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Remarks by Sandeep Chakravorty, CGI, New York on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti Celebrations

Consulate General of India

New York 

Remarks by Sandeep Chakravorty, Consul General of India on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti Celebrations at Union Square Park, New York & Shanti Fund, Hauppauge, Suffolk County, Long Island.

Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in Today’s World

Today, we all have gathered here to mark the 148th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. I, thank the organizers Shanti Fund for this enduring initiative. On October 2, 2007, the United Nations declared October 2nd, as the international day of non-violence. Since then the commemoration of this date has assumed greater significance, particularly as the world today faces many challenges to peace and there is greater propensity towards resorting to violence for resolving conflicts. Mahatma Gandhi does not belong to an era, or an age instead he belongs to humanity for eternity. There is timelessness about his life and work. Even after so many years, his principles continue to inspire millions and guide us. The reason why he stands out is basically two-fold. Firstly, his principles are simple to comprehend and practice. Throughout his life he strove to discover new ways to simplify living. By the time he died Gandhiji had very few worldly possessions. But what a legacy he left behind! His motto was, live simply so that others can simply live. He professed a life without ostentation.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly he practiced what he preached. Studying his life clearly brings to us the meaning of ‘walk the talk’. He led by doing as he believed in the harmony of thought, word and deed. I am reminded of an interesting anecdote. A person approached Gandhiji and told him that the doctor had advised him not to eat sweets, but he loved sweets so he sought his advice on what he should do. Gandhiji told him to come the next week. After a week when the man returned Gandhiji told him that the doctor was right and he should give up eating sweets. The man said that he would accept Gandhiji’s advice but expressed surprise that he was not told the same thing a week before. Gandhiji replied that he could not have asked him give up sweets without doing it himself first as he himself was so fond of sweets. So, for a week Gandhiji gave up sweets and saw that it was possible to live without eating sweets and therefore he had the moral authority to give this advice.

Gandhiji was an outstanding leader. He led India in the negotiations with the British for India’s independence. The people of India gave him the leadership role not because he belonged to the royalty or he was monied. It was due to his moral authority which he obtained by years of disciplined work amongst the Indian masses. The beauty of Gandhian philosophy, of trying to read, understand and follow it, is its inherent logic and natural instinct. As Mahatma Gandhi himself said, I have nothing new to teach the world, truth and nonviolence are as old as hills. Speaking the truth comes naturally to all of us. As the lie detector tests reveal, speaking a lie produces within us adverse chemical and neurological reactions which can easily be detected. And so is non violence. Our bodies are built to be peaceful, calm and truthful. Years of evolution have made us yearn for peace. Any dissonance or disharmony makes us uncomfortable. We all want to be at peace within us and with each other. When we speak the falsehood, or resort to deceit and lies, we are not comfortable with ourselves and not at peace with ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi recognized this natural state of being of humans and used it as political tools in the form of civil disobedience, satyagraha and non- cooperation against the oppressive British rulers. He inspires even today because his life still shows the most beautiful picture of love, peace, honesty and truth. When many of us have to take daily decisions of truth versus falsehood or peace versus violence, we instinctively refer to Gandhian methods and use them as guiding parameters or principles.

Another wonderful aspect of Gandhian thought is its universal application, be it for empowerment of women or preservation of the environment, education or family. Today as the world faces the challenge of environmental degradation, remembering his teachings can provide us a way ahead. As he famously said, there is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not enough for anyone’s greed.  This is a profound statement which can be a guide us to prevent waste and conserve our environment. He was also the champion of self-empowerment and summarized beautifully in his words: “be the change that we wish to see in the world”. He basically called upon all of us to assume the responsibility of building a better and fairer world.

The events of last night at Las Vegas only drive home the point that Gandhiji lived and worked so hard to make. Our hearts go out to all the families affected by this horrific incident. It has become imperative now more than ever that we revisit his teachings and apply them to our lives. Truth and non-violence have to be the rule by which we live our daily lives, not the exception. I thank you all for your attention.