Gandhi : Naked Ambition – I

હાલમાં Gandhi : Naked Ambition પુસ્તક વાંચી રહ્યો છું. ગાંધીજીની મહાનતા આખી દુનિયાને ખબર છે પણ એ મહાનતા એમણે મેળવી એ પહેલાની જીંદગી અને એ મહાનતા મેળવવા માટે એમની આસપાસના લોકો અને દેશે કેટલો ભોગ આપવો પડ્યો એ વિશે છે આ પુસ્તક. 25% જેટલું પુસ્તક વાંચી લીધું છે અને ગાંધીજી વિશે અમુક ક્યારેય ના વાંચેલી કે ના સાંભળેલી વાતો જાણવા મળી.

પુસ્તક અનુસાર ગાંધીજી દક્ષિણ આફ્રિકા ગયા એ પહેલા એકદમ સામાન્ય અને આત્મવિશ્વાસ વિહીન વ્યક્તિ હતા. પરિવારે દેવું કરીને એમને ભણવા માટે લંડન મોકલ્યા હતા અને ત્યાંથી પાછા આવીને પણ ગાંધીજી બેરિસ્ટર તરીકે કે વકીલ તરીકે ભારતમાં કંઇ ઉકાળી નહોતા શક્યા.

ગાંધીજી જ્યારે લંડન જવાના હતા ત્યારે સમાજના આગેવાનોએ ગાંધીજી અને એમના મદદગારોને નાત બહાર મૂક્યા હતા કારણ કે એ જમાનામાં પરદેશ જવું અને એ પણ ગોરાઓના દેશમાં એ બહુ સારુ નહોતું ગણાતું.

ગાંધીજીને દક્ષિણ આફ્રિકામાં ટ્રેનના પ્રથમ વર્ગના ડબ્બામાંથી ધક્કો મારીને બહાર કાઢવામાં આવ્યા એ કદાચ એમની જીંદગીનો સૌથી મોટો turning point કહેવાય. આ ઘટના બન્યા બાદ જ ગાંધીજી એક સામાન્ય માણસથી પર થઇને વિચારવાની શરૂઆત કરી અને રંગભેદની નીતિ તેમ જ ભારતીયો અને બીજા એશિયાઇ લોકોની દક્ષિણ આફ્રિકામાં હાલાકી વિશે વિચારવાનું શરૂ કર્યું.

પુસ્તકમાં લખેલી એમના પરિવાર વિશેની અમુક વાતો અહીં શબ્દશ: મૂકી રહ્યો છું :

Gandhi’s position would have allowed him to place his children in a European school, but he did not wanted to benefit from favours not extended to other Indians. He anyway regarded the mission schools as inadequate, and doubtless feared they might feed his children a spiritual diet of Christianity. He therefore did not send his sons to school but engaged an English governess. Not satisfied with her instruction, he attempted to teach the children himself, but came home too late in the evening or was expecting the boys to be up too early for such exercises to be adequately described as education. Gandhi, wrote in his Autobiography about his failure to have his children properly educated: "’All my sons have had complaints to make against me in this matter.’ He was similarly chastised by friends over this aspect of his children’s upbringing but he persisted in believing that if he had allowed them an education that other children could not have, he would have deprived them of the objet lesson in liberty and self-respect that I gave them at the cost of literary training. He thus convinced himself that he made the sacrifice of their education for their own spiritual sakes.

Kasturba found bowing to Gandhi’s moral principles intolerable, even as she tried to be an obedient wife. He had decreed that all residents of Beach Grove Villa (the place where Gandhi was staying in South Africa. Gandhi had allowed some people to stay with him in his house) must empty their own chamber posts, an activity that would never be undertaken (or even noted) by a Brahmin woman – an untouchable would deal with the family’s excrement (મળમૂત્ર). If the pots were neglected, Gandhi had decided that he and Kasturba would do it rather than ask a servant – presumably to shame the occupants in the house into carrying out his chore next time. One day a clerk, a Christian but of family of untouchables, was newly staying with them. He did not know the house rules and left his chamber pot under his bed. Kasturba knew Gandhi would empty it, and the only thing worse than doing it herself was allowing he husband to so defile (અભડાવવું) himself. She therefore carried the chamber pot down the stairs and emptied it, weeping with anger that her life had come to this. Gandhi saw her and was angry too: he wanted her to go about the task gladly. He called to her : ‘I will not stand this nonsense in my house.’ ‘Keep your house to yourself and let me go.’ she shouted back. Gandhi writes that he forgot himself, caught her by the hand and dragged her to the gate, opened it and intended to push her out. She cried out: ‘Have you no sense of shame? Must you so far forget yourself? Where am I to go? I have no parents or relatives here to harbour me. Being your wife, you think I must put up with your cuffs and kicks? For heaven’s sake behave yourself and shut the gate. Let us not be found making scenes like this.’ Gandhi was asking her not just to deal with faeces (મળમૂત્ર) but to look happy about doing it.

