Published: 01st October 2019
Gandhi Jayanti: Would Gandhi have a smartphone, be on Instagram if he were alive in 2020?
Imagining Mahatma Gandhi in 2020 is not an easy task to think about, but his granddaughter Ela Gandhi and Gandhian scholar Tridip Suhrud give it a shot anyway
The divide between India before Gandhi and India after Gandhi is increasing day by day. Not only between the haves and the have nots, but also between what we are taking from the environment and what we are giving back. One wonders, what would the Father of the Nation think about what has become of this nation. What would he think about the advent of technology, about the hazards of climate change, about social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram or about our restless youth?
To get some answers, we reached out to those who are an authority on the Mahatma — Ela Gandhi, Founder and Trustee of the Gandhi Development Trust, South Africa and granddaughter of Gandhi and Tridip Suhrud, former Director of Sabarmati Ashram and Gandhian scholar. Both of them weigh in on how Gandhi in 2020 would be like, what he would believe in and what new causes he would back. Here's what they had to say.
At the very outset, former Chancellor of the Durban University of Technology Ela Gandhi, says that, "Since Gandhiji’s assassination, the world has moved in a direction that is opposite to his ideas. We have polluted Earth, we have created larger industries and more unemployment and poverty." This is what the former MP of South Africa had to say about Gandhi 2.0. Gandhiji would ask himself three questions before making a decision in respect to his life in 2020 and acquiring modern products.
- Does the product replace human labour or is it an instrument through which people will be able to live a better life or a less strenuous life?
- Does the production of the article entail the degradation of the environment in any way?
- Will promoting this product assist the poorest of the poor?
Do you think Gandhi would be wearing a smartwatch? If not, what kind of watch do you envision him wearing?
Gandhiji was strict about time management so he would certainly be wearing a watch. If his old watch for some reason stopped working and was beyond repair only then would he accept a new one, but something which a poor person too would have access to.
What kind of clothes do you think he would prefer wearing?
Maybe a loose shirt and a pant. I do not think he would have made many changes to his attire, just as not many changes have been made to the attire of the poor in India.
Would he be using a walking stick? If yes, of what kind?
He was seen using a large stick on his walks. He would use something that would help him keep his balance.
Do you think he would have taken to shoes? If yes, of what kind?
His feet were so accustomed to sandals, or being bare feet, that I do not think he would change much particularly with global warming and the hot weather.
Do you think he would be carrying a wallet, wear belts and so on?
He would avoid articles made from killing animals, or polluting the environment so leather unless it is made from carcasses of dead animals and plastic would be avoided, which then means cloth bag, or a cotton string through the pant.
What would his opinion be on plastic?
An absolute ban on it.
Modern-day menace: Gandhi would know that plastic is bad for Earth | (Pic: Earth)
In which city of India do you think he will be residing in?
Certainly, he would be with the villagers of India and probably in a communitarian self-sustaining settlement.
Would he carry a bag? If yes, which one? A backpack, a jhola or anything else?
A cotton jhola, no doubt.
Will Gandhi appear on TV news debates?
He was never shy of debates and used media to promote his message so most certainly he would.
What would his home look like? Will he have sofas, a seating area? A library perhaps? With what kind of books?
Being accustomed to sitting on the floor, he would have continued to sit on the floor, sleep on the floor and would invest in gadhis, perhaps with age, the softer and thicker ones. He would borrow books from the library and would read Modern History, Science and Philosophy. Home would be small with combined cooking and dining area and sleeping and entertainment area. He would not invest in much furniture. May have stools and he would have a food garden.
Oh, the lovely smell: Gandhi would continue reading many books | (Pic: Internet)
We know he used to write a lot of letters. Do you think he would be sending emails by now?
That I think would be a strong possibility. He sent many telegrams and if he had a faster mode of communication he would engage in that.
Would he be using organic products (though they are slightly more expensive) or go for mass-produced products?
Most certainly organic products, but then he would, as far as possible, produce his own organic products, grow them and process them at home or within a community.
What would his meals look like? Do you see him occasionally indulging in dishes like waffles, pancakes and so on?
As long as it does not affect his health adversely, he may eat a healthy snack. But remember, he maintained that we eat to live not live to eat so, would he consume sugar? I do not think so.
Do you think he would have faith in modern medicine or would he be inclined towards Ayurveda or homeopathy?
