Sunday, December 12, 2021

Premise: The Big Picture by Anjum Hasan reviewed by Salini Vineeth

The Big Picture by Anjum Hasan

Reviewed by Salini Vineeth


Anjum Hasan’s short story, Big Picture, is about Mrs. Ali and an eventful journey that changes her life. The protagonist, Mrs. Ali, is a middle-aged widow who lives a lonely life. It’s clear that Mrs. Ali has spent a significant portion of her adult life playing the roles of a wife and a mother. Maybe she was so involved in these roles that she cannot imagine an alternate existence. With her husband and children no longer around, Mrs. Ali lives in limbo. She gets through days, terrified to explore the possibilities of her newfound freedom. 


Mrs. Ali withdraws herself from social gatherings and leads a reclusive life. She finds comfort and safety in the mundane. But she hasn’t lost her curiosity. She sits by the window of her room and observes life as it happens outside. That’s how she is drawn to painting, something she used to practice as a child and had since abandoned. Even though a late bloomer, she turns out to be a good painter. Mrs. Ali isn’t bothered about the quality of her subjects. She just paints whatever she sees around her. She doesn’t even make a big deal out of painting. For her, it’s just something to fill the vacuum in her life.


Mrs. Ali’s life takes a turn when a European art curator, Frieda, takes an interest in her paintings. Mrs. Ali takes a certain pride in sending her paintings to Europe for an exhibition. But, she is terrified at the prospect of having to attend the exhibition in person. She finds it quite rude of Frieda to make such a demand. Mrs. Ali has no inclination to go on a solo trip to Europe, but her curiosity gets the better of her once again. She wants to see the ‘original paintings of Vang Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Max Ernst’. She decides to take the trip. 


Just like she had feared, Mrs. Ali faces many hurdles on her solo trip to Europe. She is stranded in a foreign airport, with her periods visiting her a week early. She feels that everyone is out to get her – the flight steward, the indifferent shopkeeper in the airport, and even the beautiful yet apathetic foreign women in the airport restroom. She feels that everyone is watching her, and the world is waiting for an opportunity to ridicule her. 


Mrs. Ali does get to the exhibition city in one piece, and it somewhat surprises her. Now, being in this alien city full of strangers, Mrs. Ali goes through some epiphanies. For the first time, she gets a broader perspective and realises what’s lacking in her life. The new environment helps her see the ‘big picture’.


Hasan’s story explores the themes of fear and freedom. Interestingly, the protagonist is always addressed as Mrs. Ali, her first name never revealed. This gives an indication that ‘being Mrs. Ali’ was the essence of her existence. When she no longer has to be Mrs. Ali, she doesn’t know how to transition into a new phase. Even though the protagonist has the agency to embrace a more exciting life, she just shuns herself into a locked room. The story raises some serious questions. Why so many of us cannot embrace the excitement of life, even if we have the freedom to do so? Why we find solace in mundane existence when we can go out and explore the world? Just like Mrs. Ali, many of us are terrified to transition into a new phase. The story also provides a possible solution to these questions. It’s Mrs. Ali’s curiosity that helps her move forward. She would have spent the rest of her life locked in a room if it weren’t for her curiosity. She was curious to see what people were doing outside her window. The curiosity prompts her to take up painting, almost unintentionally. Her curiosity prompted her to take a trip to a strange city, even though she was terrified. Most of the events during her trip substantiated her fears, but even then, her curiosity to see the ‘original paintings of Max Ernst’ pushed her forward.


The story is narrated from an intimate third-person point of view. Readers are privy to the most intimate feelings of Mrs. Ali. By not using the first-person point of view, the writer gives an illusion of distance between Mrs. Ali and the reader. But at the same time provides a close look at her thoughts and feelings. The choice of the narrative voice is just right, which also conveys the personality of Mrs. Ali. Another impressive point about the plot is the dry humour. Even while Mrs. Ali is in the most unfortunate situation, the third-person narrator manages to pull some laughs. The reader laughs and bites her tongue. The feeling is akin to laughing when a loved one falls down; it’s sad yet hilarious. In a nutshell, ‘The Big Picture’ is a universally appealing story that explores people’s qualms about transitioning into a new phase in life and how curiosity helps us overcome those fears.




Read Anum Hasan's 'The Big Picture', in Out of Print 2, December 2010.


#Premise features writer, and Out of Print reader, Salini Vineeth's review of Anjum Hasan’s ‘The Big Picture’.

