Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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Relevance of Gandhi

On the eve of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, one question that is being increasingly asked: is Gandhi relevant today. Gandhi died seventy years ago. The world has moved on since then- socially, politically, economically and technologically. In the changed world do Gandhi’s principles and philosophy hold any credence?

My take: yes, it does. For five reasons:

  1. Non-violence. Violence and intolerance are spreading, though large scale war has decreased. Gandhi’s principle of non-violence even at the face of extreme provocation is needed. His entire political strategy, satyagraha, ahimsa (non-violence) and fasting was based on the superiority of ‘soul force’ to physical force. He once said: “Nonviolence… means the pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant.

 

  1. Equality. It is common knowledge that social inequality breeds social tension, which in turn fuels violence. The inequality is rising across the world, more so in India. An equal and egalitarian society is our best bet for a peaceful society.

 

  1. Sustainability. Gandhi has once famously told that the world has everything to fulfil our need, but it cannot meet our greed. By simple living, we can ensure sustainability. Dr E.F. Schumacher, author of the classic critique on modern economics, Small is Beautiful, who called Gandhi the greatest ‘people’s economist’, says: “Gandhi abhorred the industrial civilisation because it was based on callous exploitation of non-renewable resources. It made bodily welfare the sole object of life, which reduced man to nothing but a clever animal.” Robert Hart in his essay, Gandhi and the Greens: Road to Survival, writes: “In today’s world, generally Gandhi’s truest political heirs are the Greens.”

 

  1. Respect for all religion: “Gandhi showed that idealism is practical, which makes him eternally relevant. In the Indian context the most relevant of his teaching was respect for all religions, a must if India is to survive.” In a time, where religious practices and intolerance for other religion are increasing – Gandhi’s path is the right path.

 

  1. Vision for India and world. Gandhi envisaged a self-sufficient village-based India. Gandhi outlined his concept of the ideal society in an article in Harijan in 1946. ‘‘Indian independence must begin at the bottom. Thus every village will be a republic or a panchayat, having full powers.” This practical decentralisation of power will improve micro-economy and governance at the grass root.

Swami Vivekananda at Mount Abu

I had recently been to Mount Abu, a hill station in Rajasthan not very far from Gujarat border. Located at a height of 4500 feet, the main attraction of this hill station is a lake called Nakki. Nestled among hills and mountains, this lake is the heart of Mount Abu. Its acqua-marine water reflects the green hills and sustains this place.

As I was strolling around the reasonably well maintained side walk of the lake I found a flight of stairs gloing up the hill with a sign board saying: Swami Vivekananda came   to Mount Abu and meditated for some weeks in a cave here in April 1891 overlooking Nakki Lake.

I went up and found another signboard saying that this was the place where Swamiji meditated. I found a dilapidated tiny house around a cave. Interestingly, somebody built a tiny Hanuman temple there (Hanuman seems to the most popular deity here. Every 100 yards you have a Hanuman temple). Except for the fading signboard, no relic of Swami Vivekananda was there. I strongly felt this place should be properly maintained with signage about Swami Vivekananda’s visit here.

There is a park named after Swami Vivekananda with a small statue at one side of Nakki Park. But this place looks so forlorn and neglected! I do not if there is a Ram Krishna Mission nearby. They should take care of it. Or the local municipality or the State Government. Especially as we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of Swamii’s address at the Parliament of the World’s religion in Chicago.

Jharsuguda and Pakyong

Jharsuguda in Western Odisha and Pakyong in Sikkim recently got into the airport map in two consecutive days. Pakyong became the 100th operational airport in the country. Located on the top of a hill, nearly 2 kms above Pakyong village at 4500 feet above sea level it is just 33 kms away from the State capital city – Gangtok and around 60 kms from the Indo-China border.

Air connectivity to Sikkim was a long standing demand of the people here. The nearest airport to Gangtok was Bagdogra in West Bengal- a good 125 kms away. The road meanders through mighty mountains, where landslides happened to be common- often blocking the road for hours. An airport at Pakyong would be useful to overcome disruption of supply of essential commodities.

Besides serving an important geo-strategic function looking at its proximity to Indo-China border, it would also boost the tourism potential of the state, trying hard to hard-shell itself as a tourism destination. It could be a Buddhist religious tourism circuit with air connectivity to Kathmandu, Nepal and Paro in Bhutan. In future this circuit could be expanded to include Bodh Gaya in Bihar and Ratnagiri in Odisha.

Tailpiece: Wheelchair for Sale

Marwadi calls Newspaper office to print death news of his Grandpa.

 

Clerk: Rs.50 per word

 

Marwadi: Grandpa Dead

 

Clerk: Sorry Sir, Minimum 5 words required …

 

Marwadi: “Grandpa Dead, Wheelchair for Sale”

(Courtesy: Social Media)

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Mrinal Chatterjee journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. He joins Snehasis Sur to compile and edit a book: ‘Gandhi: a Journalist and Editor’ which will be released in mid-October in Kolkata.

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