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Inspirational Stories VI : Mahatma Gandhi, An Outstanding Leader

By Ellesse

If you’ve assumed that Mahatma Gandhi was one of the brightest students in class or one of the most outstanding student leaders in his youth, then you may be in for a surprise.

Not only was he a mediocre student, he was a very quiet and shy teenager too. But did that stop him from becoming India’s “Father of the Nation”?

No.

It’s a great piece of news for us! Because, if you’ve been through a similar situation, all is not lost yet! You’re still able to create your own story of victory… just like Gandhi.

A Family Disappointment

Born into a mid-ranking caste family, Mohandas K. or Mahatama (“Great-Souled”) Gandhi had a low self esteem when he was young. Because of that, he seldom stayed back after school to interact with other classmates for fear of being ridiculed at. That was also part of the reason for his early unhappiness in his marriage (when he was 13 years old) as his young bride had difficulty accommodating to his impatient, jealous and demanding outbursts.

He didn’t do well in school either. After struggling to graduate from high school, he moved on to study medicine in a local university only to fail badly and subsequently, forced to quit. At that time, he had only attended that university for only 5 months.

In their desperate bid to help the young man, his family decided to send him to England to study law, a course that they believed he would be able to cope. They pooled all the financial resources that they could get and finally sent the excited Gandhi off to London to embark on a fresh new start.

Life In London

A stranger in a foreign land, Gandhi had difficulty adjusting to the seasonal weather in London and would often be teased for his inappropriate seasonal attire and his poor command of the English language. To make up for all those, he worked very hard, trying to excel in both his studies and other curricular activities such as French, dancing, violin and elocution. He also tried to improve on his dressing by buying more suits.

Those proved to be short lived as he found himself running out of money gradually.

To cut costs, he gave up his hotel for a small room and walked instead of traveling on buses. He also changed his diet, switching English meals for simple vegetarian fare. Interestingly, those newly adopted lifestyle habits formed the basis of his lessons on health and simple living subsequently.

His Debut in the Court

During those times in London, Gandhi couldn’t wait to return home. The day after he passed his exams and was appointed to the bar, he made his trip back, only to be notified that his beloved mother had passed away while he was still traveling.

He then decided to leave for Bombay where he would not be reminded of his grief, to practice law. Sadly, life struck back again. Due to his inadequate knowledge about the Indian law, he had difficulty getting a case. Even when he finally secured one, he had stage fright at the last moment and abandon the courtroom abruptly, leaving his colleague to conduct the cross examination. It was a disgraceful debut.

Turning Point

His inability to succeed as a lawyer drove Gandhi back home again. With the help of his brother, Gandhi decided to go South Africa and take up a clerical position, at the expense of leaving his wife and 2 sons behind after barely 2 years back home.

But it wasn’t all that smooth sailing in South Africa either. Instead of landing on a clerical position, he realized that he was engaged for a civil suit that required strong accounting knowledge and detailed legal analysis. The realities of the life and the harsh discrimination against Indians in the country cornered Gandhi into making a decision whether he should pack his bags and leave South Africa or stay on to fight the case, until one day something happened.

While riding on the first class carriage on the train to another town, he was ordered to move to the freight compartment. When he refused, he was unceremoniously driven off the carriage. As he waited in the station for the next available coach, thoughts of his present circumstances flooded his mind. It suddenly dawned on him that despite changing his environment each time, he was still unable to avoid the challenging issues ahead. He realized that it was cowardice of him to shun away from his fears instead of helping the people to fight for the rights they deserve!

A Lawyer, A Human Rights Campaigner

Gandhi then started working hard on the case, drilling into the details zestfully. With his diligence and perseverance, he learned a lot about the case and counteracted against the punitive nature of the lawsuit by persuading his client and the other party to settle on an amicable reconciliation out of court.

His apt handling of the suit earned the respect of the Indian community so much so that he was asked to delay his departure back home to help them on another case to fight for the rights of Indian settlers in the country. That catalyzed his involvement into politics.

He would propose political negotiations with British leaders whom he regarded as his equal, work with people from different castes, religions and nationalities to achieve harmony in coexistence, fight for his country’s independence and set the highest standards for his people. All his work for civil rights, India’s Independence and active propagation of love and peace wouldn’t have been possible if not for his firm conviction that all people possess the innate capability to change from within, in the pursuit of what’s right.

What Did I Learn From This Story?

