Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: On the eve of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, which is all set to be celebrated here on a grand scale, I spoke to a cross-section of people to know about their understanding of the man who had arrived on the English shores in 1888 as a nervous teenager in pursuit of a law degree.

As a young Mohandas Karamchand savoured the pleasures of London life even he would not have imagined that within a matter of years he would be trading all that for a remarkably austere life and give the world an epoch making political weapon called “ satyagraha.”

Considering that this city has a huge floating population it is expected that not everyone here would be conversant with Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violence. However, awareness about him is high among those born and brought up in London like Robert Campbell who works for a gas company here. The young man, who finds Gandhi extremely relevant to today’s world marked by increasing violence, cites the example of Arab spring, the non-violent revolution that swept parts of West Asia between 2009 and 2012, to make his point.

“It was a non-violent movement against tyrants. The most important thing about these agitations was that they were spontaneous and did not rely on political parties for support. People rose in unison to fight tyrants through non-violent means. Who says Gandhi is not relevant to our world?” asked Campbell.

I found Elis, who works as a receptionist in a hotel here, equally enthusiastic about the philosophy of Mahatma who she looks upon as her ideal. “His philosophy is not just about non-violence it is also about simplicity. We are leading such disturbed lives today because we keep running after material pleasures. The day we stop seeking these pleasures like Gandhi did our lives would be much better and peaceful,” said Elis as her friend and colleague Marianne nodded in agreement.

People of Asian origin are expectedly much more enthusiastic about discussing Mahatma Gandhi whom they see not only as India’s freedom struggle icon but also as someone who can teach a lot to the world. Nusrat Farzana, a Bangladesh national who I met in a mall here, argued that Swedish teenage climate change crusader, Greta Thunberg was influenced by Gandhi. “ Her style is similar which is the reason why she is making such a big impact. We need more such people to make our world a better place,” asserted Farzana.

Suhail Ahmad, another Bangladeshi who teaches mathematics in a school here, is a great admirer of Mahatma. “ We should not just think of him as an icon of the Indian freedom movement. He was a world leader who fought against racism and inequality. He was a man committed to his cause and nothing could ever make him waver. In modern times people like Nelson Mandela have sought to emulate him with great success. But Mahatma’s canvas was much bigger which is why he is worshipped around the world,” signed off Suhail.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)