 



#Premise



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Premise: California Sunshine by Amrita Lall reviewed by Prashila Naik

California Sunshine by Amrita Lall

Reviewed by Prashila Naik


The most striking aspect of Amrita Lall's story California Sunshine is the subtle humour and irony that slyly laces its narrative. The vivid 'magical realist/surrealist' imagery that made me develop an uncomfortable smile towards the corners of my mouth, or the almost 'harmlessness' of Jynx the Pokemon who is probably more of a loyal companion than all the well meaning 'real' people around the protagonist. There is so much nuance, so much soul infused in these descriptions of hallucinations and visions and dreams, I almost did not want these parts of the story to end.


But when these parts do end and when we are drawn into the protagonist Aleena's world, the layers are peeled one by one. Like in the novel Ordinary People , the protagonist struggles with reconciling to their part in a heart breaking tragedy that has forever changed their life. Like Ordinary People again, there is a therapist who is clearly empathetic and probably also willing to 'listen', but unlike the teenaged protagonist in Ordinary People, Aleena is unable to 'fully' share, to fully let in another person into her tragedy. Because a part of her probably wants to live with this trauma, with the guilt that results from the trauma or she probably expects the trauma to be drawn out of her, gently, kindly, and without the judgement of LSD versus 'occasional drug use - recreational'. It is after all hard to trust when the boundaries between what is real and what is not have long ceased to be around.


Amrita Lall's writing is impressively shorn of any gimmicks even with the possibilities that the subject offers. I also liked how the piece ended, expectedly, but also probably taking the reader a couple of inches away from the engagement they were beginning to form with Aleena. And yet, I came away from the story deeply moved by Aleena's 'predicament', her agony, her inability to find relief. A complex story that does well to simplify what it is trying to tell. I look forward to reading more of Amrita Lall's fiction.





Read Amrita Lall's California Sunshine in Out of Print 42, September 2021.


Reviewer Prashila Naik's story The Monk appeared in Out of Print 31, June 2018.

#Premise features Naik's review of Amrita Lall’s 'California Sunshine’.



#Premise


Thursday, November 4, 2021

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021 - The Prize Winners

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021


Out of Print is honoured and delighted to be publishing the prize-winning entries of the Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021. The published works include: 
the shared first, second and third prizes in English
the Creative Expression prize sponsored by Out of Print 
the first and second prizes in Tamil
the six honourable mentions
The prize winners, along with links to their prize-winning entries are listed at the end of this article. 


The Kodaikanal Gandhi prize was initiated and founded in 2019, the year of Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, by Radha Kumar who is also the principal donor, and instituted jointly by the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the Kodaikanal Fellowship Library and the literary journal Out of Print. This year, the Kodai Chronicle joins hands with the organisers. The prize is open to students aged sixteen to eighteen, although submissions from younger applicants are also be considered. Students are asked to submit either a written or a multimedia presentation in English or Tamil in response to one of the following questions:

1. Gandhi viewed non-violence as an active form of resistance. Looking at contemporary injustices, does non-violence work. State your points with examples.

2. Gandhi labelled himself a ‘practical idealist’. What does that label mean to you? Describe another practical idealist you admire.

3. Gandhi once said, ‘Our salvation can only come through the farmer’. Does this idea hold through in India today? Why or why not?

4. Why did Gandhi consider cowardice and apathy even worse than violence? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

5. Gandhi’s philosophy of truth in practice led to India’s motto, ‘Satyameva Jayate’ – ‘Truth alone triumphs’. What meaning does it have in an era of fake news? How would you restore this ideal in public opinion?

It was profoundly heartening that submissions came from a wide range of schools, urban and rural, elite and under privileged. In all, there were close to two hundred and fifty registrations from forty-six schools and eleven states over a hundred of which resulted in submissions. That more than one hundred students in their final years of high school reflected deeply on Gandhi and his relevance today is extremely encouraging. It suggests that a number of India’s millennials are indeed engaged in thinking about political issues and questions of injustice. 

A report on the awards ceremony that took place in Kodaikanal on October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanti, was featured in the Out of Print blog. Satish deSa, children’s editor of the Kodai Chronicle, and the Chronicle staff also wrote about the evening, featuring excerpts from the prize-winning works. The prize-winners, with links to their published entries, are listed below.


