by Divya Badri
M. K. Gandhi (1869–1948) was an Indian lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer who became the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India.
While many would think that he would be eternally famous for being a man who fought in a non-violent way to accomplish his goals, I wonder if the current generation knows who he was and how he lived his life.
In my 13 yr old child’s class in Switzerland , in a local Swiss school, when he mentioned Gandhi during a classroom discussion on ethics, most of the other teen students remarked “Gandhi, who?”. It’s been 150 years since Gandhi was born. That marks a century and a half. It is a long time. No wonder.
It’s important to understand, that certain incidents in history don’t fade away easily, even a century later. Quoting from a recent article in the Swiss media in English “The Swiss press was hostile to Gandhi especially after he criticised certain papers for mischaracterisation of his speeches made in London. Gandhi’s anti-military and anti-capitalist remarks also won him many enemies.” This was the year 1931. (source)
It’s also important to note, that Switzerland had an important relationship with Britain. Recently, news of Thomas Cook – the travel company collapsing, made headlines. The news renewed memories of the investment the British made in Switzerland, which was what sowed the seeds of today’s huge Swiss tourism industry. It was the exact time Gandhi was an activist in British India. The Swiss have historically been pro-British, and Gandhi was anti-British!
In the 80’s, when Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi with Ben Kingsley was famous, teens , then studying in the western schools, would possibly know of Gandhi, but children born post Y2K are probably more familiar with the film Slumdog Millionaire (2007) than Gandhi (1982). How then, will teenagers in countries which didn’t appreciate an Indian, anti-British historically, know today, who Gandhi was? Gandhi has been the missing laureate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Does he feature in Swiss textbooks of 12–15 yr old students in the local Swiss schools? Perhaps not. Should he come up in classroom discussions, 150 years since his birth? Well, with teenagers around the world worried about their future marching across in youth movements, yes, very much. Gandhi’s life can be a great learning experience to the teens of today, across the world.
It might fascinate the teenagers worldwide to know, that what Greta Thunberg is trying to explain to the world today, was the very same set of sustainable principles Gandhi lived by, 100 years ago.
In the last seven decades, the global North has enjoyed relative peace. The last big war was the World War II. October 2 is Gandhi’s birthday and is celebrated all around the world as the International Day of Non-Violence. Today, when we talk of change in climate and lifestyles, we could look at his inspirational life on sustainable living and not just on non-violence.