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.
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.
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. "
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.
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
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. 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 ?
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.