That the person you see in the mirror everyday while brushing your teeth, combing your hair etc is the person responsible for your life. Yes. That, is none other than yourself.

(1) Your Innate Potential Can Be Unlocked By Yourself

Who would have imagined that the shy and introverted boy who refused to stay back after school to interact with his classmates for fear of being laughed at, to be able to speak with such eloquence and persuasion, winning over the whole nation in his pursuit for India’s independence? Who would have expected the young timid lawyer who scrammed the courtrooms at the slightest tinge of fear to be able to stand up against tyranny and injustice?

It would be after the fact irony to say that someone probably did. That Gandhi had the good fortune to meet a good mentor who was able to see the potential in him that others didn’t. But the truth was, there was no such person in his life at that time.

But Gandhi didn’t wait.

He chose to be the miner and let the bolt of realization at the train station’s waiting area guide him in unearthing and polishing the gem hidden in a tad of dirty mud. Himself.

What about you? Did you choose to wait and see if there’s opportunities for you to develop yourself or actively seek to find such opportunities?

(2) Stop Blaming & Take Accountability

We live in a blame society.

We blame the fast food chains for producing junk food that makes people obese. But we ignored the fact that people willingly subject themselves to eating such food. We blame the Internet for being a source of violence and pornography for the kids but we forget that it’s the responsibility of parents to monitor and teach their children the right values in interpreting such information. We argue that our current predicament is a result of a lack of certain resources, overlooking the fact that those resources are not necessary to improve our situation in the first place!

In the midst of this blaming culture, it’s easy to possess a distorted view of the issue and fail to notice the essence of the problem, isn’t it? The problem never gets resolved. It just gets bigger.

This is where I think we can learn from Gandhi. Even though he was involved in the blame game in the earlier part of his life, he subsequently took accountability for it. His enlightenment started from the realization that no matter how his environment changed, if his mentality, attitude and internal mettle were still the same, he would never be able to breakthrough the chain.

And when he stopped blaming, the piece of filth clogging his visibility removed itself, allowing him to see the crux of his problem. Himself again.

Comments

31 Responses to “Inspirational Stories VI : Mahatma Gandhi, An Outstanding Leader”

  1. heat at 4:56 pm

    He was an amazing man standing up for his rights. I have only started learning about him in re and he got into alot of trouble standing up for himself. He didn’t use violence he just let the people be mean to him and beat him up.

  2. Ellesse at 1:38 am

    Indeed Heat, he was a very amazing man. He’s one of my most admired personalities, but the important legacy he left behind is not only a independent India but the many wonderful works and his life philosophy that everyone, anyone is capable of his own internal transformation. As long as it start from one person, the world can literally be changed. Amazing.

  3. renu at 3:22 pm

    i hate gandhi i really hate him . he spoiled india like anything.
    if any 1 r hurted sorry. i told my opinion

  4. Ellesse at 7:28 am

    Renu, don’t worry. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but would you mind elaborating why you think he spoiled India?

  5. Achintya at 1:15 pm

    People like Renu forget the fact that had there been no Gandhi, she would not have been sitting in front of the computer in a free India. Had it not been Gandhi, we would still have been living in a world where notices outside hotels would have read “Dogs and Indians not allowed”. I guess Renu’s ire stems from the historical debate of whether India should have given the money that it did to Pakistan during partition. What they forget is that Gandhi was dead against partition.
    Gandhi was a great man, a great soul and he breathed freedom into the life of a billion people. Never in the history of mankind has there been a man, who affected so many people with such simple yet powerful ideas. We need to be appreciative of the fact that Gandhi taught us so much, rather than focusing on petty things.

  6. Ellesse at 2:01 am

    Achintya, I didn’t know much about the India-Pakistan history but what you’ve said struck a chord with me. Gratitude.

    It’s easy to forget the great deeds of an amazing man especially when one’s enjoying comfortable and tranquil times. But never never forget without the contribution of that person, he’ll may not have enjoyed the benefits he’s enjoying now. Always learn to appreciate someone for the positively wonderful things he has done. Be it Gandhi or any other person in your life.

    Thanks for your insight, Achintya. Your opinion has given this article a very unique dimension.

