Today is the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who is also known in India as “the father of the nation.” Ever since I watched the film Gandhi at a young age, I have always looked up to him as a role model. In particular, his practice of non-violence and speaking the truth resonated with me to such an extent that I tried to emulate them. And believe me, as an angry and violent child, that was no mean feat.
Anyway, the hero worship continued until last year, when I learned that my idol, this man who was revered all over the world as Gandhi, was responsible for perpetuating honor killing, victim blaming, and slut shaming. Click To Tweet
I know, I KNOW. It sounds unbelievable, right? How could this simple and peace-loving Mahatma (which literally means great soul) be someone who practiced and helped spread misogyny? But this Guardian article, among others, all talk about his sexist ways and patriarchal mindset. Yes, I did go through a lot of articles because I really didn’t want to believe these words; maybe if I found one that proved his innocence, I could go back to life as usual.
Unfortunately, there was no such article, and I was left with the burning question: should I respect Gandhi or not?
There was no easy answer. I had looked up to him for so long that it felt wrong to feel anything else but respect. But being a feminist, how could I ignore the fact that he “held India back when it came to women’s rights”?
When I had expressed my views on #MeToo and separating the art from the artist, I had made it clear that it cannot be done. I still hold that opinion and think that it applies to all professions, including that of a freedom fighter. So now that I know about the other side of the Mahatma, I no longer consider him my role model. However, that does not mean that I do not respect him for all that he did for my country, because I do.
I am able to appreciate the gray side of people because I have learned that black and white thinking is impractical in the real world. Why, apart from Gandhi, there are many famous, celebrated people whose vices and dark sides are public knowledge. A few names that come to mind are Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and Bill Clinton.
The bottom line is: people come in shades of gray (you hear that, Borderlines?) and the bad they do doesn’t cancel out the good.
And on that note, Happy Gandhi Jayanti everybody :)
What are your views on MK Gandhi? Did The Guardian piece have an impact on them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.