Gandhi and Gandhigiri Chic

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DevanJedi suggested we take a look at how India, spurred by a Bollywood fictional period flick,* has re-embraced Gandhi:

Until August, when a comedy with Gandhi as a central figure was released all over India, most of the people who spoke about Gandhi and his values were alive when he was shot in 1948. Now, all generations have re-embraced the father, or “Bapu,” of the nation.

In the movie, titled “Lage Raho Munna Bhai,” gangster Munna Bhai meets Gandhi and instead of indulging in his usual “dadagiri,” meaning bullying, he endorses Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence and battles with his enemy by giving him flowers, rather than punches.

Swati Gauri Sharma, How Gandhi got his mojo back, The Boston Globe, October 13, 2006

Who gets to own a historical figure, and how do we reanimate them when living memory fades? As with Albert Einstein, we’re stuck on a strange threshold with Gandhi: one generation remembers him vividly, personally, yet two or three generations know him only through fiction and caricature. My own experience of Gandhi stems almost exclusively from the 1982 Ben Kingsley movie; if I had to pick Gandhi out of a lineup of Gandhi and Ben Kingsley, I’d probably pick Kingsley.

And where is India that Gandhi’s message seems suddenly resonant again? Amardeep Singh reports that

My cousins in Delhi tell me that elderly people are stripping off clothes (this is directly out of Lage Raho Munnabhai) to shame government officials in charge of pensions to actually disburse their funds. And there are stories about pavement dwellers, in response to trash flagrantly dropped where they live by thoughtless passers-by, cheerfully (but pointedly) cleaning it up — again right out of the film.

Amardeep, Gandhi-giri in Full Bloom, Sepia Mutiny, October 15, 2006

Chris pointed out in this morning’s story meeting that Gandhi was the one postcolonial figure who healed the anger of occupation, rather than inflaming it. Do we need more of him in a very angry post-postcolonial world? Will Gandhigiri now be practiced on the Kashmiri border with Pakistan, too, or only on the streets of Delhi?

* Thanks to DevanJedi for the correction; you can read a synopsis of the movie in his comment below.

Faisal Devji

Professor of history, New School University

Rajesh Kalra

Chief editor, India Times

Vipul Ujwal

Blogger, For those who are are Confused about Life!!!

Studying for the Indian civil service exam

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Wikipedia definition of Gandhigiri: “a portmanteau of the words Gandhi and Giri; and may be loosely translated as practising what Gandhi preached”

Aparna Ray, When Gandhi met Munna Bhai,, September 19, 2006: “Tum Lage Raho Munna Bhai”/Said Gandhiji with a loud sigh.”Thanks to your lingo,/I’m suddenly in, bingo!/Just watch my books off bookshelves fly!”

Saswat Pattanayak, Lage Raho Munna Bhai: The Mahatma Strikes Back!, Saswat Blog, September 5, 2006: “Moreover, the film really caught me off guard with introduction of Mahatma Gandhi, considering that with the exception of Kamal Hassan’s Hey Ram (2000), none of the recent movies have treated the Mahatma in a worthy light. In fact, the current crops of Hindi film industry directors have developed some sort of an obsession with making films ridiculing Gandhi and his ideals.”

Express News Service, Gandhigiri pays: Embarrassed client clears carpenter’s dues, Ahmedabad Newsline, October 15, 2006: “Sharma sat on a day-long dharna with Mahatma Gandhi’s poster in front of his client’s shop, on Friday. With this, Sharma not only earned media attention, his embarrassed client promptly paid him through cheque on Saturday morning.”

Guwahati City, ‘Gandhigiri just a passing fad’, gandhigir..give it a chance, October 2, 2006: “Verma fears the outcome when people with little agreement with Gandhian ideals take up his ways of protest. ‘People like Babloo Srivastava adopting the Gandhian ideology will reduce it to a mockery,’ she said.”