  7. Anna at 11:15 am

    I am, indeed, very much impressed of Ghandi’s life and actions he has done for his country, and I do really respect him. I have watched the movie of him, and have been to his museum in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Plus, very occasionally I was testing my brain in an online test and i found out that my brain is similar to Ghandi’s brain, and i was soooo much glad to know that:)

    Thank you, Ellesse, for this wonderful article, and thank you Achintya for your comments. You are right, Renu doesn’t have the sense of appreciation, or might be she just wrote those lines to oppose the opinion put here..such people also exist.

  8. Ellesse at 1:41 am

    @Anna Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad this article strikes a chord with you! Gandhi’s one of my most respected personalities and I hope that through his biography, many people can be encouraged to take that first action to challenge themselves. Just like what Gandhi did to overcome his shyness, his timidness to become a courageous leader we only remember him of today.

    Ahh, you must be one courageous and selfless person to have a similar brain as Gandhi’s! Can you give a link to the online test? I’m sure the rest of us can give it a go too :)

  9. Anna at 5:56 am

    Ellesse,

    Thank you for your comments. Actually, that quiz is in Facebook and it is called “Who were you in a past life”. So if you have an account there, you can take it, otherwise I can try to copy it. And it wasn’t about brain, it is about personality, I was wrong to say that it was brain.

    Good luck!!!

  10. Ellesse at 1:29 am

    @Anna Thanks for the reference! Sure, will check it out. See ya around!

  11. imtiyaaZ at 2:22 am

    i dont appreciate renu’s comments bt still i dont reject it…. those who have known / learnt indian freedom struggle — surely agree with her. may be Achintya speaks from text books — there are millions of things which were not recorded in the text books… Pls achintya, its not gandhi alone —

    every one including me has got to learn from d life of mahathma for various reasons both good and bad.

    i apologize, if i am wrong…

  12. Ellesse at 4:02 pm

    @Imtiyaaz The truth is, everyone’s entitled to their opinion and no one’s right or wrong here. It’s a matter of perspectives. So there’s really no need for the apologies :) That said, I do agree with you that regardless of the positive or negative attributes of a person – be it Gandhi or someone else, there’s something we can learn from it. Thanks for your wonderful insights!

  13. imtiyaaZ at 4:57 pm

    thanks chow

  14. Jeff at 3:48 am

    Today Indians take freedom and liberty for granted they forgot who obtained it for them. The Indian Freedom Struggle is well documented and there is no doubt that Gandhi infused a new life into it. He took it from the drawing rooms of the rich to the poor peasantry in the villages to whom freedom and equality were not even conceiveable. In 1947 all Indians were given liberty and equality much before many western democracies! If there was no influence of Gandhi, then the Civil Rights movement in America may not have been non-violent. If Gandhi did not exist, it is quite possible that the Free world may be short of 1.2 billion people today and most Indians may not be living in a united India.

  15. k.lelen at 10:33 am

    he is a great man and he deserve the famous like this

  16. Rina at 10:44 pm

    I remember the first time I had heard about Gandhi, I had watched Gandhi the film and it was the moment that changed my life. As a young Hindu girl at the time, I was searching for answers about my religion and life. I never knew that one person could unlock so many mysteries. I am sure we all have our own interpretation of Gandhi…….but he is my guide in this world. I try to adopt his principles of truth and non violence but I fear I have a long way to go. I hope that I am able to overcome my shyness and unearth some of my potential and bring about some positive influence in this world. xx

  17. Ellesse at 4:38 am

    @Jeff Thanks for your thoughts and a short recap of the learnings from the history. I’m certainly ignorant when it comes to South Asian history but you’re brought out one important point. That Gandhi’s work has influenced the way Civil Rights movement in America was conducted. And many many positive contributions. It’s this legacy that many people chose to remember him for. Myself included!

    @K.Lelen Agreed!

    @Rina Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s inspiring to hear of you adopting some of Gandhi’s wonderful attributes. But remember, everyone’s different so accommodate what’s best for yourself! :)

  18. Imtiyaaz at 5:29 am

    @Rina – All the best and the world needs people like u who wishes to role model themselves for the cause of world peace

  19. gg at 4:30 pm

    Gandhi is really a spoiler of India. renu is right. he along with Nehru spoiled entire future of India none than other can.For him desire of getting famous himself, is more than his faith of nation.if Gandhi was not there we may get independence earlier.
    he retarded our growth favoring Pakistani side. he retarded indian prosparity making Nehru prime minister, insted of Vallabh bhai patel. Gandhi is pretender of a great soul.who lacks broad vision in place of self gratification. being a great human is different than being a great nationalist. Reality is Father of nation assigned to a wrong person thats all.

