November 24, 2015
Life of Gandhi
“One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.” (Attenborough, 19) This is one of the most famous quotes wrote by Gandhi, a great activist and non-violence protestor in the modern century. Just exactly as Gandhi’s quote, a man need to be consist and keep doing the right things in order to do well in life. Many people know Gandhi for his later work, however, his life from childhood had also embrace the idea of insisting his own idea and share love to a bigger community, while keeping all the good habits from childhood for later life.
On October 2nd, 1869, Mohandas Gandhi was born in Porbandar, a coastal town in India. At a very young age, Gandhi already noticed the social rank differences between people. He found out that the son of “a jailer employed by the British” in his hometown earned about 20 rupees a month. (Gandhi 9) But Gandhi’s father, served as ruler of Porbandar, earned about 300 rupees a month. Gandhi was very surprised by the heavy work that man did on a daily base in order to keep that job, while earning only 10 percent of his dad. Based on later memories, Gandhi described this event as first time to see the real world, where everyone might not have been that equal after all. (John 25) Born in a rich and powerful family did not make him have any distance with ordinarily people, but actually helped him to have a much better understanding about the differences among people. He started to have more sympathy towards less powerful and fortunate people. Under the control of Great Britain, there were a huge number of religion conflicts and Gandhi has expressed a lot of reactions towards these conflicts. When Ganhi is 11, he heard a “white evangelist pour ‘abuse on Hindus and their gods’” in his school. (Gandhi, 8) Young Gandhi could not believe what he has heard and refused to have any further connection or communication with that white young man. Furthermore, Gandhi chose to not even go near him. Also, Gandhi was really angered when he heard that “a local Hindu converting to Christianity had been forced to eat beef and drink liquor”. (Gandhi, 10) Without too much understanding about Hinduism in his early age, Gandhi still deeply believed in religion freedom and encouraged everyone around him to not judge others’ religion views. Besides religion conflict, child marriage also was a huge event for young Gandhi. At 12 years old, Gandhi was married to Kastur, who he later had four children with. Tasting this tradition himself as a child, Gandhi learned a lot about this marriage, which he has no choice towards or even any understanding about marriage itself at that time. He did not like this kind of things that he has no control of. He had read “from cover to cover” books about conjugal love and child marriages in India. (Gandhi, 7) Although Gandhi did not understand too much about these sensitive topics, he noticed a lot about the distances and hostile created by child marriage from these books. His childhood experience actually made him become much closer towards the social conflict and prepared him as a person, who loved everyone and is willing to stand up for others.
Followed by his childhood in India is Gandhi’s education in Britain, where he learned more about power of insisting and the importance of sticking with his decisions. On the ship to England, lots of Indian and European passenger warned him that he could not survive without eating meat. They could not understand Gandhi’s choice at all and tried to make him change his diet so many times. They even said that Gandhi would die “in the Red Sea or in the Mediterranean Sea, and without question in the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel” if he did not consume any meat. (Ray, 55) But Gandhi stayed with his decisions and still hold his original believe. “Pray excuse me,’ he said, ‘I admit it is necessary to eat meat. But I cannot break my vow. Give me up as foolish or obstinate. A vow is a vow.” (Gandhi, 28) Gandhi deeply believed in vegetarian and he was not willing to give up this believe for anything, no matter how others disagree with him, or asking him to change. This became one of few believes that he insisted for life. Gandhi wanted to be the person he chose to be, not whom others wanted him to be. He did not want to be a powerful people who can easily influence others, but a person with inner firmness and an internal spirit with a specific goal that attract people to come towards him. On the road of being vegetarian Gandhi showed how insist he was towards goals he want to achieve, even at a very young age. Similar spirit and actions could be seen later in his non-violence protest in South Africa and India, where he had a lot of firmness towards what his believes are and did not back off until he reached his goal, the independence of India and equal treatment for all people. Another thing Gandhi learned in years at England is a better understanding about religion. This is the first time for Gandhi to read Bhagavad Gita and he chose Hinduism as the religion to follow for life. At the same time, he also had a much clearer view towards the Hindu-Muslim friendship and made some Muslim friend while he was at London. Despite the conflict happening back home, Gandhi kept a very good relationship with his friends. As he recalled later, this made him believe that he can actually work around the Hindu-Muslim conflicts, which was seen by others as impossible. He started to have a great sympathy towards believers for all religions and claimed that there is no dominate God, but preferred God by different people. This provides him with more understanding for dealing with later cross religion issues.
