Enjoy the Paintings, Gujarat, Letters to self, Pakistan
Comments 30

Learning from Mahatma, knowing Gandhi

There were many things i never liked about my school. And the foremost was that it unintentionally took my freedom away or so i think. I was never introduced to any ancient Indian texts, neither I learnt anything about Yoga or even Sanskrit till i was 13. A child like me who only wanted to see and know of the world was made to sit and learn answers to the question for examinations after every three months more like a parrot. So much so my unlearning started before i could wake up my interest for higher learning. And soon it started effecting my results in higher classes or that is what i think of it now probably because i couldn’t pursue anything apart from five subjects at school.


I feel liberated at the thought that I am not in school. And more so there is no more need to answer questions about Gandhi’s contribution to India’s freedom struggle.

Mahatma with Tagore


School history curriculum was also one reason i did not take Modern History of India as my thesis while studying for my Masters in History. I am glad I am not preparing for the Civil Services Exam and writing essays on the differences between Gandhi’s and Nehru’s outlooks. I am so glad that period of my life is not ongoing and that tryst with the persisting education system is over.

It took me years of distance from school to realise the many wrong political decisions that were taken on account of Gandhi. As i answered a friend’s query over phone on my thoughts on Gandhi, on his 151st birthday on 2nd October, i actually started with thanking him within me. Also because i consider Gandhi’s “My Experiments with Truth” to be the first ever book i remember reading consciously, that changed something in me, that even kept calling me back once a year in my adult life for over a few years. It helped me embrace some habits that i still carry. But a lot later again when my political or worldly mind started developing, i realised the importance, more so the magnaminity of events that went on with us as a colony. We as a nation had already started looking up to Gandhi a lot before he became Mahatma. He was so called an educated Indian out of the illiterates, in our coloniser’s eye. He was a lawyer, someone who could carry or represent the India that can become to the India ruled by the British. But so much so his decisions- The Khilafat movement, the Direct Action Day, his controversial role in Bhagat Singh’s hanging, the sidelining of Netaji, the Partition of India — all these debilitating, damaging events in the life of India made me realise the culpability of Gandhi. Even in his personal life, it wrings my heart to think of the women whose lives were possibly destroyed by the man’s “experiments’ with celibacy”.

But there is one thing that Gandhi understood and said which completely lines up with what I have learned about India in the past two and little more than half decades of my efforts to decolonize myself — that India lives in its villages. In my travels crisscrossing the states of India on my bike, hitch hiking, or even long walking journeys, soaking in its uniqueness, I often remembered his words from My experiments with Truth, that the warmth and kindness of villagers and people living in small towns, the faith in Bhagwan, the adherence to meaningful traditions long-discarded in urban India; all these would make me understand that indeed, “India’s soul lived in her villages”.

Of course, Gandhi was not the first to observe that the Atman, the soul of India was in its villages or that they need to be preserved for the sake of humanity. The Rishis and Gurus of India have not only known it but have done much to preserve those ethos. The Ashrams they established and the discourses they gave kept the oldest civilisation rooted for a long time. And yet, in a broken India left behind by the British, it is from Gandhi that I learned about the Charkha, Khadi, the cottage industries and the importance of rural livelihoods. At a time when development, industrialization and modernization were all that India wanted, someone who spoke up for Indian villages — for that, I will acknowledge Gandhi.

Kutch, Gujarat
Ancient tribe of Toba, unknown
Bruce Bridge, Lucknow, 1889
A bull cart crossing river Beas 1906
Everyone ready to leave, 1947
after division of India, 1947

Yet another statement of Gandhi that hit me between the eyeballs is that the British left India more illiterate than it was 50–100 years before. Like many Indians in modern India, I thought that the British, despite all the evil they wrought with their oppressive rule had at least established modern schools in India, which raised many people out of illiteracy. I myself studied in a Christian missionary school and was taught to think that the poor in India had to be uplifted not just from poverty but from the ignorance of Dharma.

Delhi Durbar and Cavalry, 1911

Reading the statement of Gandhi on British-fuelled illiteracy in Dharampal’s “The Beautiful Tree” burst my bubble and forced me to explore the extent of damage caused by English-medium schools in India. It made me cry at the impoverishment of villages caused by oppressive taxation, the destruction of the ecosystem of learning, the disconnect with Indian languages that had once been rich in literature and sciences, the descent into unawareness and the degradation into confused Indians who do not speak or write well in their own languages. The rootless Indians who loathe their own civilisation and discard its myriad gifts, who do not know how to use their own indigenous worldview are but a product of the schooling that started from colonial times.

Leaders are often imperfect, even fatally flawed. I am glad we are learning to stop idolizing them. But sometimes, a grain of truth emerges from the people we barely agree with.

