Friday, 27 January 2017

Gandhi's choice of Dress

 27 January 2015 at 20:23 ·

Symbols matter. because the ripples go far and wide. Gandhi's travel only in 3rd class mattered, even if it cost a lot to send him in 3rd class. Generations after him, including mine, were impacted enough to chose simplicity and to reduce.
From a leader who chose a half dhoti as his attire in empathy with the hungry and unclothed of the land, to a leader who chose a Saville Row customied attire - India has come a long way. A very long way.

Arnab Kumar Ghosh How is that an indicative of regression ? If at all you meant it and I caught the nuance right. 

Shyamala Sanyal Because of the Mahatma I did not wear any gold till 1988 

Aparna Krishnan  " Ninety-three years back, on this day, September 22, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took the decision to shed his traditional attire and get into a ‘loincloth,’ which remained with him till death. ... 

The thought visited him in September 1921, during the Madras tour, ... the query, “If the labourers burn their foreign clothing, where are they to get khadi from?” stuck into his heart. “I felt there was truth in the argument. The plea for the poor overpowered me,” he wrote in Navajivan on October 2, 1921. ... It took a few more days and a few hundred kilometres of travel for the thought to translate into action. It did happen on September 22, 1921, at 251 A West Masi Street, during the second of his five visits to Madurai, on the upstairs room of the house of one of his followers. On that day, he was to travel towards Ramanathapuram and had asked to be picked up in the morning. When Congress functionaries arrived at the house, which now houses a khadi showroom, they found Gandhi in a new attire. Though he was to travel beyond Madurai to address the public, the Mahatma was forced to stop on Kamarajar Salai to accept the greetings of people. The place where he made his first public appearance in a loincloth is referred to as ‘Gandhi Pottal’ now.
" There were the poor who could not participate in wearing khadi nor in burning foreign cloth simply because they could not afford either. The abject misery of this latter section of the population put Gandhi in a dilemma. On the one hand, he preached the importance of khadi for puma swaraj, which, by its very meaning, included the emancipation of the poor as well. On the other hand, the khadirevolution as the means to obtaining swaraj was too expensive to include the poverty stricken. Yet, Gandhi felt they could not be left out of the freedom struggle. They had to participate, even if they were reduced to wearing loincloths!55 He found it difficult to communicate these thoughts because he did not want to demand obedience to a precept that he himself had not practised.

A few days later he wrote an article entitled, "My Loin-cloth"56 He admitted that the change of dress was the result of 'deep deliberation' and the mark of a 'momentous occasion' in his life which 'he could not help doing'.57 He also confessed that he had restrained himself from taking the plunge on two previous occasions;58 that the choice filled him with a legitimate apprehension of how such a public act by the leader of the Indian national movement would be received and interpreted by his contemporaries. 

As one reads through the text, one is able to glimpse the anguish of Gandhi's soul - a political leader at the head of a 300 million population yearning for maximum honesty to self and to the poorest of his people. "
 
Arnab Kumar Ghosh I completely agree with your take on his sacrifice and setting a direction towards inclusion. The brief furnished above was insightful, indeed.

But I have my strong reservations on making two different eras with two different kind of leaders ( both democratically acknowledged ) put to a zero sum game.

Gandhi had his contributions and is duly acknowledged by most of us who love the current dispensation as well. But to indexify Gandhi for all possible assessment on the leadership, including attire, doesn't score points.


Aparna Krishnan The devil is in the details. And they matter more than we may even know.

Aparna Krishnan (Gandhis letter to Churchill)
Dilkusha,
Panchagani,
17th July 1944
Dear Prime Minister,
You are reported to have the desire to crush the 'naked fakir', as you are said to have described me. I have been long trying to be a fakir and that, naked - a more difficult task. I therefore regard the expression as a compliment though unintended. I approach you then as such and ask you to trust and use me for the sake of your people and mine and through them those of the world.
Your sincere friend,
M. K. GANDHI


Aparna Krishnan Arnab, forget Gandhi if you wish. I am not interested in celebrating him - a person of his stature does not need me, and can speak through is deeds and writings. I am just using him here as a peg for my ideas. To identify with those we care most for is human nature. Our clothing also indicates that.

Arnab Kumar Ghosh If you expect Modi to draft a similar note to Nawaj Sharif, I rest my case, as realities have evolved into a different paradigm and both the language of aggression and the counter response in diplomacy have participated in the that process.

Second, I do agree with you that the 'naked-faakir' does imply sacrifice and does reflect a symbolic value. I adore it as far as Mahatma is concerned.

But to indexify it for an assessment of the leader in 2015 and being judgemental, is probably not in my list.

There are devils everywhere Aparna Di. Even in many of the philanthropic initiatives across the globe. The details are absolutely subject to what we want to find details in and how much detail defines detail.

I have high regards for everyone who serve the society. I do myself as much as I can. It's just that I have learnt to prioritise the way life wanted me to prioritise. How does it make me superior or inferior to the one who chose welfare and the one who chose corporatisation ?


Aparna Krishnan Arnab, some truths are eternal - and definitely stay valid across 50 years. Whether we face them, and accept that we are not able to live upto them , or reject them to exenorate ourselves is the choice. "There is enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed" demands that we reduce as far as courage and strength allow us to. 

Aparna Krishnan To me there is an obscenity (forgive the strongness of the term) in the leader of a pathetically poor country (many villages are reeling under drought today, and struggling for drinking water), wearing a Saville Row suit costing some unmentionable sum. To me many things are black and white - and all of us are shades of grey.

Arnab Kumar Ghosh I do agree unless it turns out to be purely a self inflicted regression.

I support your choice and the vigour with which you retain it and deliver. It's just that the same stance shouldn't end up making you judgemental and intolerant with another person.


Vidyasankar Sundaresan India had already come a long way before December 1947 rolled in. Chachaji had very specific clothes made for himself, in rich fabrics, by an exclusive tailor who had trained in London. That is usually spoken of admiringly, as an indication of taste. But the betrayal of Gandhian ideals had already gone well apace even back then. Why expect anything different now?

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