After finished education in London and went back to India briefly, Gandhi chose to go to South Africa for work. Just after a couple days, he experienced racial discrimination again, but this time it was directly towards himself. After Gandhi brought a first class ticket for the train, the official denied Gandhi’s rights to sit in the first class. That official forced Gandhi to sit in the third class and called police to kick Gandhi off the train when he refused to do so. Although strongly disagreed with that official’s action, he chose to accept the fact and boarded on the third class next day. This event had a huge impact towards Gandhi’s later life because this is the first time for him to see the dark side of racial discrimination personally. Being treated with a different attitude and denied rights for so many times in South Africa, Gandhi used his past experiences and the power of insist to took one more step than he did in the past. He started to fight for race equality and freedom, not willing to give up even after being threat that he would end up in jail. The event that made Gandhi well known in many countries was the protest against the Transvaal Asiatic Registration. This act, approved on March 22, 1907, asked Indians and other Asians to re-register themselves at the local authority in order to prevent illegal. (Hardiman, 35) This was also the first time for Gandhi to develop and use the method of satyagraha, the famous method known later during the pursue of independence for India. Gandhi described the method used in the Transvaal Asiatic Registration protest as “the force generated by nonviolence is infinitely greater than the force of all the arms invented by man’s ingenuity”. (Attenborough, 55) Gandhi asked all Indian and Asian people to hold hands and stand together to protest this unequal treatment. This movement attracted a lot of local and global attention. While Gandhi gained a huge success from the movement, he became the prisoner of the British government. Gandhi went to the jail without any fear and experienced “not the slightest hesitation in entering the prisoner’s box”. (Gandhi, 128) Just like the dedication he had towards vegetarian in his early age, Gandhi would not give up his goals, race equality, and would sacrifice his life in order to achieve his goals. And he knew that these government official will not be able to stop him from doing what he is doing, to make South Africa a better country and to let everyone enjoy equal treatment.
After the success of South Africa, Gandhi moved back to India in 1915. After years of work and huge protests, like non-cooperation and the salt march, India finally gained its freedom on August 15, 1947. Gandhi used his non-violence protest and his teaching of religion to create a fairer and more equal world for India. Unfortunately, he was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Gandhi has done so many great things for his people, for India and South Africa, and for the whole world. Life of Gandhi was long and detailed, but everything started when he was a young passionate kid who love to insist on what he believes and understand the differences between people, treating them with peace and love. The idea of non-violence did not come up in one night, but it was a process of learning and trying. Just like the life of Gandhi, it was a process of collecting, trying, teaching, and honoring. Gandhi might be known as Bapu for what he has done for the independence of India, but instead, he should be known for insist the same idea from a kid to an old man, loving the world with what he has and fight for others with what he has. This is Gandhi, the person we look up to.
Hardiman, David. Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of His Ideas. New York:
Columbia UP, 2003. Print.
Ray, Sibnarayan. Gandhi India and the World; an International Symposium. Philadelphia:
Temple UP, 1970. Print.
Gandhi, and Richard Attenborough. The Words of Gandhi. New York, NY: Newmarket, 1982.
Gandhi, Rajmohan. Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empire. Berkeley: U of California,
Gandhi, Mahatma, and Anthony J. Parel. Gandhi, Freedom and Self-rule. New Delhi: Vistaar
Publications, 2002. Print.
Gandhi, and John Dear. Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2002.
Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the World’s Religions. 6th ed. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.