This entry was posted in: Enjoy the Paintings, Gujarat, Letters to self, Pakistan

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Hi, I am Narayan Kaudinya. And i welcome you on this journey, the Road to Nara ! I am an Ethnographer and a practicing Indologist. I did my masters in History and further learnt Sanskrit, Yoga and Nerve-therapy. At 24, pushing most academic sounding, office sitting works away, i felt compelled to know and understand the world and my country, Bharat/India. I travelled, and as it happened i took up teaching in Kashmir and further up in the remote villages of Baltistan in the foothills of Karakoram Ranges. For around three years and many states later there came a time when i felt that it was only while teaching i learnt how to laugh, to see, feel, breathe, love and cry -with children, and mostly resource-less parents in the harshest-freezing border conditions. I write, and work as a documentary photographer and Filmmaker, with numerous published, exhibited and some awarded stories. In my travels and life i have let nature lead me, the divine mother, and as a Yogin, my resolve here is to share my experiences and thoughts as honestly, and through them to blossom in everyone the power and possibility in pursuing your breath, that you seek your true nature with courage and curiosity. Here, on this road i will share my spirit, my love for nature, the elements of life that are us. And in doing so, i'll be happy to see you along.

30 Comments

  1. So very well written Narayan, also such outstanding images. Thankyou for sharing, i hope you and yours are safe and well. Peace and love from Oz.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dear Narayan, I am almost weeping reading this essay, THE VERY BEST YOU HAVE EVER WRITTEN. As I am originally from the country subjugated by Russians and Germans for 200 years and with my ancestors fighting and dying in uprisings, I have absolute empathy with every word of your simply magnificent essay. It should be read in every school in India . Gandhi’s portrait was on our living room wall throut my live in Poland. The works of Rabindranath Tagore were on my desk and came to England with me. I am writing this to give you confidence that your aim to write about India, the special one, is in safe hands with me.
    Thank you,
    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joanna, i never knew about that part of your country of origin. i was happy and almost taken aback while reading about Rabindra da’s work being their with you on your desk in London.
      I am happy that this essay reached in ways that you could understand and see an aspect of a man who is an outstanding figure in world history in his own right. I am happy that you did, relate to it really.
      Also because it is only now that i can feel about expressing them how it has been going inside me and it should/will come out when time is right.
      Thanks for your motivating, uplifting words Joanna. It was beautiful to read you.

      Like

  3. Sometimes a grain of truth emerges from those we barely agree with. That right there speaks of one who is not merely a scholar.

    You have taught me more than I would read up in enough time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for not just glorifying Gandhi. Our school books really made him out to be a saint whereas he was only human with some glaring flaws. While he did do some great things for our country he also did things that our country is still reeling from including pushing the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to the helm of politics, agreeing for partition and others. 🙈

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dearest Happy Panda, i hope i will know your name, i tried finding but couldn’t figure it out somehow.
      Anyways lovely to read your views, its been so long that this rhetoric of nehru’s and gandhi’s, more that taking anything forward, has only become a muddy puddle and it has started stinking. It is not cool really for such a diverse nation with so many differing voices, opinions, Gandhi is not a sole spirit to unite under, i won’t even dare say against, but must go beyond it, it is more than time and right now it is changing rapidly.
      Thanks for writing and having your words.

      Narayan

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    • Lovely to have you and your words here Rachel. Its time to slice fraught topics with simplicity, cautiously though. Time is changing everything so fast, and some things need to be acknowledge and move on from, at least in our minds. Thank you.

      Narayan

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Narayan I enjoyed your great post along with those historical images. When I was young everything I learned about Gandhi was that he was a glorified man, that’s how we adored Gandhi in Europe, later on I realized some of his flaws. Yet he has built bridges for understanding his theories of freedom. Thank you for sharing such an important post. Have a great and inspiring week.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cornelia, yes he was and probably is as much adorned still. A lot of it he deserved, but here in India, i can’t tell you for many a people i cant even imaginably count, the after taste of all that happened is so bitter that it slowly starts overpowering what he fought for. Partition and continuing fights eversince that damn day Cornelia, i cant tell you, how many people died then and are dying each day at the border of Indo-Pakistan, its just unbelievable to even think that we once represented same ethos, culture and only divided by politics of religion. Boils me sometimes.
      But let appreciate your words and your presence Cornelia, Thank you much.

