30 January, 2011

Their names liveth forever more


If you visit any of the memorials to those who fell in the First World War, you'll find five simple words on most of them - "Their names liveth forever more". A tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of their country.

Today is Martyr's Day in India, the day 63 years ago when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Its a day when the nation is supposed to honour those who laid down their lives for it. Its by and large a forgotten date - just look at today's newspaper to see if there's any mention of it at all. Well , passage of time dims memories. After all the last real war that India fought was in 1971 - well before most readers of this blog were born.

Last year I posted this on this day. Today a few words on the greatest of the nation's martyrs - Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi is largely a forgotten man in India today. A few platitudes and he is conveniently brushed aside as belonging to the ancient past. But we would do well to ponder on the legacy he left for all of us, if only we would, or could, grasp it.

Its not just that he led India's independence. Is not just that he waged war on the cursed caste system that inflicts Indian society. Its not just that he advocated the path of non violence. Its the primacy he placed on values in politics.

He unflailingly acted for what he believed was right. Both the means and the end had to be Right - Right with a capital R. Morals were supreme ; everything else was subordinate. If during any of his movements, there was any violence at all, he called it off. When India gained independence on the night of August 14th, he wasn't celebrating in Delhi - he was in Calcutta holding the peace between Hindus and Muslims single handedly in that city. He argued for handing over a proportion of India's wealth to Pakistan on partition - the stand that ultimately cost him his life.

Today's politics , world over, is a far cry from those of Gandhi. With the possible exception of Nelson Mandela, there isn't a single leader who comes close. Does it have to be so ??

Yes its about elections. Yes its about making money. Yes its about power. But after that what ? Most leaders crave for immortality. Their place in history. What better way to achieve that than to be of high character. Of being known to have done the right thing, no matter what. Of being truly a man of principles and values. And if you think you can't win elections that way, you are wrong. Either Gandhi or Mandela, in their days, would have won any election in any country hands down.

Back to Martyr's Day. Today is a day when we say a prayer for those who laid down their lives for the country. They are mostly forgotten, except by their loved ones. But its on their fallen shoulders that we stand today. May their names live forever more, in at least the collective conscience of the nation.

15 comments:

Striver said...

Good to see this, Ramesh.
I had forgotten about this day too till I read your post! Feel ashamed in fact. Its so true that we stand today on thier fallen shoulders. You have expressed it so well.
Gandhiji ko salaam!
I shall watch the movie again today if possible. Its been years since I watched it.

Hopfrog said...

I was floored by that photo.

Ghandi showed the world how to effectively and peacefully bring about change. Looking at what Ghandi was able to achieve and how he achieved it, one has to believe anything is possible. In the history of this world, Ghandi is in rare company and we would all be so much better off if people like Ghandi came along more frequently.

Vishal said...

After I read this post, I picked up the newspaper once more to see if there was anything mentioned related to significane of Today. Nothing, absolutely nothing. Alas, everything in today's world has become a subject of commercialisation. It is indeed the great legacy that he left for us. But to my surprise, no one cares. For all his principles, values and teachings, Gandhiji was unparallel then and is unparallel even now. Hats off to all those heroes on whose fallen shoulders we stand. Hats off to you too for reminding this to us!

Ramesh said...

@Striver - Nice idea to watch Gandhi again. Classic movie

@Vishal - Actually I think its an opportunity missed. You can commercialise anything. So how come they haven't done it to Martyr's Day. See flags, Gandhi caps, and the like !!

@Hopfrog - Gandhi comes from a bygone age and Is indeed unique. For that time and age to achieve independence of a huge nation without a war is an amazing achievement.

J said...

//it's on their fallen shoulders that we stand today// - how quickly we forget and take so many things for granted if we are lucky to live in a free society. As people across the world are rising up to claim their rights, it is a valuable reminder that it can be done peacefully and without compromising on values.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Well said, Ramesh. He was truly a Mahatma - a Great Soul. He was not a perfect man, but he constantly rose above himself and his own frailties to serve a larger cause, never seeking credit for himself. I noticed as well how no paper marked his passing, and there was no traditional "silence" at 11am like we used to have in school. We have become quite soul-less as a nation.

Viji said...

Fully echo the sentiments that you have so beautifully brought out, as only you can.
My dad actually asked me around noon this question - ' aren't we supposed to observe a 2 minute silence in the morning? My memory has become weak and hence I do not remember the time when we used to do this without fail in office". I was pretty ashamed that I could reply that this practice is no longer prevalent across all organisations.
Gandhi was a Mahatma - because he was a human being who had ample self belief and courage to execute what he felt was right. The best tribute that we can offer him is to possibly start doing things right - focus on the means rather than on the end alone.

Anonymous said...

hmmmm..ennoda blogaiyum padichi postukelam kament podra neengalaam thaan unmaiyaana blog martyrs...so ungalukum intha naala dedicate panikalam.

Ramesh said...

@J - Beyond one generation, its tough to carry on the memory of how tough it was to gain freedom. Memories dim, as we all know.

@Ravi - We have moved on as a nation. Gandhi has slipped into the distant past. Time is a great leveller.

@Viji - Yes, we have forgotten the tradition of the two minute silence at 11 AM. Only the British, who are a stickler for tradition still follow that.

@gils - Ha Ha. Its due to gems such as this, which only the inimitable gils can conjure, that we adore you as a blogger and a follower.

rads said...

OMG! dats a gr8 tribute...i'm mortified to say that i don't even remember this n thanks to bloggers like you for reminding us..n silent prayers, i only ever remember doing that in school...
btw ur R2I? cool!

Ramesh said...

@Rads - Living overseas its never easy to remember dates that are significant back in the home country. Yes R2I for about 6 months now.

Sandhya Sriram said...

I have been feeling guilty and hopelessly inefficient the whole of this week that i couldn't get to your sunday post. now i feel even more guilty that i missed 30th Jan. i realize, how much we depend on television and newspaper to remind us important dates. maybe, at some time, we will start setting reminders on the TV for birthdays of our own people.

But it is sad. it again goes to say that if a Gandhi can be forgotten, what is anyone going to get from following the path of truth. But is public recognition the primary motive here? i am not sure

think of all the small NGOs who in their small way try to make a difference to some lives(keeping those publicity ones aside). they dont hail to some huge accolade, infact people behave as though they are doing a favor on them by supporting their cause financially, they live and die like any of us.

But these people are also martyrs in their own way. every selfless purpose - whether it is a country independence or whether is making a few girl children in some far off village study is a purpose worth living. and beyond money and power and all the others, these are somd memories which are gonna give solace towards the end of ones time. the bigger the purpose, the better the satisfaction. isnt this satisfaction itself a motive to work for?

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Indeed, unheralded or not, every martyr is a person worthy of deep respect. While broadly, everybody who does service and good is to be admired, those who lay down their lives for their country deserve a very special reverence. But then, war is so evil and many die in vain.

RamMmm said...

High time the politicians leave Gandhi alone; paying just lip service is no homage to one who stood tall in his time; not sure if Gandhigiri would stir the same passion now as what it did then, though. The least we can do is not dishonour him. I went back and read your earlier post again and thanks! , for some of those moments of introspection that it triggers.

Ramesh said...

@RamMmm - There isn't a single politician even remotely capable of living up to Gandhi's principles. Best that he is forgotten !