.
15. Ibid, pp. 150-151.
16. Bhabani Bhattacharya, A Goddess Named Gold, Hind Pocket Books, Delhi, 1960, p. 62.
17. Bhabani Bhattacharya, Shadow from Ladakh! Hind Pocket Book, Delhi, 1966, p. 124.
18. Srinivasa Iyengar, K.R. Indian Writing in English, Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1995, p. 270.


More by :  Prof. Dr. Ram Sharma

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