Bose, Gandhigiri Success — Essential Ingredients, Gandhigiri Forum, November 13, 2006: “The following ingredients are necessary if you want to have success by your side in trying Gandhigiri…”

Vandana Kalra, Munnabhai’s Gandhigiri attains cult status, DEHLI Newsline, October 2, 2006: “’The movie does not portray Gandhi as someone fighting colonial rule. Rather, just like one of us, handling real life situations in 2006,’” says homemaker Sulekha Sharma, who watched the movie for the second time on Gandhi Jayanti.”

Related Content

  • “Do we need more of him in a very angry post-postcolonial world?”

    We sure do. I think Gandhi has influenced us more than most of us realise. I did not know until I studied the biography of Martin Luther King Jr. how deeply he was influenced by Gandhi. He applied Gandhian method directly to the Civil Rights movement. The peace movement in this country during the Vietnam era was in turn directly influenced by the Civil Rights movement. Today’s Peace movement is in direct linage. Would CODE PINK be CODE PINK without Gandhi?

    And, I love that T-shirt with a picture of Gandhi that says, “Another Skinhead For Peace”.

  • scribe5

    Gandhi was great, but what about the BBC?

    We are biased, admit the stars of BBC News

    By SIMON WALTERS, Mail on Sunday Last updated at 21:11pm on 21st October 2006

    “At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians…

    In one of a series of discussions, executives were asked to rule on how they would react if the controversial comedian Sacha Baron Cohen — known for his offensive characters Ali G and Borat — was a guest on the programme Room 101. On the show, celebrities are invited to throw their pet hates into a dustbin and it was imagined that Baron Cohen chose some kosher food, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Bible and the Koran. Nearly everyone at the summit, including the show’s actual producer and the BBC’s head of drama, Alan Yentob, agreed they could all be thrown into the bin, except the Koran for fear of offending Muslims.

    In a debate on whether the BBC should interview Osama Bin Laden if he approached them, it was decided the Al Qaeda leader would be given a platform to explain his views. And the BBC’s ‘diversity tsar’, Mary Fitzpatrick, said women newsreaders should be able to wear whatever they wanted while on TV, including veils.

    … Washington correspondent Justin Webb said that the BBC is so biased against America that deputy director general Mark Byford had secretly agreed to help him to ‘correct’, it in his reports. Webb added that the BBC treated America with scorn and derision and gave it ‘no moral weight’… Head of news Helen Boaden disclosed that a Radio 4 programme which blamed black youths at a young offenders’, institution for bullying white inmates faced the axe until she stepped in. But Ms Fitzpatrick, who has said that the BBC should not use white reporters in non-white countries, argued it had a duty to ‘contextualise’ why black youngsters behaved in such a way…”

  • Old Nick


    “A non sequitur is a conversational and literary device, often used for comical purposes (as opposed to its use in formal logic). It is a comment which, due to its lack of meaning relative to the comment it follows, is absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing. Its use can be deliberate or unintentional. Literally, it is Latin for ‘it does not follow’.”

  • scribe5

    generalia specialibus non derogant

  • Old Nick

    Acta exteriora indicant interiora secreta.

  • Nice to see my name up there- this is a fantastic story. A few corrections- the blog post says the show has been recorded and the film is not a ‘period’ flick, but one set on the streets of modern day Mumbai.

    Here’s a synopsis of the film: Munnabhai is a small time gangster who is used to getting his way by use of force or cheating. One night, to impress a girl, he tries to read up on Gandhi and ends up reading in a dark lonely library for hours, days. Suddenly he starts seeing Gandhi and Gandhi speaks to him; of course, no one else sees Gandhi and he is most likely a hallucination, but gradually Munnabhai changes his ways. He starts using “Gandhigiri”, which is a play on the word “dadagiri”, meaning “using force or being a bully”, and slowly Gandhigiri takes hold of the city of Mumbai. Everywhere people start countering corruption and bureaucracy with extraordinary affection and peaceful means. The movie is extremely touching, funny and appeals to all demographics.

  • Another aspect to this story is the problem of people invoking the “founding fathers” to support every political point- in the US and in other countries. What would the founding fathers *really* do? This film tries to address that issue by bringing Gandhi to present day India.

    This also reminds me of an episode (called Return of the King) of Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks television series where MLK comes back and sees that modern day America is not the dream that he had.

