Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas were not new. He carried forward concepts such as honesty, non-violence and living an austere life, which had been a part of Indian philosophy (such as Jainism) and thought for a long time. But what Gandhi really did well was reiterate them and live by them to his last breath. He followed what he believed in much more intensely than other people. There was no difference between his words and his deeds and that is what makes Gandhi admirable.
Life lessons: Gandhi did not differentiate between his words and deeds. Harikrishna Katragaddda / Mint
There are four concepts which Gandhi followed that I believe are relevant even today and I want my 13-year-old son to understand and imbibe these.
Speak the truth, always
Adolescents nowadays know that truth has consequences and lying has benefits. So it is very tough to convince them to be truthful all the time. As parents, it is important that we make them understand that the consequences of speaking the truth are not always bad and that truth is not to be feared. Sometime back, someone I knew picked up something at school that did not belong to him. When his mother found out, she had a chat with him and asked him to return it. He was scared that his principal would be upset if he owned up and that his friends would make fun of him. But his mother took him to school and told him that he must own up. Finally, he did that. After that incident the boy realized the power of truth and why one should not be afraid to speak the truth always.
Keep a promise
Last year, I attended an annual inter-school competition organized by Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. There was a little girl who wrote a piece on Gandhi. She said the thing she liked best about Gandhi was that “Bapu made a promise that he would get us independence and he kept that promise.” I was very touched at how she was able to recognize that and assign the role of promise-keeper to Gandhi.
As a parent, if you want your child to honour any commitment, you must learn to do the same first.
Do not initiate violence
Nowadays children tend to believe that Gandhi stood for cowardice because he advocated the path of non-violence. In today’s context, it is very tough to tell children to turn the other cheek, especially if they are facing a bully at school or are threatened in some other way. The concept of total non-violence and its spiritual context is understood over a period of time and most teenagers are probably not at a point to understand it.
I like to explain to my son that if you disagree with somebody or dislike someone, it is not right to express that through violence.
“I don’t like you, or your ideas, or what you believe” should not mean that it is okay to get into a physical fight. Neither are discomfort, dislike and disagreement reasons enough for aggression, nor does attacking someone make you a brave person—that is the message a parent must get across.
It is important to explain to teenagers that if you are operationally in a position where you can exercise the option of not hitting somebody or if you can, through a conversation, resolve a disagreement, then that is the first path to take.
Violence as a measure of getting someone to agree to your point of view is unacceptable, and your child must know that.
Contribute to society
Children nowadays indulge in a huge amount of spending. Things that we aspired to in our youth are a necessity for the children of today. I like the way Gandhi contributed to society and I think that this is something that should be inculcated in children at a young age. For example, encourage your children to share some part of the money they receive on occasions such as birthdays and festivals for causes that they want to support, such as the welfare of stray dogs or saving trees. Make them aware, but do not force them to do this. Teaching a child the concept of denying himself something so that someone else can benefit is an extremely valuable lesson to learn, but this will come only if parents follow the concept of social responsibility themselves.
Feroz Abbas Khan is a theatre director and has directed the film Gandhi My Father.
As told to Seema Chowdhry
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