Refracting through the lenses of the Mahatma | Milaap

Refracting through the lenses of the Mahatma

People visiting Ahmedabad seldom miss out on visiting the iconic Sabarmati Ashram. It is indeed a monumental treasure of India which reflects the Mahatma’s way of living which has close relevance and importance to the life that we live today. Moving to Gandhinagar this was one of the first places I visited to experience the feel of the place which once housed the father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who is also fondly addressed as ‘Bapu’.
Sabarmati Ashram which is also referred to as Satyagraha Ashram housed Mahatma Gandhi from 17 June 2017 until the 1930’s when he had undertaken the famous ‘Dandi March’ on 12 March 1930 to break the ‘salt law’ imposed by the British. It is a well-known fact that this incident went on to become a watershed moment in the history of India’s struggle for independence.

I strongly believe that being aware of history is very important as it instills in us a sense to refrain from repeating the blunders committed by our forefathers and absorb the good values they vouched and advocated for, which in turn enables us to shape a more peaceful and harmonious world.

 Like any other new visitor to Ahmedabad, I was curious to visit Sabarmati Ashram and experience the feel of its heritage and historical significance. As I toured the ashram my attention was closely drawn towards the routine activities which formed the core of the living at Sabarmati Ashram (also referred to as ‘Harijan Ashram’). What attracted me towards these aspects is the great relevance and importance it has to the modern India that we live in but has been slowly eroding with time. Gandhiji had settled down in this ashram to adopt the way of life of a ‘Satyagrahi’ (follower of truth), it is even a well-known fact that he had particularly moved to this ashram to carry out various activities like farming, animal husbandry, weaving and cleaning, which he considered to be the core in building the values of every nation. These morals and values preached by Gandhi are preserved and practiced to this day by the inhabitants and volunteers of the Ashram. I realized that Mahatma Gandhi was so ahead of time that he had the ability to anticipate the depletion of these activities and therefore he decided to set an example to the whole world by indulging himself in carrying out them so that he could highlight to the world about the significance these activities constitute and to stress upon the responsibility of every global citizen to preserve it.

 During the days of the Mahatma, the primary occupants of this ashram were women, which signifies the importance stressed by the father of our nation on women’s role in building a better society and a prosperous nation and to this day it is women who form the core of the people who serve to preserve and spread the message of the Ashram to the whole world.

 As I was walking through the museum I came across one of the famous quotes of Mahatma Gandhi, “The soul of India lives in its villages”. I realized the gravity of this quote as even today 50% of India’s population is dependent on agricultural activities to earn the bread and butter of the house. I realize this well because undertaking field visits to meet borrowers is a part of my job and most of the inhabitants I have met or seen in rural India is engaged in one or the other type of agricultural activity to earn a living.

Through the large collection of letters and other materials handwritten and displayed at the Sabarmati Ashram’s museum, it was evident that to Gandhiji freedom was not just freedom from the British colonial rule but freedom from hate, crime, discrimination, and poverty which had plagued colonial India. Ironically many are still victims of such evils in the society even after seven decades of independence.

Strolling through the pleasant gardens of Sabarmati Ashram, I had the privilege of meeting Patel who was engrossed in making a portrait of a man sitting in front of him. He was timid and hardly spoke a word, but the sketches which he drew spoke a million words. People like Patel keep reaffirming me that it is never a bad idea at all to follow your deepest of passions and interests as this is what guides anybody to the path of the utmost source of happiness. As I watched Patel gracefully wielding his sketch, it reminded me of the abundance of talent and skill that India possessed in its people.

I eventually reached the banks of the vibrant Sabarmati River. It was ever graceful as it has always been and to the pleasure of the viewers eyes it was clean and well maintained which made me realize that the rivers in Indian cities and elsewhere could be kept clean and tidy like the Sabarmati river, and this was definitely possible if we just didn’t preach for protecting our rivers and vouch for a cleaner India every year on the 2nd of October (Gandhi Jayanti), but implement and practice it consistently throughout the year and announce the outcomes and progress we have made on every Gandhi Jayanti to come. This could probably be one of the best ways to honor the words of Mahatma Gandhi.

Completing my tour at Sabarmati Ashram, I witnessed students sitting and studying or working on their laptops, children playing in the open, and some children making handicrafts from organic material. Each and every one of them had a sense of determination and sparkle in their eyes and desperation to make it big in their lives. I thought to myself that there is hope in the fact that these young and energetic Mahatmas would go on to shoulder the responsibility of being the messengers of peace and prosperity. These are the faces of India tomorrow which instills the belief that they would go on to preach and practice the way of the Mahatma not only on the 2nd of October every year, but day in and day out pushing India to greater heights and prosperity, just the way our beloved father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi had dreamed off.