The Prize Winners with Links to their Published Entries:

First prize (shared): 
        Fravashi International Academy, Nashik
       Nikhil Joseph (withdrawn)
        Hebron School, Ooty

Creative Expression prize:
sponsored by Out of Print
        Delhi Public School Srinagar

Second prize (shared):
        Delhi Public School Noida
        The Neev Academy, Bangalore

Third prize (shared):
        The Gandhigram Rural Institute, Dindigul District
        The Kodaikanal International School

First prize (Tamil):
        The RC Higher Secondary School, Trichy

Second prize (Tamil):
        Fairlands A Foundation School, Puduppatti, Theni District
 

Honourable Mentions:

        Hebron School, Ooty
        The Kodaikanal International School
        Neev Academy, Bangalore
        The Delhi Public School Noida
        The Delhi Public School Noida
        Fairlands A Foundation School, Puduppatti, Theni District





Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021: Prize for Creative Expression - Hania Raashid

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021 

Prize for Creative Expression


Hania Raashid

Delhi Public School, Srinagar


Unfair as it can be
Not a moment goes by,
When I don’t think about them
I choose to think it’s all imaginary
But then I feel the verisimilitude,
Of their suffering
Of their cries
And then I think of Gandhi
Reminisce about his words
I say to myself  “oh how the times have changed” 
And how “salvation”has become suffering... 





Awarded by the literary journal, Out of Print

Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021, First Prize - Jahnavi Desai

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021

First Prize 

(shared)


Janhavi Desai

Fravashi International Academy, Nashik


Lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, political ethicist, nonviolent protestor, hero, poster child for peace and love, and “Father of the Nation” once declared, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”.


“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary” –  these aren't just empty words, social activist and writer Mahatma Gandhi once expressed. These words weren't forgotten after they were conveyed. Gandhi ji's actions, his reactions to crises, his temperament, his being, his whole existence released the vital essence of nonviolence that most people associate him with even today. In situations where he could've lost his temper and caused a great deal of damage (to those around him irrespective of whether they were responsible or not), Bapu chose to stay calm. He used nonviolence, a powerful and just weapon that cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals, and, to some, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the wielder of this sword. 


Mr. Gandhi understood nonviolence from its Sanskrit root, “Ahimsa”. Ahimsa is just translated to mean nonviolence in English, but it implies more than just avoidance of physical violence. Ahimsa implies total nonviolence, no physical violence, no passive violence. Gandhi ji translates Ahimsa as love. But does it seem realistic to live in a world where only “Ahimsa” exists? Is it even possible? Can love and peace fix everything? Even the damage that has been done? Is it against Gandhi ji's principles to stand up for yourself? Is it a sin to want to stop discrimination? Is it violent to fight for your rights? Is it damaging to want to defend yourself against attack? What is violence? 


Even though Gandhi ji is almost always affiliated with the prevention of violence, he ironically never gives a concise definition of violence. Without an appropriate description, it is diffcult to ascertain which actions fall under the category of violence. Hence, to understand (and answer questions about) Gandhi ji's nonviolent approach to violence, I will refer to his theories and his writings (and of course, I will summarise and simplify - mainly because I am not an evil literature professor who forces students to read lengthy and bothersome texts). 


Questions about Gandhi ji's nonviolent approach to violence often pose the most significant challenges to Gandhi ji's theory of nonviolence. Because Gandhi ji frequently referred to nonviolence in terms of forms of violence, it is difficult to understand his theory of nonviolence without his theory on violence. This is an incredibly complex series of statements. But, allow me to break the argument down for you. As with much of Gandhi ji's thought, he did not present his views on violence systematically. My essay attempts to synthesize Gandhi ji's theory on violence (which is implicit and explicit in his various statements and his compositions) and tries to justify its feasibility in the 21st century.


So, what is violence? According to the World Report On Violence And Health (a credible report by the United Nations World Health Organisation), violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” (A relatively straightforward definition for such a complex and subjective word!)


Gandhi ji appears to have a contradictory view of violence. He asserts that violence exists within the social order, between individuals, and also results from external phenomena like floods or tornadoes. He believes that we cannot eradicate violence; it will always be a part of everyday life. Violence was, is, and will always be at the root of all acts of living and can never be eliminated. Gandhi ji stated that “None can be completely free from himsa while they are in the flesh” and that every seeker of truth must ... continue to work to decrease the circle of himsa (which means to injure or harm, the opposite of Ahimsa).


On the other hand, Gandhi ji often says, “I object to violence”, which seems to contradict his belief that violence is inevitable. It is easy to see that he uses violence in different ways, so the apparent contradiction between violence being a permanent fact and violence being a moral blight disappears. Understanding Gandhi ji's moral theory of nonviolence requires understanding his views on the causes of different types of violence and the reasons that he gives to object to specific classes. Gandhi ji does not condemn the type of violence that is inevitable. To determine the morality of a particular act of violence, he relies on the motivations and intentions of the actor. To analyze the violence of any action, it is essential to consider attachment, desire, and self-interest. Unavoidable violence is the first and most objectionable type of violence. Gandhi ji believes that violence is inherent in the physical body. The main difference between Gandhi's conception of unavoidable violence and the Jains” (as mentioned in his literature) is that the Jains claim that violence of any kind, even inevitable, is morally unacceptable. He claims that this definition of violence is only appropriate for monks and does not apply to ordinary citizens. It is okay to use minimal violence to meet the needs of necessity and prevent famine or death. Gandhi ji does not believe in the use of unnecessary violence. So the question is, what is the acceptable limit of unavoidable violence?

 

Gandhi ji acknowledges that it is difficult to set these limits, and they may not be the same for everyone. Over-accumulation is, in Gandhi ji's opinion, an act of violence that causes unavoidable violence to become avoidable. Understanding the motivations behind his views on the morality and justifiability of violence is key to understanding the categories. According to the Gita (which seems to be where Gandhi ji derived his most essential teachings), root causes of violence are psychological. Based on the Gita's emphasis upon psychology, Gandhi ji defines the rightfulness of violence by how attachment- and desire-motivated it is. He stated: Violence is when we cause suffering to others because of our selfishness, or for the sake of doing it [being violent]. Gandhi ji's moral theory holds that violence can only be excused if it is motivated by selflessness, if non-violent means are impossible under the circumstances and if avoiding violence leaves one with only the option of committing a greater evil. These are the criteria Gandhi ji uses to justify violence. If the violence is unpremeditated and spontaneous, or if there is no training or courage to use nonviolent means of defending oneself, it can be excused. It is clear that nonviolence is the best way to respond to injustice. Gandhi ji believes that nonviolence is the best option, but it's better to use violence to fight for a just cause rather than to avoid acting out of fear. Even though there are instances of exonerating violence, the principle that nonviolence is superior to violence still applies. Gandhi ji's main thrust is to defend [stand] against violence. 


So, now that we've looked at what violence is and Gandhi ji's implications and beliefs about it, let us ask: does Gandhi ji's active form of resistance work? Is nonviolence really effective?

A large number of some of the most potent protests that have changed the course of history are actually nonviolent protests! The George Floyd Protests, The Farmers Protest, Stop Asian Hate, the Berlin Wall Protests, the Me too movement, Fridays for Future and, last but never the least, The Dandi March are a few (out of the abundance) of nonviolent movements across the world that almost every single person has heard of. These serve as perfect examples for the fact that arms, ammunition, mass killings, and unleashing unrest does not mean power. Being loud isn't power. 


If this wasn't enough evidence, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan collected and analyzed data on over 300 violent and nonviolent major political campaigns in the last decade. Chenoweth's study suggested that between 2000 and 2006, 70% of nonviolent campaigns succeeded, five times the success rate for violent ones. Looking back over the 20th century, she found that nonviolent campaigns succeeded 53% of the time, compared with 26% for violent resistance. They found that nonviolent campaigns had been twice as effective as violent campaigns!! 


“Never assume that loud is strong and quiet is weak” were Buddha's indispensable words that are still very much relevant today. As beautiful as they may be, these words still make me contemplate whether nonviolence is REALLY effective in all situations... 


I thought long and hard about it. Just imagine, you're walking down the street, minding your own business, and a person suddenly punches you in the face for no reason at all, and it seems like his intention to keep doing so (if there isn't any help available), won't you punch him back? Or, at least try to defend yourself in some way. I don't think any sane person would just stand there and take the hits in the name of nonviolence. To me, it seems justified to try and respond to the physical violence with violence if you are being hurt. I mean ... there IS a difference between nonviolence and self-destruction, after all, right? 


To some, violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys communities and makes brotherhood impossible. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. Overall, violence is almost never the right answer because it brings in more violence, affects younger generations negatively, and always has alternative responses. Learning to act and respond in nonviolent ways can not only ease a conflict but even save lives. I agree with these beliefs, but isn't it better to be the flame and not the moth?


I believe that the most plausible justification of violence is when it is perpetrated in return for other violence. It is one's right to protect oneself. “The right of self-defence never ceases. It is the most sacred and alike necessary to nations and to individuals.” (James Monroe) 


Rama had killed Ravana. Krishna had killed Kansa. There was violence in the Mahabharata against atrocities. Those people tried to come to terms with that violence because it was for the greater good. Even in recent history, Shivaji had fought to oust Afzal Khan. Guru Gobind Singh, Rana Pratap, they all fought for something more than revenge. They wanted to protect and serve their motherland and its people. Unfortunately, for Gandhi ji, violence was a sin (For example, when Gandhi ji states that he objects to violence, he refers to specific categories of violence such as murder and war). Still, Gandhi ji mentions several times that violence is far more acceptable than cowardice. So does this mean that the ghosts of Shivaji Maharaj and Guru Gobind Singh ji can rest in peace? Absolutely! Does this mean that they can be forgiven (since it seems that they haven't sinned)? Without a doubt! They fought bravely till the very end! 