  20. Ellesse at 4:52 am

    @gg Hmm… another perspective. It’s great to hear opinions from different camps. So, really thanks for your comment. I guess I’ll let the others add to the conversation since my knowledge of South Asian history is kinda limited.

  21. Gopal at 7:31 am

    Hi, Ellesse thanks for this blog and your well coordination on this discussions.

    I strongly believe in the below lines and narrate a similar line in my entrepreneur seminars. “That the person you see in the mirror everyday while brushing your teeth, combing your hair etc is the person responsible for your life. Yes. That, is none other than yourself.” under the heading

    “What Did I Learn From This Story?”. If you could edit this to “What Did I Learn From This Real Life Story?” Real life is missed out.

    Ok, My points here Indirectly: for a group of 12 members, After a good heavy lunch with everyone stomach full, a debate on “Good and Bad effects of Hunger” was provided with a huge cash prize. Everyone kept talking… talking for almost 6+ hours and then few felt growling in their stomach and then they realized themselves – what they were doing till then.

    Ok, My points here Directly: The 1.2 billion Indian still not realized the true freedom and Mahathma Gandhi has died in pain seeing this divide in people. Though everyone has enjoyed the 63+ years of freedom now – we have not stood in unison yet. The day we Indian’s stand together I am sure everyone will acknowledge a true leader who has potential to lead with love and compassion. I am sure all great souls always crave to be born in this land.

    Thanks
    Gopal
    http://in.linkedin.com/in/tgopalakrishnan

  22. keshav at 5:57 pm

    i would like to share one only thing about Gandhi Ji is his fairness and no fear of speaking the truth. He treated everyone equally and fairly. There was an occasion when he was in south africa, one of his rich friend offered him a sponsership for his kids to go to england for further studies but he did not send his own son because he found someone else more deserving than his own son. That’s shows his willpower and fairness. he had put the truth even before his family which i believe is very courageous. no other politician today or in future could do that ever.

  23. Mr_Toad at 3:09 pm

    @gg

    If indeed Ghandi secretly desired fame and fortune, then this merely confirms his humanity. He was a man like the rest of us, full of fears, doubts and weaknesses. However he made strenuous attempts to rise above the faults he recognised in himself – and it is this which I ask you to concede. We should surely admire any man who at least attempts to better himself?

    I’m not qualified to argue with you about the consequences if his actions – but it’s not his fault if he was called “Father of the Nation” or whatever. He never asked for any of that – but I concede that he used his reputation to gain access to the corridors of power. I believe he did this with good motives rather than bad.

    I do not think he ever claimed to be a “Great soul” – had “fame thrust upon him” as they say! Me? I had “obscurity thrust upon me”!

  24. Allan Pinto at 1:31 pm

    Gandhiji does India and Indians proud. His strength of character was amazing. If we are in a mess today, it is because we lack the Gandhian insight…we have become internally driven. We have become a people that puts outselves first.

  25. Rupesh at 3:20 pm

    Hi friends, Its great to see so many responses from various people.
    There is nothing in this world which is isolated from critics, even rose has spikes.
    I was the one among few others here who really hated Gandhi for the reasons mentioned in the above sections. Though the reason for this was my elders grooming me in a negative way about him which were all speculations rather than reality. After that I started reading books on him & finally I concluded myself to be wrong. Believe me, my life changed after absorbing his values. He was such a fine personality who never supported partition. Just don’t believe on speculations.
    So I feel that it is really very important to know the facts rather than believing on rumors.

  26. Mukesh at 4:20 pm

    Hi Everyone,

    It is nice to read different opinions. Thank you for this post. According to my analysis, Gandhi is of the class of Buddha, Lord Ram. He had impeccable leadership qualities and courage. Leader is one who manages everything without resources. He didn’t have money, muscle strength and other material possessions but his courage and power of truth shook the mighty British Empire.

    He was the only person who became the nightmare for Winston Churchill would write to his wife that British Empire might lose its hold on India due to one man, Gandhi. He said, non-violence is the attribute of strong, weak resorts to bloodshed.

    Gandhi inspired Martin Luther King and revolution happened in USA.

    Albert Einstein described him as the most enlightened person of his times and such a man might not visit on Earth again.

