Just got back after seeing a play organised by Vikram Sarabhai Foundation titled “Dear Bapu”. The play was an exchange of letters between Gandhi and Nehru, during their 20 years of association in India’s Freedom movement.

I’ve disliked Gandhi, as I belong to the rather radical school of thought that we had the partition because of him, Pakistan was able to attack India in 1948 and lead to the Kashmir problem because of the Rs.20 Crore that he insisted we give to Pakistan, and a whole lot of similar issues such as the support for Khilafat movement, etc. I had somewhat read (as a kid) Nathu Ram Godse’s book of his testimony in court during his trial for assasinating Gandhi, and just like most kids have had this fascination for revolutionaries (I was brought up on Bruce Lee :-) ).

hmmm… strange… I was writing this to praise Gandhi, but while writing some of the political blunders mentioned above, I became “present” once again, to crazy things that Gandhi did.

Anyhow. The play has left a nothing less than “profound” impact on my thinking, and what I have always thought of this man called Gandhi.

The more I  carefully heard the actors act out the conversations between Nehru and Gandhi, the more it dawned on me, that this man, was born a century earlier; very difficult to be comprehend in times of capitalistic fervour, where “money is power”, and development and progressiveness of a civilisation/society is measured by the size of cars and the height of multistoreyed buildings.

At Centre for Science of Environment, New Delhi, I had read something which I will never forget in my lifetime – “Frugality is Indian tradition. Modernity sees Frugality as Poverty”.

Gandhi lived this! He wanted the whole of India to live frugally – just on the basic material needs, required for minimalistic survival.

The issue of India living as slaves was raised by Nehru (and also by most of my family during a discussion on the play over dinner), if we lived in technological backwardness. However, the key here was that Gandhi wanted India to lead and set an example for the world, that it is possible to live frugally, and live well; and indeed it is the only way to “live progressively”.

India getting invaded was not on his mind, I guess, as he had just played a HUGE role in throwing out one of the most powerful empire from his land.

I am certain that India had no choice but to move in the direction of technological progress, but we forgot the small basic cultural and socio-economic values of our villages. We forgot that in the zeal to build Dams, IITs and Industries, we must even more focus on Spiritual values, Water harvesting through village ponds, primary education through village schools, and focus on local resources (forests, land and water).

India is in a mess, because we did no listen to Gandhi. He said he could not imagine that Mussalmans were not an integral part of India and were a separate nation; he disagreed with the word Independence and wanted to replace that with Poorna Swaraj which had a much deeper connotation to him, than the term’s English equivalent.

I read in Life Positive magazine recently that there are communities getting formed the world over, which are heralding the coming of the “new age”.

It says “Their lifestyles usually include more than one of the following elements: intentional community, living by what one loves, ecological lifestyles, living simply, natural health and living, organic of natural farming, healing the earth, right livelihood, a personal spiritual practice, self organisation, alternative and local economic and social-support systems, multi-culture and diversity groups which cut across boundaries of belief, faith religion, nationality and race…..What is common to all of them is a dissillusionment with modern society with its materialistic, fragmentary and conflict-ridden systems, its artifice and exploitation of nature. They are also bound by a search for a more holistic and simpler way of life that is ecologically sound, meaningful and spiritually resonant.”

Gandhi, it seems, was looking to create such a Commune in our world.

Gandhi believed, and wrote to Nehru, that he was acting as puppet of the Divine, and acted as he recieved instructions/inspiration. While Nehru was completely at a loss to understand why he would bring up references to God, during his advise to the Congress on resolutions, etc., I completely resonate with Gandhi on this one.

We’ve kept Spirituality out of Politics for far too long for our own good. Why only politics, we’ve kept it out of our medicine, our childbirth practices, our social fabric, agriculture, business and industry, education and food.

Nutan Pandit’s childbirth classes recently, were a revelation and a relief as she was reaching out with the same, shall I call it “Gandhian values” (or Spiritual values or even, traditional Indian values).

Fritjof Capra in his book “Uncommon Wisdom” talks about his discussion with one of leading researchers on Cancer – Dr. Simonton – learns how a person facing a stressful life situation or a crisis, responds  with several options, and among other things, develops Cancer or catatonic schizophrenia (but not both). Dr. Simonton then adds that apart from these two unhealthy ways to “escape” from a crisis, can also have a third kind of escape route – the one into social pathologies – violent and reckless behaviour, crime, drug abuse. He goes on to say, “If there is reduction in illness but at the same time it is an offset by an increasing crime rate, we haven’t done anything to improve the health of society”.

The discusssion continues – “…If the escape into physical illness is blocked by medical intervention, the person might choose to escape into crime or into insanity”. “That’s right”, Simonton concluded, “and that is a much mor meaningful way of looking at health than from the narrow medical point of view. The question of whether medicine then has been successful becomes very interesting….If you are able to reduce physical illness but at the same time this increases mental illness or crime, what the hell have you done?”.

Dr. R. D. Laing, one of the leading Psychiatrists the world has seen, during a disucssion on insanity, said to him, “..insanity is a sane response to an insane society.”

Homoeopathy treats the person’s mind, and belongs to the holistic system of medicine, where a change is brought about in the thought process of a person. You could consider is “energy-medicine”, and I would not shy away from equating the same with Ayurveda on the one hand, and with Pranic healing and Reiki on the other, while also not forgetting to equate it to Psychotherapy (in its non-Freudian form).

Gandhi wanted to create an “alternate world”, and I guess his errors in judgement on Pakistan and his “supposed” minority appeasement must be seen with his idealistic world view. I say “supposed”, as in his alternate idealistic world view, there should have been equality and no mistreatment for any community, including within Hinduism. Even the criticism attributed to him of giving separate status to backward classes, and thus further dissociating them from the society, by calling them “harijan”, I suggest must be seen from his alternate world view.

The play was a revelation! This is the first time I have been able to articulate and bring together and put in a logical manner, my conversations with people and books, over the years. I hope this is just the beginning.

God bless Dr. Kamala Choudhury, a Gandhian, who concieved this play, and made it possible.