      Like

  6. This article hit home some complex points we have learning and unlearning. Once again, I have to greatly appreciate your writing skills. I wish that you come up with a book someday.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Prithvi, thanks. Yes i feel you understand what came out there from me and where i was pointing it towards.
      And well, let see friend, its all his grace and timing, for the Book is Tapasya 🙂 Love
      Narayan

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  7. In the last walk before his death, the talk with the girl who pointed to him the time as he was taking his final meal before going to prayer meeting in the Birla House and chatting with Patel regarding his dispute with Nehru: it didn’t seem at all that Abha was under any pressure. They were indeed subject to a pressure regarding tantric experiments and Gandhi lost clout due to experiments. Geoffrey Ashe expresses it clearly in his most balanced biography: Gandhi: A Study in Revolution. Memoirs regarding his experiments were suppressed. But my personal experience suggests: the tantric net is woven by Shaktas and Gandhi professed to be a Vaishnava advocate of peace as far as his spiritual Outlook is concerned. I feel one of the biggest myths is : patriarchy. It’s the women who have been controlling the Aryan temples since the beginning of the times. I have no doubt whatsoever that Gandhi didn’t exploit anyone. At most he made a fool of himself in the name of experiments with celibacy which might have amounted to watching a few good quality movies, which were obviously not available to general public in those days. He had only read some 256 books and yet ended up on being every currency note as the heir apparent of goddess of opulence: is something which speaks about his merits. Federalism changes shape and so do Aryan temples. I have had enough of discussion about him exploiting lives in celibacy experiments. The tone of those girls indicated that they served willingly: perhaps they had no other business or they were infatuated. Malnutritioned maybe. Gender benders is the name of the game in this business.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Could be true that you reached closer to his nature dear writer. There is no doubt he earned those books, movies, people and enough time to read, see, learn and probably experiment, just dont don’t if one can or should use a word like experiment with celibacy. Either you go for it or you know it before hand, personally you can’t go in staying in the middle of the two.

      On the outset how things seem are much complex anyways : Kashmir, body, mind, actions taken and the organs inside. how i have felt about these vedic or tantric traditions that they are not entirely of your choosing, but you get chosen to take it forward differing in intensity and offering.

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      • I understand that. Yet: Patanjali and Buddha have popularly claimed to have laid foundation of ‘scientific’ schools of thought. If you can’t experiment and learn for yourself : they’re rigid disciplines imposed from outside. Hence his attitude of experiments or so I understand.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is true. And as much for Mahrishi Patanjali, i cannot even dive in his depth as almost no one knows if this was the same person who explored and paved the way in some unrealistically differing dimensions of Yoga and Ayurveda; was he the same person ! Yet For Buddha, I have tried to observe his journey somehow of a Rajkumar, well above a vulnerable age, Yet i am certain it was easy for him to not follow the hard and rigid Vedic rituals out of Rajasic accumulation, like he was moved seeing the raw nature outside, he couldn’t have thought of evoking agni, the spirit rather wanted to know the why and not how.

          Hi, let me just welcome you and words here first. My regards for this wonderful conversation.

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          • Thanks. The point was about a school which welcomed inquiry and experiments. Both of them didn’t consider any authority above reason and inquiry. One’s own experience if it can stand test of time and transcend it. Gandhi was influenced by Mahaveera, Buddha, Tolstoy and Ruskin’s Unto This Last. Every one of them unique. To question why something worked for someone is not same as to ask what works for you. There were many people from common populace who gained adept status without following the rigid disciplines which had celibacy as one of the strict impositions. Celibacy at best is a device to churn a machine which runs the life. A flawed body which was created as a curse to carry mistrust and doubt when exile from the Garden of innocence happened. To put pleasure in the activity which drains your life force and to prohibit it and then to bring all the suggestions and pressures : subconscious and conscious is a sureshot way to make you ever remain entangled. A devil’s workshop: Aryan, Egyptian or Sumerian. Doesn’t matter.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Narayan, Thank you for sharing this well-written post. The historical photos are wonderful! All we ever hear about Gandhi are the positives, so your post is enlightening. The last visual and quote about the British willfully destroying Indian culture in order to subjugate the country is appalling. I have usually seen the British portrayed in such a benign light as bringing knowledge and modernity. The saying that history is lies agreed upon comes to mind.

    Hope all is well with you! 🙂 Cheryl

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    • Morning Cheryl, i am happy that this essay spoke to you and happier it broke, rather enlightened some historical doings which does not come to light as often as it should have in history(even for us Indian it goes, we are as ignorant and it will only go worse from here, like who cares now 🙂 )

      Every country rather every individual finds their ideal narration to propagate or probably to feel better about one selves. Britishers going after Indian culture is only a start of a lengthy essay, how and what went into it is probably what we are living through now. Fighting almost divided. Confued between Identity and culture. And as you can see i am not much of a fan of their constructed history.

      ❤️
      Narayan

      Like

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