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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 6, New Delhi, January 25, 2020 - Republic Day Special

A Pilgrim in Quest of Truth

Monday 27 January 2020

On January 30 this year falls the seventysecond anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom. We pay our homage to the Father of the Nation on this occasion by reproducing some paragraphs from Jawaharlal Nehru’s Foreword to D.G. Tendulkar’s Mahatma (written in Pahalgam, Kashmir, June 30, 1954, and carried in Jawaharlal Nehru: An Anthology edited by S. Gopal).

by Jawaharlal Nehru

The long story of humanity can be considered from many points of view; it is a story of the advance and growth of man and the spirit of man, it is also a story full of agony and tragedy. It is a story of the masses of men and women in ferment and in movement, and also the story of great and outstanding personalities who have given content and shape to that movement of masses.

In that story Gandhi occupies and will occupy a pre-eminent place. We are too near him to judge him correctly. Some of us came into intimate contact with him and were influenced by that dominating and very lovable personality. We miss him terribly now for he had become a part of our own lives. With us the personal factor is so strong that it comes in the way of a correct appraisal. Others, who did not know him so intimately, cannot perhaps have full realisation of the living fire that was in this man of peace and humility. So both these groups lack proper perspective or knowledge. Whether that perspective will come in later years when the problems and conflicts of today are matters for the historian, I do not know. But I have no doubt that in the distant, as in the near, future this towering personality will stand out and compel homage....

He brought freedom to India and in that process taught us many things which were important for us at the moment. He told us to shed fear and hatred, and of unity and equality and brotherhood, of raising those who had been suppressed, of the dignity of labour and of the supremacy of things of the spirit. Above all, he spoke and wrote unceasingly of truth in relation to all our activities.

The average leader of men, especially in a democratic society, has continually to adapt himself to his environment and to choose what he considers the lesser evil. Some adaptation is inevitable. But as this process goes on, occasions arise when that adaptation imperils the basic ideal and objective. I suppose there is no clear answer to this question and each individual and each generation will have to find its own answer.

The amazing thing about Gandhi was that he adhered, in all its fullness, to his ideals, his conception of truth, and yet he did succeed in moulding and moving enormous masses of human beings. He was not inflexible. He was very much alive to the necessities of the moment, and he adapted himself to changing circum-stances. But all these adaptations were about secondary matters. In regard to the basic things he was inflexible and firm as a rock. There was no compromise in him with what he considered evil. He moulded a whole generation and more and raised them above themselves, for the time being at least. That was a tremendous achievement.

Does that achievement endure? It brought results which will undoubtedly endure. And yet it brings some reactions in its train also. For people, compelled by circumstances to raise themselves above their normal level, are apt to sink back even to a lower level than previously. We see today something like that happening. We saw that reaction in the tragedy of Gandhi’s own assassination. What is worse is the general lowering of standards, when Gandhi’s whole life was devoted to the raising of these very standards. Perhaps this is a temporary phase and people will recover from it and find themselves again. I have no doubt that, deep in the consciousness of India, the basic teachings of Gandhi will endure and will affect our national life.

...We live today in a world torn with hatred and violence and fear and passion, and the shadow of ware hangs heavily over us all. Gandhi told us to cast away our fear and passionand to keep away from hatred and violence. His voice may notbe heard by many in the tumult and shouting to today, but it will have to be heard and understood some time or other, if this world is to survive in any civilised form.

People will write the life of Gandhi and they will discuss and criticise him and his theories and activities. But to some of us, he will remain something apart from theory—a radiant and beloved figure who ennobled and gave signifi-cance to our petty lives, and whose passing away has left us with a feeling of emptiness and loneliness. Many pictures rise in my mind of this man, whose eyes were often full of laughter and yet were pools of infinite sadness. But the picture that is dominant and most significant is as I saw him marching, staff in hand, to Dandi on the salt march in 1930. Here was the pilgrim on his quest of Truth, quiet, peaceful, determined and fearless, who would continue that quiet pilgrimage, regardless of consequences.

o o o

”Those who desecrated the mosque were not men but

devils; because mosques, temples or churches are all

houses of the Lord. I have come here today to convey to

you my grief. You may perhaps be smiling and thinking

that whatever happened was all very good. But I assert

that this is potent injustice. I am grieved when I hear that

Muslims have desecrated a temple. Should I retaliate by

damaging a mosque? How can such damage save the

temple or benefit the Hindu religion?”

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (at a prayer meeting, Patna, March 12, 1947)

“Before I ever knew anything of politics in my early youth,

I dreamt the dream of communal unity at heart. I shall

jump in the evening of my life, like a child, to feel that

dream has been realised in this life...

“The vista before me seems to me to be, as it must be to

you, too glorious to be true. Yet like a child in a famous

picture, drawn by a famous painter. I shall not be happy

till I have got it. I live and want to live for no lesser


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

(Harijan, January 18, 1948)

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