    I will share a small story about his courage. One day he was investigating Champaran village (in Northern India) riding on elephant when a British policeman saw him and drove him back to town and issued a legal notice of leaving the village immediately. He signed the order and wrote back, ‘I will disobey’. In those times, no one had courage to speak to common Englishmen but Gandhi had power to disobey British laws openly. I am sure even today one will hesitate to disobey Prime Minister’s orders even if it is untruthful.

    Such a great man he was!

    Thanks,
    Mukesh

  27. MAVERICK at 7:50 am

    DEAR INDIANS

    OUR CONSCIENCE IS MORTGAGED TO MONEY

    Don’t comment of the Phenomenon called GANDHI…

    Instead try to…

    AWAKEN THE GANDHI WITHIN.

    YOU say that our government is inefficient.
    YOU say that our laws are too old.
    YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage.
    YOU say that the phones don’t work, the railways are a joke, the airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination.
    YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits.
    Similarly
    YOU comment on Gandhi..look at your audacity!

    YOU say, say and say.
    What do YOU do about it?

    LIVE GANDHI…IF YOU HAVE THE GUTS…IF NOT SHUT YOUR TRAP!

  28. waris gill at 2:25 pm

    gandhi was reallly d worst thing india had…. d one who signd the form askin whethr to hung bhagat singh nd others or release…… he was son of a bitch, did evrythng for his political powers…. nathuraam godse is d real matryyy who saved india by killinn him… pllzzz ask indian govnmnt to release d book of nathuraam godse abt d evil gandhi did to hargn women evryday, wrong done to bhagat singh,…… govrnmnt had put a ban on book named “mein nathuram godse bolte”.
    m a indian too, m not lying , find urself frenz if u dont blieve meee.. google will help u or watch d play wich was based on d buk nd was banned too .. he killed my bro bhagat singh ,rajguru sukhdev nd many more,,..plzz dont tittl him as herooo:’(

  29. mahesh at 3:42 pm

    In India, all the credit is given to Gandhi, our text books says that he was the one who got us freedom, and governemnt has been saying this all the time.
    I would say that he was one of the pillers, but not the only person.
    I hate the people who force the equation of Gandhi = Indian freedom.
    He was a great person, but his principles denied the early frrdom to India, it denied us a great PM like Sardar and it went to Mr. Neharu. Was it worth it? Why Neharu? what extraordinary things he did for India? Just because Gandhi felt so? Wasn’t it wrong to push your choice to a country?
    Correct me if I am wrong, but this one wrong decision of him costed us a war against China and so many more things.
    I don’t hate him but I think he is overrated when it comes to serving my country.
    I doubt why he or Neharu was never tortured like other leaders, why Britishers were quick to hang Bhagat Singh and let those people live?
    Please enlighten me and I’ll be grateful.
    mahesh

  30. Arun Aggarwal at 8:31 pm

    hi ppl! Gandhi was a great leader! no doubt about it. he had all the qualities that a leader should possess. A visionary and diplomatic kinda man who envisioned a better future of India, preached a great philosophy as well as practiced it and the outcome everybody knows very well.he made a great contribution to the freedom of India as well as embodied great human values. he was a great leader that’s why the whole country with people from diverse cultures, beliefs and religions trusted him and followed his visions meant for the better of the country.Though many of the leaders in his own party didn’t like his way of thinking and doing much and there were many critics out there against him even today. But as far as i believe he was a great leader and we get to learn a few great qualities that every human being who wants to be successful in his or her high aims should pursue to possess. some ppl might call him a villain but at least for me he’s a hero. a man with strong character.leadership qualities that are very obvious in this freedom fighter i see are- visionary (he would start with end in mind, creatively used his power of imagination and created new plan of actions in his mind before he started off with any movement. Self control was a tool he utilized to control himself and in turn control the whole country. people would follow him with trust. that’s why great movements taken place. All such great successes are not possible without perseverance, will power and the mountain moving faith. i think it’s gonna be even better if we could try to pursue the positive traits of such great people rather than just criticizing about their weaknesses or something we didn’t like about them after all things or situations can not be as good as we want all the time. we human beings are born with imperfections. i hope u accept me as a human being…

  31. Unique at 12:54 am

    Well Gandhi Was A Great Leader &nd He Sacrificed His Life To Keep Peace In India &nd Thats What Made Martin Luther King Say What He Had To Say Because Now I Can Walk The Streets Without Some Racist Citizen Trying To Beat Me Up Or Robbing Me .

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