Gandhi learned to do his own laundry, just as he had earlier learned to cut his own hair after being rejected by the English barber – as he put it, ‘I freed myself from slavery to washer man, I threw off dependence on the barber.’

હજી સુધી ગાંધીજીની દક્ષિણ આફ્રિકાની શરૂઆતી જીંદગી સુધી આ પુસ્તક વાંચી શક્યો છું અને ભારત આગમન પછીની એમની જીંદગી વિશે વાંચવાનું બાકી છે. એમાં પણ ગાંધીજીની જીંદગીના અને એમના વ્યક્તિત્વના ન જાણેલા પાસાઓ વિશે વધૂ વાંચવા મળશે અને એ વાંચ્યા બાદ આ લેખમાળામાં બીજો લેખ ઉમેરીશ.

Disclaimer :

  1. Above writing is based on the content of book “Gandhi : Naked Ambition” by Jad Adams.
  2. English part of this article has been reproduced as it is from the book for readers.
  3. Whether portrayal of Gandhiji and assessment of his charcter done in this book is correct/incorrect is upto individual reader’s belief. This article doesn’t endorse my view about Gandhi’s character.

The empire on which sun never sets

Since 1819, when Raffles founded Singapore as a trading post for the East India Company the white man’s supremacy had been unquestioned. By the time I went to school in 1930, I was aware that the Englishman was the big boss, and those who were white like him were also bosses – some big, others not so big, but all bosses. They had superior lifestyles and lived separately from the Asiatics, as we were then called. They ate superior food with plenty of meat and milk products. Every three years they went “home” to England for three to six months at a time to recuperate from the everything climate of equatorial Singapore. Their children also went “home” to be educated and not to Singapore schools. They, too, led superior lives.

There were no question of any resentment. The superior status of the British in government and society was simply a fact of life. After all, they were the greatest people in the world. They had the biggest empire that history had ever known, stretching over all time zones, across all four oceans and five continents.

I have taken above text from the book “The Singapore Story – Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew”. Like what we have Gandhiji in India, same is Lee Kuan Yew for Singapore. For information to reader, Singapore in past was also a British colony and in his book he has written about the impression he had about the British empire till he grew up.

In 1941, Japanese invaded the Singapore and managed to win over Singapore. He writes about British empire post Singapore fall to Japanese in his next chapter as below :

In 70 days of surprises, upsets and stupidities, British colonial society was shattered, and with it all the assumptions of the Englishman’s superiority. During the war, it was the white civilian bosses who ducked under the tables when the bombs and shells fell. Hospitals, public utilities and other essential services were left unmanned. The whites in charge had gone. Stories of their scramble to save their skins led the Asiatics to see them as Selfish and Cowardly. The British myth of their inherent superiority had been smashed by one Asiatic race (read Japanese).

Above lines from the book, indeed describes the selfishness of British race which is inherent in them till date.

In past, I was used to listen this line many time “The sun on British Empire shall never set”. I have seen people leaving for UK from India with very strong faith and belief in this line. Following is the map of the British empire taken from the Wiki as on 1919 which truly says about the supremacy British Raj enjoyed in past.

alt

But today the reality is the glory of British raj is fading away. Tough economic situations, falling markets, spending cuts n what not. It will be interesting to see how the British empire meets the challenges in their own backyard and adapts to the rising Asian powers from Asia and keep the queen’s flag, flagging high in coming time.

It will still be premature to make a statement that Sun on British empire has set because even today in my day to day life, I made to believe that white skin rules but slowly the white skin’s supremacy is coming under question. So which color is going to rule in future? May be “Brown”…….. who knows.  Amen!!

%d bloggers like this: