On Bapu’s sesquicentennial anniversary, the curriculum ‘Nai Talim’ advocated by him must get respectable place in the National Education Policy. In his own words, “…Only every
handicraft has to be taught not merely mechanically as is done today, but scientifically i.e. the child should know the why and wherefore of every process….”His new system of vocational education supports the cause of pragmatic education. Mahatma Gandhi, lovingly addressed as Bapu, was neither an anti-Luddite nor a xenophobic. Born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he was in favour of a series of experiments and technological innovations which turn waste into wealth. Sewagram was the laboratory of his experiments. His campaign for Swadeshi was meant for utilising local resources for our daily purposes. It was his action to change the public culture to discover the underlying meaning of an adage ‘Small is beautiful’. His idea of home-economy, based on the philosophy of Swadeshi, came from a humanistic point of view which demanded ‘voluntary simplicity’ and ‘minimisation of wants’. In Sabarmati Ashram, both Ba and Bapu used to teach weaving, spinning and self-sufficiency to attain self-sustained village economy. British understood the deeper implications of what Ba and Bapu did in the Ashram than we Indians did. Spinning Khadi (locally produced natural fiber)to promote village industry for attainingself-employment and self-reliance does not gain support from economists who prefer to measure GDP (Gross Domestic Product), WPI (Wholesale Price Index) and inflation for measuring incidence of poverty.
Humility and indomitable inner strength helped them acquire sainthood for Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Ba Kasturba Gandhi. Throughout Bapu’s life journey, Ba accompanied him on equal footing—‘She-for-He’. They were together in their common endeavours as both of them observed a vow to keep silence for a year after returning from South Africa in 1915. They travelled in third-class train compartments, uplifted Harijans (the unprivileged class) through Kochrab Ashram (located near the city of Ahmedabad), motivated women and persuaded students to join freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhi stood against the foreign language and foreign-made goods. He led a simple life possessing minimum personal belongings for his daily life and used indigenous products. It was Bapu’s concept of ‘Swadeshi’ which helped in attaining ‘Swaraj’—the typical Indian way. Many students followed his philosophy and many others resigned from government jobs to join freedom struggle.
When Bapu was busy fighting legal and political battles against the British Empire, Ba Kasturba took up social and health issues—stepping up anti-untouchability awareness drives, Harijan rights, sanitation campaign and personal hygiene for women empowerment. Bapu voiced his single mission of ‘Indian Independence’ through ‘Young India’ and ‘Navjivan’, while Ba adhered to Satyagraha in ashram by relinquishing her most expensive wearable such as saris into bonfire and embracing Khadi (handspun natural fibre cloth), which gave Indian identity to the nationwide Non-Cooperation Movement launched to condemn Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the martial law and the wrongs of Khilafat campaign.
Bapu was left alone when Ba Kasturba (74), breathed her last at 7:35 p.m. on February 22, 1944 in Aga Khan Palace, Poona. The years between February 22, 1944 and January 30, 1948 had been really tumultuous ones for the lone saint ‘Bapu’. His philosophy had won while his dream of United India had shattered. Independence of India was dented by the partition of the country creating Pakistan as a separate new country. Communal violence in Pakistan and India killed thousands of people. On the day of India’s Independence, Bapu was in Bengal trying his best to stop the severest of massacres. In face of the communal violence in post-Partition India, Mahatma Gandhi chided India for holding cash assets of newly created Pakistan. He considered it immoral to inhibit cash assets to Muslims in Pakistan. His unexpected stance didn’t go down well with some riot-torn Indians. Bapu was shot dead at 5:16 p.m. in Birla House, New Delhi on January 30, 1948. Now, Mahatma Gandhi belongs to the whole world. His dedication to non-violence and communal harmony continues to guide India and the world towards achieving political solutions of otherwise complicated problems. We Indians must ask some important questions to ourselves in order to apply Bapu’s vision in both private and public life: Should India rework to fulfil the Bapu’s dream of communal harmony and local self-governance? Should we sincerely follow the Bapu’s principle of minimising our needs as a design of self-sufficiency against parched fields, doles, loan waivers and poverty?