STUDENTS' PROJECTS > GANDHI - A BIOGRAPHY FOR CHILDREN AND BEGINNERS > Foreword
Ravindra Varma is a learned scholar, who has been running the Institute of Gandhian Studies at Gopuri, Wardha for several years. He has been introducing the youth, especially the college students and postgraduates to the life and message of Gandhiji. I have had the privilege of addressing a number of such audiences at his Institute in Gopuri, and I have also heard him there and in other places talking about Gandhiji. His knowledge and study of Gandhian ideology is deep, and to the best of my knowledge he has been trying his level best to live according to the Gandhian ideology. This gives depth to whatever he says or writes.
He has written three books on Gandhiji or I might say that he has written one book which is divided into three parts. Part one gives a narrative of Gandhiji's life story describing a shy mediocre student at Rajkot, who goes to England and comes back as a Barrister.
Circumstances take him to South Africa. He goes as a young man to earn money, and to find name and fame, and also to see a new country. This first book describes Gandhiji's struggle to establish himself in which he makes outstanding success as a lawyer. As a seeker of truth, and full of love for the oppressed Indians and black population in the midst of racial prejudice, he has to fight and overcome many hurdles to preserve the self-respect of Indians and also to serve the blacks in every way he can. He also serves the whites during the Boer War.
His fight against colour prejudice starts from the day of his arrival in South Africa and continues throughout his stay in that country. Discovery of the mighty weapon of Satyagraha which can enable the downtrodden and the weak also to stand up for their own rights, is the first great achievement which makes the shy young man a great leader. He shows to the Indians the way of fighting prejudice by bringing about a change of heart among the oppressors through self-suffering. His experiments and his studies in non-violence lead him to establish his first Ashram at Phoenix.
He fought many battles against racism. His struggle was based on truth and non-violence, and he worked to bring about a change of heart among the oppressors who were the white rulers in South Africa.
He had gone to South Africa for one year, but he was there for almost 25 years, and at last left in 1914 after signing an agreement with General Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa, which ensured minimum justice for the Indians in that country.
The First World War started while he was nearing England where he had gone to meet Gopal Krishna Gokhale his political Guru, who in the meantime had gone to France. He returned to India early in 1915. In England he got Pleurisy. The cold climate did not suit him.Gandhiji landed at Bombay in mid January 1915 with Kasturba, and had a rousing reception. His reputation had reached India before him. He decided to go to Pune to meet Gopal Krishna Gokhale and from there he went to Shanti Niketan where his party had arrived in the meantime from South Africa. He introduced many healthy changes in self-help at Shanti Niketan.
Gokhale's death soon afterwards led to Gandhiji founding the Satyagraha Ashram at Ahmedabad from where he spread the message of Satyagraha and provided leadership for the struggle, first in Bihar for justice to Indian Indigo planters and then in Khera and Bardoli regarding land revenue, and finally for India's freedom struggle.
It was a new way of fighting for justice, and for one's rights in which the physically weak could have as much opportunity to show their valour as the physically and intellectually strong. High and low, rich and poor, men and women all joined him, and a new moral and spiritual awakening was seen in India which finally led to the end of foreign rule in India.
But unfortunately the British agreed to the partition of India before they quit India, which resulted in endless suffering to millions of people in India and Pakistan. If the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten had listened to Gandhiji's advice, and the British had left India to Indians, or God and Indians were allowed to settle the Hindu-Muslim question by themselves, History might have been quite different. Much suffering and bloodshed could have been avoided. But Mountbatten wanted to be the hero, who solved the Indian problem, and the result was the dead line of 15th August 1947. Partition of India became a reality, and the creation of Pakistan with mass migration led to bloody riots and terrible suffering for millions on both sides.
Gandhiji stood like a beacon light bringing peace and sanity wherever he went. Instances of his work in Calcutta, Noakhali and Bihar illustrated his ability to bring about change of heart among the fighting Hindus and Muslims through his own self-suffering, and establishment of peace between the two communities.
His effectiveness, and total dedication to peace and non-violence to bring about sanity and change of heart among the fighting Hindus and Muslims through his own self-suffering, was not acceptable to certain communal-minded Hindu sections, and as a result of that Gandhiji became the victim of the three bullets of Godse while on his way to prayers on 30th January 1948. With God's name on his lips he made a perfect exit and thus ended a perfect life.
The youth of India will greatly benefit by reading Ravindra Varma's book which is in three parts — Part-I gives the narrative of Gandhiji's life. Part-II consists of a series of anecdotes from Gandhiji's life. Part-Ill concentrates on his philosophy of life, the development of his concept of Satyagraha based on truth and non-violence as the law of life. The discovery of Satyagraha provided the remedy to the weak and strong alike to fight injustice and get back their legitimate rights from the oppressor without causing bitterness or enmity. Satyagraha he showed, leads to winning over the opponent so that he willingly gives up the path of injustice, and mutual differences are settled by change of heart.
Gandhiji's death of January 30th, 1948, shocked the whole world and sanity prevailed in India for quite some time. There were no reprisals or killings by Hindus or Muslims of one another as was feared. His martyrdom made India and Pakistan to turn the search light inward at that time.
Gandhiji's teachings, however, are still to become a part and parcel of India's way of thinking and solving the problems of communalism, poverty and unemployment. The downtrodden are still to get justice, and peace and prosperity have yet to reach all. We need opportunities for development for all and there has to be an end to the exploitation of the weak by the strong.
We have a long way to go to eradicate poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and exploitation. We can do so only by going back to Gandhiji's message of Satyagraha and sustainable development by using human hands and tools to supplement their strength.
May God give us the wisdom to choose the right path. Pursuit of power by itself is not going to end our problems. Pursuit of service of the weak by the strong and putting an end to corruption and exploitation of the weak by the strong with a firm hand alone can and will do so. Similarly we must avoid machines which make human hands mere cogs in the machine and take away all joy of creativity which is the reward of making things with one's own hands making use of tools where necessary. Gandhiji's favourite example was the Singer Sewing machine which takes away drudgery but not the joy of creativity.
A study of Gandhiji's message can show us the right path, and Ravindra Varma's three books can prove very helpful to the youth of India. I have narrated above the message of the 1st book. Book 3 concentrates on the implications and application of Gandhian technique and the ideology of Satyagraha, non-violence, non-cooperation and the importance of bringing about change of heart in the opponent through self-suffering.
Book 2 narrates several anecdotes that illustrate the way Bapu dealt with problems, which are very interesting.
I congratulate Ravindra Varma for the service he has rendered to the younger generation in India by writing these three books and hope they will be widely read and their message understood and accepted by our people.
June 19, 2000
Dr. Sushila Nayar