Modern medicine would be a last recourse. His first recourse would be naturopathy then either of the other alternates.
Au naturel: The Mahatma would prefer naturopathy, says Ela Gandhi | (Pic: Internet)
Would Gandhi be proud of the politicians today?
No, he would not. Be the change you wish to see in the world! Are our politicians depicting the change?
No air-conditioners nor extension of support to any political party is how Tridip Suhrud looks at Gandhi of 2020. Suhrud, who has books like An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth: Critical Edition and The Power of Nonviolent Resistance: Selected Writings to his credit, shares many other insights on Gandhi in 2020.
Would Gandhi book cabs or would he prefer the metro?
Metro. He loved the railways. No Indian has ever travelled through railways as much as he has. He would have acquired a lifetime pass for it.
Would he be on social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram?
No to twitter because it’s anti-grammar. Gandhi loved grammar too much for it. Instagram yes, he would communicate through images as he was an expert it creating images through words and pictures.
Follow him: Gandhi would have been very popular on Instagram, obviously | (Pic: Internet)
What would he think of his interpretation in pop culture like Munna Bhai MBBS and so on?
Oh, he would have laughed out loud. He liked a good joke, even if it was on his expense.
Will he be using ACs?
No, he would prefer the ‘canopy of stars’, as he liked to call it.
Would he have a small garden of his own where he will grow vegetables or would he buy from the local vegetable market?
He was a farmer and a weaver. So he would have a garden, maybe even a large one.
Would he be proud of the youth today?
He was always looked upon the young as enabling and empowering force. And the youth have always been restless and he himself was a restless young man. So he would be indulgent with them, but his advice to them would be that they need to get possession of their senses.
Would he be proud of the politicians today?
He wasn’t proud of him during his time.
Would he be proud of India today?
In some ways, yes. But he would deeply distressed with the persistence of poverty, untouchability, gender violence and so on.
Which causes do you see him getting behind?
The same ones he was for back then. Add to the list freedom, justice, equality, environment and equal access to resources.
What would his opinion be on protests like that for climate change?
Oh, he would have followed the youngsters and be right out on the streets with them, walking behind them.
On the streets: Gandhi would join protests provided they are non-violent | (Pic: Express)
Do you think he would be feminist?
He was one during his time. So he would have sort to learn more about it from women leaders.
Do you see him serving on any government committees. If yes, which ones?
No. He saw himself representing the people, never the government.
Would he still be, occasionally, practising law if a desperate case came to him?
His deep need to seek justice would have pushed him towards being one of the finest public interest litigators.
Of course, he will be called for several public appearances or gatherings, which ones would you think he would particularly focus on?
He would have charged money for it and then use that money for the causes that he supported.
Would he be supporting a particular political party? If yes, which one?
Would he be supporting a particular movement? Like Save Arrey Forests in Maharashtra or Sterlite protest in Tamil Nadu?
I think he lent his support to movements as long as they adhered to two things, truth and non-violence.
What would he have thought of Britain?
He would have been very depressed at what they had made of themselves and at the same time, he would have laughed at what the empire has come to. He would have known that it has become a laughing stock and this would have deeply saddened him.
Oh, Big Ben: The state of Britain would have saddened Gandhi | (Pic: Internet)
Anything else you think would have concerned him in 2020?
I think the most important question he would have asked would have been about the state of the world’s economy today. Anyone who is concerned about poverty naturally would have to be concerned with the world’s economy as well.
What would he have thought of the UN?
Just like he thought that the British parliament is a costly toy of the nation, he would have thought that the UN is the costly toy of the world.
Do you think he would be proud of initiatives like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?
Anything that reduces inequity, injustice and helps us clean the dirt around us and within us he would have been proud of.
Do you see him being available to give advice?
He would be no agony aunt, but he would certainly reply to those who write to him.
Which global leaders do you think he would have looked up to?
They would have looked up to him! I think he would have found a good friend in Dalai Lama.
A friend: The Dalai Lama and Gandhi would make a good friends | (Pic: Internet)
Would he be tech-savvy?
He used every available resource at his time, he was a publisher, sent telegrams and used the telephone. He would lay more emphasis on what is being communicated more than the means of communication.
Which new proverbs or sayings do you think he would have come up with that applies to all of us today?
All of his previous ones are still applicable. He would have perhaps added ‘Consume less’ to the list.
Anything that would have saddened him deeply?
The divorce between means and ends.