Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Gandhigiri is Irrelevant for ‘GenNext’*

Gandhigiri is a sobriquet popularized by the movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai for the application of some of Gandhi’s principles. Although Gandhism is a much broader ideology, Gandhigiri touches the core of Gandhism: adherence to the path of Truth and non-violence with unwavering faith and utmost devotion while fighting for a cause. But, real life as we often realize, is not as rosy as Bollywood would like us to believe.

So the question boils down to if Gandhigiri is relevant to people like you and I. Can we follow it?

Relevance means ‘related to the matter at hand’. So, is Gandhigiri related to GenNext (the matter at hand), by what it means now, and not by what it should mean? And what does it mean? This term, coined by a cola advertisement and picked up by the mass media thereafter, is not another word for the youth. No. That would be a crass generalization. It is actually an epithet for those among the youth who have an urban lifestyle, like you and I, the ‘cool and modern’ us - a massive potential market for the cola company concerned. GenNext is an idea which promotes self-indulgence. It tells us, have a ‘cool drink’ and not worry about the obviously overcharged prices and the obviously high amount of calories, not to mention the pesticides; because it’s ‘cool’ man! Don’t worry about the future. Here is Now!

This ‘living in the present’ or ‘being practical’ philosophy, as we fancifully put it, is the essence of our GenNext. We are proud of it and flaunt it at every opportunity. Hey, I’m not being judgmental here. I’ve been there, done it. After standing in a queue for 3hrs for my driver’s license (I didn’t get it done by an agent, just to make a point), when I finally reached the counter, the official claimed it was lunch and I should come back the next day. Of course, he did mention – and not too discreetly at that - that a 100 rupee note would be a winning argument for his grumbling tummy. Without undue hesitation, I paid it. So much for the ‘point’ I was trying to make.

It is not about following the ‘right path’. It is about how disillusioned we are by the system. We lack the faith to go up to a cop nearby to get you justice as it will probably have the sole consequence of losing our place in a queue full of people willing to dish out the extra cash. How many of us will do the right thing, no matter what?

The application of Gandhi’s principles involves great self-discipline, patience, perseverance and above all the faith that inspite of disappointments along the way, success will eventually come our way. These are some principles the GenNext uses, but only as and when it suits its convenience.

Another point to consider is how Gandhigiri as a means of protest works only if the oppressor has a conscience. When Munna offers the other cheek on being slapped, he is promptly smacked again. Similarly, Mr. Chedi Lal of Lucknow, was thrown out of the office when he aped the ‘stripping solution’ to get his pension released. A decadent society leaves doubt in the efficacy of following methods like Gandhigiri which are a function of the moral certitudes of the people.

Hence, Success is hardly assured by Gandhigiri. And we, as GenNext, cannot just be content with feeling good about the ‘right path’ we followed. The means is not the end for us. We want our results. And in quick time too, especially in this world of cut-throat competition.

Gandhi said –

"True happiness comes when what you think, say and do are in harmony"

We are quite able at thinking, debating about Gandhigiri, but when it comes to practicing it, we fall short. Not because we lack the tenacity, but because Gandhi’s principles are irreconcilable with our ideas of pragmatism and our own lack of faith in society’s conscientiousness. Maybe we are missing out on ‘true happiness’, but that is a totally different question.

*This was the topic given in a debating competition held in DCE last year. I was speaking for the motion.