Violent acts are sometimes necessary to protect other people's human rights (Gandhi ji does not condemn the use of violence in situations where it is unavoidable. If lives are at stake, it is undoubtedly not avoidable). Examples throughout history illustrate how civil movements have brought about change and better access to people's human rights. 


Enough about history and the deceased, fast forward to the 21st century (let's pick up where we left of (apologies, but history isn't nearly as fascinating as the modern era)). Social justice issues like racial injustice, wage gap, voting rights, climate justice, refugee crisis and healthcare have successfully been combated by spreading awareness through extremely successful nonviolent protests (as mentioned earlier in paragraphs 11 and 12 ). Without the use of weapons and brute force, “Black Lives Matter” was a viral protest (An estimated 15 million to 26 million people participated in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, making it one of the most significant movements in the country's history.). Just imagine if it was an organized, armed movement instead of a peaceful protest, mass bloodshed, destruction, pain, and irreparable damage would've been caused. The protest would've turned into a civil war (an intense armed conflict between states, governments, societies, or paramilitary groups such as mercenaries, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces). None of this would've changed anything at all. The massacre wouldn't bring back George Floyd; it wouldn't bring back Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Andre Hill, Manuel Ellis, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, or Atatiana Jefferson. Instead, it would ruin everything else. You can't love someone back to life, and nonviolence didn't bring the victims of police brutality back to life either. But nonviolence didn't damage whatever we had left. It was nonviolence that was capable of making tremendous reforms in the flawed justice system of the United States of America. All in all, violence was not required to get the point across in this situation. 


But, today's situation in Afghanistan makes me indecisive about the effectiveness of nonviolence. In a country that is struggling and dying, its residents are fleeing with their families and children, fighting frantically for their lives, not caring about their money or their houses, violence seems justifiable. The Taliban cruelly reduce women and girls to poverty; they continue to worsen their health and deprive them of their right to an education, and many times the right to practice their religion. Their regime systematically represses all sectors of the population, not just women and children, and denies even the most fundamental individual rights. Is it violence when external forces from other countries send in their troops to eliminate the destructive Taliban? Women are imprisoned in their homes and are denied access to basic health care and education. Food sent to help starving people is stolen by their leaders. The religious monuments of other faiths are destroyed. Children are forbidden to fly kites or sing songs. Is it really violent to eliminate the culprits of such gross human rights violations who have ruined tens of thousands of lives? Nonviolence against insurgent groups is like wearing a bicycle helmet to protect yourself from an attack by a military tank. The only way to stop the attack of a military tank is to use a much larger, heavier tank to block it, drive over it or use more vital defence strategies (like more potent weapons). Hence, the only way to stop violence, in this case, is a threat from a brutal, much more intimidating force. 


In conclusion, like Gandhi ji says and countless historical events have proven, violence is unavoidable. Some situations escalate to the point where it seems only sensible to use violence to retaliate, or you risk losing everything. It seems like the best course of action to use brute force in situations like these (rather than submission or cowardly acts). Of course, in cases where violence is avoidable, matters should be sorted out peacefully (but never at the cost of sovereignty and integrity). We should avoid violence as much as possible because it always causes irreparable damage, keeping in mind that nonviolence can cause damage too (mostly self-destruction). We can use nonviolence and violence as the situation demands. They are both subjective and must be used wisely; only then will the maximum effectiveness be observed. One must keep in mind that anything in excess is poison, which could apply to both nonviolence and violence. 

Citations 

1. “Ahimsa v. Compassion” Navajivan, 31 March 1929. 

2. “The Fiery Ordeal” Navajivan, 30 September 1928.

3. Letter to Bhogilal, Sabarmati Sangrahalaya (SN), 11811.

4. “The Fiery Ordeal” Navajivan, 30 September 1928.

5. A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, eds., (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 259. 

6. "Religion v. No Religion," Harijan, 9 June 1946. 

7. Ibid. 

8. "Letter to a Friend," in Raghavan Iyer, The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 11 (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 266. 

9. Ibid. 

10. Ibid. 

11. "Religion v. No Religion," Harijan, 9 June 1946. 

