Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 3.2.19



January 30 is observed as Sarvodaya Diwas. On this day in 1948 Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Sarvodaya Diwas is observed to remember his and other freedom fighters’ sacrifice for the nation. It is also observed to reflect on the idea of sarvodaya, an idea Gandhi tried to live by and make it the ideal the country should follow.

Sarvodaya is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’. It connotes economic and social development and improvement of a community as a whole.

The term was used by Mahatma Gandhi as the title of his 1908 trans-creation of John Ruskin’s tract on political economy, Unto This Last, which was first published between August and December 1860 in the monthly journal Cornhill Magazine in four articles.

Gandhi received a copy of Ruskin’s Unto This Last from a British friend, Mr. Henry Polak, while working as a lawyer in South Africa in 1904. Though Unto This Last was not very well received when it was published (in fact Ruskin says himself that the articles were “very violently criticized”, forcing the publisher to stop its publication after four months), it made a profound impact on Gandhi. In his Autobiography, Gandhi remembers the twenty-four-hour train ride to Durban, when he ruminated over the content of the book. He was so much in the grip of Ruskin’s ideas that he could not sleep at all. “I determined to change my life in accordance with the ideals of the book.”  As Gandhi construed it, Ruskin’s outlook on political-economic life extended from three central tenets:

1.     That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.

2.     That a lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s in as much as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work.

3.     That a life of labour, i.e., the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living.

Gandhi came to use these tenets to form his own political-philosophical philosophy. Gandhi, of course, refined the principles outlines by Ruskin and gave it a unique Indian spin in alignment with ancient Indian scriptures and made it largely acceptable by the masses.

Later Gandhians, like Acharya Vinoba Bhabe (1895-1985), embraced the term as a name for the social movement in post-independence India which strove to ensure that self-determination and equality reached all strata of Indian society. Sarvodaya workers associated with Vinoba- Jaya Prakash Narayan, Dada Dharmadhikari, Ravishankar Maharaj,  Dhirendra Mazumdaar, Shankarrao Deo, K. G. Mashruwala undertook various projects aimed at encouraging popular self-organisation during the 1950s and 1960s, including Bhoodan (gift of land) and Gramdan (gift of village) movements.

However, by mid-1970s the movement lost momentum and by 1980s it was in serious crisis. Ishwar C. Hariis wrote an essay in Asian Survey titled ‘Sarvodaya in Crisis: The Gandhian Movement in India Today’. It analysed the crisis in Sarvodaya and mapped the decline of Gandhian movement over a period of time till mid-1980.

Beginning late 1980s and through 1990s globalization and liberalization followed and market forces gained credence. Though prosperity came- inequality grew faster. Inequality did not decrease post-globalisation. In fact in the last five years it has grown. An Oxfam report released in January 2018 says that India’s top 10% of population now holds 73% of the wealth of the country.

In this scenario, many have started questioning the practicality of the idea of sarvodaya. Many have already written its obituary.

I think, sarvodaya is an ideal to which we must strive. An ideal like a pole star is necessary to guide us through the dark night. We may not reach the ideal, but it will steer us closer to that state.

Sarvodaya, unlike communism recognizes and strives to accommodate individual’s freedom, along with its acceptance of people’s verdict. Sarvodaya emphasizes on living in harmony with all. It also emphasizes on self-denial – living a frugal and contended life. It underscores the importance of fulfilling the needs and not encouraging having wants.

In a market-driven society that thrives on creating felt and perceived wants – this seems completely impractical. But mark my words, this is the way of life we have to adopt ultimately to live peacefully and in harmony with nature.

Ultimately people will realize this. It is just a matter of time.

Portrayal of fat women

In oriental culture and most part of Europe fat women have always been seen with amusement. If they happen to be dark-skinned then, they have been viewed with ridicule and contempt. This archetype still holds and in some cases, added by billion dollar beauty business has been further consolidated. Fat and dark women often feel miserable and try their level best to be otherwise. However, in recent years a noticeable change is marked. Fat women have begun to question the archetype and have begun to enjoy who they are.

My former student Deepika Singh, who is fat and who works as a journalist recently wrote a piece on this. Read on:

The portrayal of fat women in popular culture may have evolved from the time when they were used only for comic relief, or portrayed as nasty villain aunts, but it still has a long way to go. Why are they still, after all this while, shown as a one-tone, miserable lot, desperately craving male approval, with families saying stuff like, “you have again put on weight, haven’t you?” and friends taking unimaginative jibes at their weight and eating habits, as if one is, as a rule, a product of the other? Look around. Not all of us are miserable, not all of us have horrible families and insensitive friends? Not all of us have no other job but to moonily stare at a guy who is ‘above our league’? Why don’t you show her as someone who has goals, ambitions and a purpose in life? why don’t you show her making into her dream college and having the time of her life there? why don’t you show her working for the best company in her field, in a crucial, all-male team but still holding her own, still being valued? why don’t you show her unceremoniously dumping her lover of five years because he just refuses to treat her right? why don’t you show her distancing from ‘friends’ who get high on putting her down? why don’t you show her getting some male attention but fending it off because she is just not interested right now? Why don’t you show her as someone who reads for pleasure, loves lipsticks, has a killer sense of humour (even though her jokes don’t sometimes land) and goes on solo trips, and finds herself and a friend or two in the process? Why?

It is time to make a change. Take baby steps. Don’t show her kissing a guy, if it would look ‘funny’. Don’t give her the lead part if that’s too much to ask for. Make her the heroine’s second best friend’s third cousin. Give her no more than 10 minutes of screen time. But show her as leading a full, even if flawed, life. Show her having friends who always cheer her on, having a family that dotes on her. Show her having some goal, some purpose, some ambition in life. Most importantly, show her kicking ass. Because god knows, we surely can some.

Tailpiece: Statistics

Ninety per cent of the girls who reject marriage proposal of slightly bald boys live the rest of their lives with bald men just 8-10 years after their marriage.

And ninety per cent of the boys who reject marriage proposal of slightly overweight girls live rest of their lives with fat women just 3-4 years after their marriage.

Tailpiece 2: Film Titles

If we named a Bollywood film to the relation between political parties, then what would be the names?

BJD-BJP: Kitne Door Kitne Pass

PDP-BJP: Hum Apke Hai Kaun

SHIVSENA-BJP: Kabhi Khusi Kabhi Gam

SP-BSP: Kal Ho Na Ho


AAP-BJP: Andaz  Apna Apna

TMC-BJP: Aar Ya Paar

JDS-CON: Kachche Dhage

JDU-BJP: Apne To Apne Hote Hai



Mrinal Chatterjee is a journalist turned media academician. He lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He writes fiction and columns. A compilation of this column written in 2018 has just been published.

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