I will write a series of articles about great leaders who inspire me to dream big. I have few confessions to make here. Two leaders who inspire me the most are Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. No matter what negative information I get about both of them I feel there is not even a single world leader who comes close to these two leaders on the global stage. In a way I am more biased towards Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. My second confession to make is that most of the leaders who inspire me are politicians and freedom fighters. I will never be motivated by any business man either by their business success or by their philanthropic efforts. My third confession is that most of the leaders who inspire me are from Asia and Africa. My fourth confession is that none of the western world leaders from Europe, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have inspired me. The reason is because I believe the politicians and leaders of these countries are still living in the imperialistic past trying to control rest of the countries politically and economically especially the G8 countries. The last confession to make is that the ordinary citizens of the western world are very important motivators for me. I never judge people of a country by what the media says.
In this article I will quote some of the stories about Mahatma Gandhi that motivated me. I always felt proud of Mahatma Gandhi since my childhood. When I was a kid I used to visit my grandfather’s house in my native village every summer. The first thing that catches my attention as soon as I enter his house is the series of photos on the wall. These photos are not our forefathers’ photos. These are the photos of freedom fighters of our country and you can guess easily whose photo will be in the center. It is Mahatma Gandhi’s photo.
The first story that motivated me about Mahatma Gandhi was told by one of my neighbour but years later I found an author who wrote that story in a heart touching way. The author is Pankaj Mishra and the book is “From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia”. I will quote the story in my own style mixing my neighbour’s version with Pankaj Mishra’s version.
In 1905 most of the Asian and African countries were under European colonialism. I guess the exception in Asia was Thailand. One incident created a spark for the freedom struggle in Asia. In 1905 a Japanese general by the name Togo Heihachiro defeated Russian navy in the Russo-Japanese war. That was the first time after long years that an Asian power defeated a western country. This incident was a belief booster for colonized countries that they can also win a war against western countries.
Part of the reason that Japan was able to defeat Russia was because of the wisdom of Emperor Meiji who initiated the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Emperor Meiji was convinced that to defend his country against western aggression Japan need to embrace some of the western tools, techniques in war. He even sent an ambassador to western countries to learn about the way western countries fight a war. Initially all the western countries denied access to Japanese ambassadors. The first western country to open its door (I think) was Germany. I also remember reading about Sino-French war where Japan was on France’s side and learnt the warfare from French.
Unlike Japan most of the countries in Asia and Africa neither had a strong army nor were exposed to western warfare technique. 10 years later a simple Indian from South Africa landed in India and showed the countries that they don’t need a strong army to win their freedom. Instead of using power to overpower the enemies Mahatma Gandhi used principles to overpower the enemies. Non-violence was the weapon Mahatma Gandhi used against violent armies. Mahatma Gandhi’s practices and philosophies spread like wildfire to other countries in Asia and Africa and eventually brought down the British empire and ended European colonialism. India has been fighting against British to gain independence since 1857 (officially but unofficially since 17th century) but Mahatma Gandhi’s entry in 1916 accelerated the struggle and India won freedom after 31 years.
The second story my grandfather’s friend told me showed Mahatma Gandhi’s guts. Mahatma Gandhi visited Britain to sign Gandhi-Irwin pact. Before his visit he took part in salt satyagraha to end British monopoly on salt. At that time Indians were not allowed to make salt. He is a smart business man too. He could have picked any item for struggle like clothes, ornaments etc but he picked salt because he knew that even a poor person will need salt. This connected people from all states and all creeds. After signing Gandhi-Irwin pact Irwin offered Gandhi tea and Gandhi with his naughty smile took the contraband salt from his cloth and told Irwin that he made this salt in India and brought it all the way to Britain to show it to him. He mixed the salt in his tea and drank it in front of Irwin.
The last story I heard about Mahatma Gandhi was about his auto-biography. I haven’t read it and most of the elders in our family has read it. Most of them have unanimously said that they can never write an auto-biography like his because they are afraid to confess like Gandhi. This is one criteria which I am looking for in a western leader. If I find one western leader who has written such an auto-biography I will add him to my list of leaders. In the end it is not Winston Churchill who won, it was the man he called “Naked Fakir” who won. Mahatma Gandhi as always took it as a compliment and replied that he is trying to be Fakir and also naked a very difficult task for him. One interesting news I read about Winston Churchill was that he was secretly planning to escape to South America during World War II when Hitler was planning to conquer Britain after he conquered France. Luck favoured the Britons when Hitler wanted to capture the big bear (Russia) instead of the small chicken (Britain).
I will post more stories about Mahatma Gandhi after reading more books about him. If you want to know more about Mahatma Gandhi then the person you should listen to is Dr. Ramachandra Guha. He has written a book recently about Mahatma Gandhi. I watch is videos on youtube about Mahatma Gandhi.
Credits and References
- From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia – Pankaj Mishra
- Speech by Kishore Mahbubhani
- Nehru – Shashi Tharoor