The father of the nation isn’t such a father figure anymore. He’s more of a distant uncle now, one who occasionally comes up as a topic of conversation, and the feelings towards him are polarising at best
Don’t shoot the messenger, will you? Mahatma Gandhi may have long been revered by the country (and the world) but his significance and values have come up for contention of late. Not just for the politicians but also for the people who vote for them. The young know him but don’t necessarily adore him. This realisation struck me recently, at a Sunday brunch hosted by a veteran Delhi-based fashion designer at his sprawling home in the city’s Chattarpur area. Everybody who is anybody was there and I found myself in the midst of a scintillating conversation between two entrepreneurs, both fresh off the success of their newly-opened vegan restaurants. The topic was the many dry days in India which end up being bad business days for them. And it was then that one of them mentioned how Gandhi Jayanti doesn’t even warrant one.
“It’s not even as big a deal as, say, Independence Day, you know? It’s just one man’s birthday. How can that be a cause of celebration?” Umm… excuse me, Mr Entrepreneur? This ‘one man’ is our beloved Bapu, remember? “So what? It’s not like young people know much about him, anyway!”
Do the young not know Mahatma Gandhi? Of course, they do. Many-a-chapter has been dedicated to him in our history books in school. His face also adorns our currency notes. Not to mention the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan posters. How can the young not know him!
“Of course, we know of him. But we don’t really know know him. He passed away eons ago, and barring schoolbooks and a few Hindi movies, we don’t get to hear about him!” Sushant Singhania (name changed) is a popular Instagram influencer, known for his truth bombs, which were dropped aplenty at that brunch. “If I’m being honest, most young people don’t really know much or care about Gandhian values.
The world has come a long way past Satyagraha and turn-the-other-cheek and so have India and her people!”
If the current political discourse is to be believed, then yes, India has indeed come a long way past the Gandhian values of secularism and brotherhood. And no one and nothing has been spared in the bargain. You know a nation is going through a major shift when even Mahatma Gandhi becomes a contentious name.
“Do we really expect anyone to follow Gandhian values during these tumultuous times? Wishful thinking, sir!” Medha Chopra (name changed) is not only one of Mumbai’s most astute young minds but also a social activist par excellence, involved in almost every cause worth its salt. “The kind of hate present everywhere is a clear indicator that the nation has long forgotten Bapu’s key tenets of non-violence, tolerance and kindness. For most young people, Gandhi Jayanti is just another public holiday, and that’s a fact!”
There are also those who know of Gandhi and also know enough and more about his key decisions which set a then-nascent country on a new path “I have absolute admiration for all he did to get us our freedom but Mahatma Gandhi’s political decisions haven’t aged well. The Partition, Kashmir, India becoming a secular nation, a lot of these things are still causing widespread hate and tension and those of us who’re well-educated about Indian history aren’t in agreement with it!” Samir Sharma (name changed) is a young politician from Delhi, part of the youth wing of a relatively new political party that claims to be for and of the common man. “With every interaction I’ve had with young people
across social strata, it’s rather evident that most of them feel a lot of the problems of today could’ve been avoided had Bapu’s decisions been… how do I say it?… more sagacious!”
Fortunately, not all is lost, as yet. There are still some young people seeing merit in Gandhi’s teachings.
“We need to imbibe a Gandhian way of living, now more than ever!” Aditi Mitra (name changed), entrepreneur and influencer from Mumbai, feels it’s the only way to counter the contemporary intolerance in society. “The India that I have grown up in feels like a long-lost dream and the only way to bring back some peace and brotherhood in our society is to remember what Mahatma Gandhi taught us, and what is the foundation of our nation, our great Constitution.”
A similar sentiment comes from Rohan Malhotra (name changed), CEO of a popular delivery app in Mumbai. “Without Gandhi, there is no India. And without his principles, we’ll never be the nation we truly have the potential to become!”
As with all things to do with youth, this one too is a potpourri of opinions, each one more contradictory than the other. But then, for a man who cared supremely about his country, if Bapu were alive today, he wouldn’t have been bothered by the polarity of this conversation. As long as the youth is still focused on bettering the country, nothing else matters, right?
Who Am I?
Think of me as someone who knows the minds, hearts and bedrooms of the young Indian today. I have a social life across cities that allows me access to coveted parties, people and positions (pun absolutely intended!). Through this column, I aim to keep you abreast of how the young people of India go about their personal lives. I promise to keep it
honest and to-the-point. No judgements, no prudishness.