  • Old Nick

    Devan Jedi, I appreciate your 1 PM, October 25, 2006, especially for this:

    “Another aspect to this story is the problem of people invoking the “founding fathers” to support every political point- in the US and in other countries. What would the founding fathers really do?”

    Daniel Lazare makes this point at length in his The Frozen Republic. The point is that our veneration of ‘The Founding Fathers’ essentially holds us hostage to the past – to the prevailing conditions of the thirteen brand spankin’ new states of the late 1700’s. Ours is a republic conceived as an experiment and as a compromise based on the conditions then.

    It’s closely analogous to the problem with trying to apply the ‘laws’ detailed in, say, Leviticus to today’s societies. (For example: Chapter 15, verse 19: And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be out apart for seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. Translation: ostracize menstruating women for seven days, and if your body contacts hers, you’re polluted until nightfall.)

    We don’t follow these obsolete sorts of admonitions nowadays. Yet none of us (mostly) dare to question the suitableness of the constitutional product of our venerated ‘Founders’. We try to scry the tea-leaves of the Federalist Papers for clues to how Madison or Jefferson would want us to apply their thoughts (intent) to the realities and conditions of the 21st century world of vast multinational corporations, vital resources available mostly abroad, lightning quick communications, and scientific advances beyond the 18th century mind’s comprehension.

    Irshad Manji calls the Islamic equivalent of this sort of literalist adherence to the founding moment of Islam ‘foundamentalism’. It precludes independent thinking, she explains, and its focus on the past resists acknowledgment of the evolution of human knowledge, or even recognition of the growing amity between peoples outside the self-identified ‘foundamentalist’ communities.

    But this isn’t a post about religion (honestly!), so, what I’m setting up is this:

    ‘Foundamentalism’ (a reverence for and uncritical adherence to the founding innovations, principles, and principals of any once-revolutionary human system of faith or government or, I suppose, even a business concern) is a potent force at work in the world today (even if too new a concept to have gained much cognitive traction). Like any literalism, it stunts growth instead of promotes it.

    However, I wonder, 1) is Ghandhigiri an Indian form of foundamentalism?

    2) if so, is it an exception to the negative, regressive tendencies I’ve outlined above? Or does the comparative recentness of India’s founding moment help to keep it relevant instead of obsolescent?

    And if so (again), at what point in the evolution of a nation (or of a society symbiotically linked to a religion) can we mere humans, so easily confused and prone to conflation, sense the obsolesce of our particular foundamentalism?

  • Old Nick

    Duh! Sorry…

    And if so (again), at what point in the evolution of a nation (or of a society symbiotically linked to a religion) can we mere humans, so easily confused and prone to conflation, sense the obsolescence of our particular foundamentalism?

  • @Old Nick:

    – I think your point about the recentness of Indian independence is critical. There are (many) people alive in India today who were freedom fighters, “Gandhians” and have within their lifetimes seen India change from what it was in 1948. Many of the people in power and the opposition were among them.

    – Gandhi was an exception to the founding fathers of India and probably hard to compare with the classical idea of an FF. He was more a philosopher with ideas of civil liberties, non-violence and truth that were apolitical and went beyond the independence of a single country. So “Gandhigiri” is more a philosophy of getting your way through truth and proactive non-violence, which is an apolitical idea that is not linked to the founding of India but to the empowerment of any oppressed society.

    I think the best parallel for a student of American history is MLK (a “Gandhian” himself)- the words of MLK would have applied to any group of underprivileged people, at any point in history, in any part of the world. So it was with Gandhi.

  • CORRECTION: Many of the *current* people in power and the opposition were among them.

  • jazzman

    Old Nickis all: laws of Leviticus… We don’t follow these obsolete sorts of admonitions nowadays.

    I believe Leviticus is still followed in Orthodox Judaism (Kosher Laws) which you would prolly classify as foundamentalistic but in their belief system it makes sense even if there’s no scientific rationale to support those beliefs. The ritual practices of this and other religions (like praying 5 times a day) serve as a constant reminder to focus who you are in that religious society and what is expected of the adherents. The obsolescence in this case is not obviated by scientific negation as it is the form that matters, not the substance.