12. Gandhi states: "An armed conflict between nations horrifies us. But the economic war is no better than an armed conflict... An economic war is prolonged torture. And its ravages are no less terrible than those depicted in the literature on war properly so called." "Non-violence - The Greatest Force," The Hindu, 8 November 1926.13. Gita, 2:62-64. 

14. "Problem of Nonviolence," Navajivan, 6 June 1926. 15. "Ethical religion," Indian Opinion, 5 January - 23 February, 1907. 

16. "What is Non-violence?" Harijan, 19 December 1936. 

17. "Force or Restraint?" Navajivan, 13 July 1924. 

18. Navajivan, 30 September 1928. 

19. Gandhi did not advocate euthanasia for human beings (or animals) unless the following conditions apply: "1. The disease from which the patient is suffering should be incurable. 2. All concerned have despaired of the life of the patient. 3. The case should be beyond all help or service. 4. It should be impossible for the patient in question to express his or its wish." "More about Ahimsa," Navajivan, 28 October 1928. 

20. "A Letter," The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 11, p. 286-287. 

21. Collected Works, (New Delhi, India: The Publications Division, Ministry of In formation and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1984), LXXXVI, p. 27. 

22. "Chaos v. Misrule," Young India, March 1928. 23. A good example is the statement: "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent." "On the verge of it," Young India, 21 May 1925. 


Edited by the Out of Print team


The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize: First Prize - Nikhil Joseph

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021

First Prize 

(shared)


Nikhil Joseph

Hebron School, Ooty


(withdrawn)



The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021: Second Prize - Sara Daniel

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021

Second Prize 

(shared)


Sara Daniel

Delhi Public School, Noida


A Response to: Gandhi viewed non-violence as an active form of resistance. 

Looking at contemporary injustices, does non-violence work?


There are some men and women who defy any labels and transcend any descriptions. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known globally simply as the Mahatma and who is, for Indians, the beloved Father of the Nation, is one such person. Gandhi was the foremost leader of India’s freedom struggle, a lawyer, an anti-colonial nationalist and a political ethicist. He was all of this and so much more! 


MK Gandhi has come to define an entire philosophy, a way of being, not just for individuals, but for nation states. He is respected and held in the highest esteem throughout the world for his philosophy of non-violence, truth, honesty, harmony, self-sacrifice and resistance. Even those that Gandhi opposed with all his might admired him! Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India before India attained freedom said of Gandhi, “Mahatma Gandhi will go down in history on par with Buddha and Jesus Christ.” 


There have been leaders, thinkers and saints, for instance, Buddha, Kabir, Sufi saints and Guru Nanak in India alone, who have preached non-violence, peace, love and compassion as a way of living. Mahatma Gandhi’s unique genius, however, lies in articulating and crafting the theory of non-violence into an instrument of action and political awakening in the modern world. At a time when the world was reeling under the devastating impact of the two World Wars, , the rise and eventual defeat of Hitler, the catastrophic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, Gandhiji adopted non-violence not just as an ideal way of life, but as a powerful movement that mobilized an entire generation of Indians and brought the mighty British Empire, the imperialist power for whom it was said “The Sun never sets on it”, to its knees. 


It is for good reason that Gandhi is called the Father of Non-violence. He strongly disliked the term “passive resistance” as he felt it propounded passivity and acquiescence for what was actually an active form of civil protest. Gandhi’s Ahimsa is, in fact, inextricably linked to direct action. It is a strategic position masterfully crafted to disarm the strongest opponent and render them ineffective. As the author and political leader Shashi Tharoor said for Gandhi, “Don't ever forget, that we were not led by a saint with his head in clouds, but by a master tactician with his feet on the ground.” 


The core of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Ahimsa lies in the search for Truth. He believed that they were fighting for truth and hence devised the term “Satyagraha” derived from the words “Satya” meaning Truth and “Graha” meaning seizing or taking hold of. He said that a Satyagrahi must rid his mind of fear and refuse to be a slave to anyone and that Satyagraha was an attitude of mind and any person following it would be victorious and blessed by God. These words of his helped give his followers great confidence and belief in his methods and vision. 


Mahatma Gandhi had once said, “In its positive form, Ahimsa means the largest love, the greatest charity. If I am a follower of Ahimsa, I must love my enemy. It is no non-violence if we merely love those who love us. It is non-violence only when we love those that hate us. I know how difficult it is to follow this grand Law of Love. But are not all great and good things difficult to do? Love of the hater is the most difficult of all. But by the grace of God, even this most difficult thing becomes easy to accomplish”. (Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi).


