Mahatma Gandhi & William Shirer
Gandiji is coming back to Indian conversation in many ways; it was through Gandhi the movie in 1982, ‘Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara’ in 2005, ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ in 2006, then it was through Gandhi My father that hit the screens some months ago. As the father of our nation, he will remain in our hearts and minds, no doubt about that.
Many years ago a team of HR managers from a famed car company came to our office to determine opinion & feelings of expatriate managers in a third country. We talked about this and that till one of them asked me ‘Tell me what you think was Gandhi’s greatest asset’. I was actually taken aback, and floundered for a few minutes before getting into things like humility, dedication, perseverance, concept of Satyagraha and so on. The questioner, an Italian, said at the end, I don’t think so; I think he was the greatest mass communicator, ever. This happened in 1996 and I guess he was right.
Remember the brilliant ‘Telecom Italia’ Gandhi ad, below from 2006?
And I wondered, did it require an Italian to teach me this attribute of Gandhi? Today he is exemplified in MBA & communications courses. We all revered him, but many of the masses never understood much of what he said when he traveled in
All this took me back to a book I read about Gandhiji. Though ‘My experiments with truth’ sounded sermonizing to me when I read it during my teens, the book I read much later was a classic. It was in 1980, that
The layman would equate Shirer to the tall Gora (played by Martin Sheen) who accompanied Kingsley Gandhi in the 1982 movie. In reality Shirer spent only a few years of his life with Gandhiji (1930-32) and he said in the book "I count the days with Gandhi the most fruitful of my life. No other experience was as inspiring and as meaningful and as lasting. No other shook me out of the rut of banal existence and opened my ordinary mind and spirit to some conception of the meaning of life on this perplexing Earth."
Shirer went on to say - William L. Shirer, a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, observed both Hitler and Gandhi. In Hitler he saw a great orator using staged settings to move captive audiences to his will. Gandhi on the other hand was somehow “the manifestation of their [Indians] collective conscience.” He often led them without speaking, using only his fellowship. He explained, “They felt in the presence of this great man that something immense was suddenly happening in their drab lives, that this saintly man in his loincloth cared about them, understood their wretched plight and somehow had the power, to do something about it.” Gandhi—A Memoir, Shirer pp. 68-69
Shirer explained that Gandhi understood two-way communication as part of effective representation and demonstrated it in an interview with a college teacher, who said: “For these masses Gandhi holds out the only light, the only hope there is. They want to see the man who, they are told, goes around half naked like themselves and yet who dares to present their grievances to the mighty, bemedaled white Viceroy himself.” Gandhi—A Memoir, Shirer pp. 70-71.
For those interested, even though the book is out of print, Amazon still has some second hand copies at $1.00 plus shipping. It is a good read, pick it up…
Vaikom Satyagraha, for the right of the untouchable Hindus to use the roads round the temple at Vaikom tested his principles of Satyagraha together with Sree Narayana Guru (Here was where Vaikom Mohd Basheer the famous writer & Gandhian mentions having received his blessings & managed to touch Gandhiji’s hand) .
Gandhi’s intervention on March 10th 1925 secured the victory. He later visited Payyanur on 12th Jan 1934.
Many years ago, while I used to visit N Delhi on business, I used to stay at Hotel Marina in Connaught place, just across the famous
I hope the younger generations will continue to remember this leading light….