Published: 02nd October 2021
Gandhi with Gen Z: Here's what this Gandhian thinker thinks is ailing us as a society today, decades after independence
Avyakta is a Gandhian thinker who travels across states to different rural areas to impart the wisdom of the Mahatma to India's young
We have come a long way since independence. Or have we? Certainly 74 years is a long while ago, but have we really transformed our identity as a nation? This is a question that 41-year-old Gandhian thinker Avyakta raises in a conversation with us. What ails our society today and how can we overcome it are two of the most pressing questions that we face today. The mild-mannered social thinker forces one to think through the mind of Gandhi and his true follower Vinoba Bhave. He explains why the simplicity of Gandhi's teachings is easily lost in the opulence of today's synthetic world. Excerpts from a thought provoking conversation:
1. What comes to your mind when we talk about Gandhi in the present context?
The issues that Gandhiji took up in his lifetime have continued to exist in the world long after he is gone. Take the issue of violence, for example. We thought that World War II and the subsequent formation of the United Nations would lead to peace in the world. But conflict and violence continue to exist between nations and regions today. Nation states are constantly making arms deals with other countries and the state of war seems to be in perpetuity. The band-aid over this immense wound is that we are seldom shown the violence on TV and media. So, ignorance is bliss for us since we are not made aware of the brutalities that are committed away from us in other parts of the world.
2. So, what are these ailments that society suffers from?
The major ailment that we suffer from today is that we have lost our sense of identity. We have merely become imitators of the west. It is important to understand the symbolism of Gandhiji writing his two main books, Hind Swaraj and The Story of My Experiments with Truth, in his mother tongue — Gujarati — despite knowing and being very well versed in English. Gandhiji had expressed concern over the fact that we are not able to guide our younger generation down the path of knowledge and truth since we are busy walking others' paths. This continues even today. We are only concerned with eliminating the symptoms and not rooting out the disease itself.
3. And the solution to these societal evils?
The first thing is to have a collective realisation that we are on the wrong path. We need to stop the cosmetic side of our livelihood and start doing earnest work. We see that people today eat unnecessary amounts of calories and then burn them in the gym. If people only consume that which they need and do their own homely chores, then they would not need to go to the gym at all. Gandhiji emphasised hugely on living a simple life that takes in the good from anywhere and everywhere without exploiting anyone.
4. What are some of the things that you would like to see in the world today?
We do not see people taking a sincere and earnest interest in other people's lives. How often is it that you come across a person who genuinely asks you about your day or is concerned about the sad look on your face? We need to live and let live in a world where our differences do not matter or influence the relationships we have with people. Gandhiji focused on three values that matter in interpersonal relations more than any other thing — love, truth and compassion.
5. How do you personally take forward the ideas and ideals of Gandhiji today?
I took an oath ten years ago that I would not live in a city. I also made it a point that I would not align with any political party or organisation. I wanted to communicate the message of Gandhi to India's young. My wife and I have travelled across different states to do this. I have been in Himachal Pradesh for the past two and a half years now and I'm waiting for things to become normal again before I embark on my journey once again.