Non-violence is the greatest force in possession of humankind using which it is possible to defy the whole might of an unjust and partisan forces. Hence, Gandhi characterised it as a “soul force”. He argued that non-violence is “the law of our species” and love and non- violence is the bond that unites human beings, not hatred or violence. He wanted people to accept non-violence as an article of faith and adopt it as a way of life. He demonstrated the potency of non-violence by making it the foundation of his personal day-to-day life and his public life as in the struggle for India’s independence. 


To commemorate Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violence and truth, The International Day of Non-Violence is observed on 2nd October, his birthday. 


Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and peaceful resistance, that developed in the crucible of the British Empire in the early 20th century, has stood the test of time. It is remarkable that one man emphasised nonviolent resistance in his campaign for Indian independence almost a century ago and, through the sheer moral weight of his steadfast commitment to this, he remains, till date, an iconic figure for people standing up against injustice and seeking change across the world. He has inspired leaders, thinkers and activists around the world. 


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights leader who is often called the American Mahatma and is counted amongst Gandhi’s worthiest disciples, devoted his life to fighting against racial injustice. He has been quoted saying "If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, acted and inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony." Barak Obama, former president of the United States also looks up to Gandhi and kept a portrait of him in his White House office. He had said, "In my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things." 


Today, we live in a conflict-ridden world where everyone has differing opinions and viewpoints that often clash. There is growing hate, polarisation and divisiveness. But, as peaceful protest movements in various parts of the world have demonstrated, never before has Gandhi been more relevant than he is today.


Satyagraha remains a potent force to drive change globally. Shaped by Mahatma Gandhi and honed under his leadership during India’s independence movement, Satyagraha has turned into a global instrument of non-violent protests and dissent against tyranny and authoritarianism and a tool of the powerless against the powerful. 


Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan had already invoked non-violence during Gandhi’s lifetime and was known as the “Frontier Gandhi”. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Benigno Aquino Jr are some of the many famous followers of Gandhi in the 20th century who successfully launched their own Satyagraha against injustices and conducted peaceful struggles for human rights. 


It is only fitting that in the apartheid-ridden South Africa, which was the land of the origin of the idea of Satyagraha following Gandhi’s experiences with racism and injustice during the two decades he lived there, this philosophy made a big contribution to bringing about a peaceful transformation and the end of apartheid. Nelson Mandela, who spent 28 long years in prison fighting against white supremacist rule before leading South Africa to a multi-racial democracy as the country’s first Black President in 1994, said that Gandhi’s non- violent and peaceful approach which won India freedom from British colonial rule was an inspiration to him. Mandela, who was born 3 years after Gandhi left South Africa and who never met each other, said, “Gandhiji influenced the activities of liberation movements, civil rights movements and religious organizations in all five continents of the world. He impacted on men and women who have achieved significant historical changes in their countries not least amongst whom are Martin Luther King.” 


Desmond Tutu, another towering leader of the anti-apartheid movement and a human rights activist said, “Gandhi was to influence greatly Martin Luther King Jr., the leading light in the American Civil Rights Movement, as well as the South African National Congress of Nelson Mandela. So many people expected our country to go up in flames, enveloped by a catastrophe, a racial bloodbath. It never happened. Because in the struggle against an evil of injustice, ultimately it did not take recourse to violence and because you and so many others in the international community supported the struggle.” 


In recent years too there have been many non-violent protests against contemporary injustices around the world that have drawn inspiration from the Gandhian methods of non- violent resistance. 


The murder of George Floyd was a seminal moment in contemporary America that triggered outrage and lead to the most definitive movement of our times for racial equality and justice called Black Lives Matter. Yet, despite the pent-up rage, hurt and fury amongst Black Americans, the movement drew from Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent protests. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) analysed thousands of Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations in all the states of the USA between May 26 and August 22 2020 and found that more than 93% of those protests had been peaceful. The protestors demonstrated using peaceful methods such as internet and social media, candlelight marches, rallies, books, articles, films, magazines, painting murals, etc. and no violent methods were used. 


Taking the knee is another iconic symbol of peaceful protest around the world that is clearly inspired by the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence. Started by the American football player Colin Kaepernick in 2016, in protest against the lack of attention given to the issues of racial inequality and police brutality in the United States and against the unfair treatment of Black Americans, it has now become a globalised symbol of steely resolve and silent resistance. The simple act of kneeling, of defiance without uttering a word, has become a  cornerstone of the global movement against racial oppression. As we saw during the recently concluded Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games or Euro 2020 Championship earlier in the year, many sportspeople kneel and take the knee before their respective matches to make a statement and express solidarity with the movement for racial equality. 


Closer home, Gandhi’s mantra of non-violence, that won India freedom from the British, continues to inspire generations of Indians and form the bedrock of most major protest movements to drive social and political change in independent India. 


The Chipko Movement of the 1970s was a non-violent protest against deforestation and its leaders called themselves Gandhians. Sundarlal Bahuguna who started this movement along with scores of women activists employed the tools of non-violence and the most Gandhian of all values, love, as they hugged trees to prevent their felling. It was a unique environmental protest, long before such movements became mainstream, that gained worldwide recognition and respect for Indian environmentalism. 


The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a social movement to save river Narmada from large dams as well as to represent the displaced people, led by Medha Patkar is perhaps amongst the longest running non-violent protest in the world. The NBA has adopted and repurposed Gandhian methods and tools, and protested through peaceful rallies, sit-ins, hunger strikes, silent protests and, in a reinterpretation of Satyagraha, Jal Satyagraha where activists have stood in water up to their faces for long hours to register their protest. 


The times have changed and India, like the rest of the world, of the twenty-first century is a very different place from the India of the last century. Technology has pervaded all aspects of life and we cannot imagine our lives without social media and our smartphones. Yet it is a tribute to the eternal significance of Gandhi’s philosophy and values that these continue to drive protest movements with the tools adapted to the contemporary times. 


The anti-CAA protests of December 2019 – Jan 2020 that started with a sit in at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and sparked numerous such sit-ins across the country is a shining example of 

the Mahatma’s values continuing to inspire new generations of Indians. The Citizenship Amendment Bill was introduced that triggered widespread protests across the country. The Shaheen Bagh sit-in was the most enduring symbol of all the anti-CAA protests that took place. Hundreds of people took part in this sit-in that was led by the brave women of Delhi. They protested peacefully for 101 days and art, creativity and ahimsa, or non-violence, were the languages of opposition and resistance. With their reading of the Constitution of India, the multi-faith prayers, the inspirational poetry, the makeshift libraries, the feeling of brotherhood, harmony and hope that they generated and the love, support and solidarity that poured in from all over the world, this movement quickly became an exemplar of the power of peaceful resistance by ordinary citizens. 


The Farmers protest, that has been going on for almost one year now across India, is another notable example. The protesting farmers are Gandhian in their stamina, spirit and persistence. The government has legislated Farm Laws that, according to the government, would raise the standard of productivity of the agricultural sector and bolster private investment. However, the farmers are sceptical and hold that these reforms were brought about without adequate consultations with the farming communities of the country and have been passed without any debate or discussion. Regardless of the merits or the shortcomings of the laws, what is of significance is that today the world is witnessing one of the largest organised protests in human history with millions of farmers participating in it. The protesting farmers are demanding a repeal of these agricultural reform laws that they believe are detrimental to their interests. It is a testament to the Gandhian values that Indians have imbibed that the vast majority of these protests have been peaceful and characterised by peaceful sit-ins and road and railway blockades. 


In democracies, dissent and dialogue continue simultaneously and in a peaceful manner. Peaceful protests, non-violent resistance and voicing dissent are the fundamental rights of every citizen in a democratic country. All the above-mentioned movements are prime examples of how peaceful and non-violent protests and demonstrations have a substantial impact on society and succeed in ways that violence can’t. 


We see that Gandhian values and philosophy of non-violence is not just alive and active in the modern world, Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of truth and non-violence continues to inspire leaders, activists and people all over the world. Gandhian non-violence has been key in protests against oppressive and authoritarian injustices for decades. Organised civic pressure and a commitment to not be violent has been instrumental in fighting many human rights injustices and social ills such as foreign occupation, repression of women and minorities, racial inequality, caste oppression and even environmental degradation. 


It will remain one of the world’s greatest ironies that Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace, brotherhood, unity and non-violence, met a violent death at the hands of a religious fanatic. Yet, seventy-three years since his tragic assassination, the tools of transformational change through peaceful means that he devised continue to resonate 

around the world. It may be hard to get a true measure of his global impact but there can be no denying that it has been formidable. Gandhi’s worldview and his unique model of driving positive and lasting change through peaceful means have informed thinking and movements everywhere. 


Mahatma Gandhi is amongst the pantheon of the greatest leaders this world has ever known who has and will continue to inspire many. To conclude with the famous words of renowned scientist Albert Einstein on Mahatma Gandhi, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked Earth”. 


Edited by the Out of Print team