    ‘Foundamentalism’ (a reverence for and uncritical adherence to the founding innovations, principles, and principals… It’s the UNCRITICAL reverence or adherence for principles or principals that is the problem. Blind acceptance of anything (like DE wink wink nudge nudge) is not the best idea. Where our founding fathers went wrong is in the Bill of Rights, the principles that are not universal in concept. Unalienable rights like in the Declaration are universal – not by dint of a creator’s endowment but by absolute morality. Freedom of (non-violent) expression is universal. There are ambiguities and non-universal rights also enumerated in the BOR and amendments – those are the ones that need critical examination.

    1) is Ghandhigiri an Indian form of foundamentalism? Absolutely NOT Gandhigiri is based on universal principles that transcend time (which doesn’t exist) and circumstance (which always exists.)

    2) if so, is it an exception to the negative, regressive tendencies I’ve outlined above? Or does the comparative recentness of India’s founding moment help to keep it relevant instead of obsolescent? It’s not as I’ve noted above, therefore length of existence is irrelevant and never obsolescent.

    We try to scry the tea-leaves of the Federalist Papers for clues The “we” in this case is the SCOTUS and I seriously doubt that this particular quorum (save a couple of members) scry anything but their own penchants, predilections and prejudices.

    Peace and Gandhigiri to ALL,


  • momos

    The recent mainstream Bollywood film that is truly groundbreaking in its treatment of India’s revolutionary history and contemporary politics is Rang De Basanti, a controversial smash hit that is India’s entry for best foreign language film at the 2007 Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

    Unlike recent Indian films made with foreign consumption in mind that are safe and easy, like Monsoon Wedding, Rang De Basanti is idealistic and brutally serious in the vein of the best Hollywood films of the 1970s. Politically it is a film of unimaginable radicalism that contemporary Hollywood would never touch. Americans would do well to see this film and consider its message on the differences between principled violence and terrorism, which is the moral question at its heart.

    The film tells two parallel stories. A young British filmmaker named Sue (played by Alice Patten, the daughter of Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong) arrives in India to make a film about the Indian revolutionaries Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad who she has read about in the diaries of her grandfather, an officer in the British Force. Singh and Azad were major figures in the independence movement who favored violent resistance over Gandhi’s pacifist tactics. Gandhi disdained them and refused to protest against their hanging by the British. Whose side the film comes down on is clear early on, when in one of the first scenes Sue approaches producers in London about her project and they dismiss it out of hand by saying “only Gandhi makes money.”

    Sue goes to India anyway and once in Delhi casts a group of middle class college kids to play the historic characters in her film. They epitomize the youth of modern urban India: materialistic, disinterested, cynical, and driven by consumerism. Through a series of tragic events and their participation in Sue’s project, however, they become the modern contemporaries of the freedom fighters they play. Their political awakening is the second story of the film, with allusions to major recent political scandals — the likes of which are rarely addressed by Bollywood — such as the 2001 Defense Ministry bribery scandal and the Jessica Lal murder case, as well as Hindu-Musilm relations and the religious nationalism of the BJP.

    The film’s final sequence is utterly shocking to modern American sensibilities. Much of it was censored by the Indian government. Nevertheless it was an enormous box office hit in India, and it was number one in the Middle East and much of Africa. Rang De Basanti’s commitment to its political position is absoloutely impossible to imagine in American cinema. I won’t say more except urge all of you to see it. It’s not available in the US in general release. You’ll have to go to an Indian grocery that rents Bollywood flicks in order to get it (there are plenty of places in Boston and New York that have it).

    For an interesting discussion on the intersection of Bollywood, Gandhian activism, and contemporary politics in India, this film is required viewing.

  • I would point out that Gandhi learned the art of “Satyagraha” – or ‘truth force’ from the suffragettes. The reason his philosophy applies to any oppressed group is that women, who have been oppressed since the beginning of time and have almost always lacked power and could never hope to overtake their male counterparts through physical force, had to find to reach very deeply into their creativity to find a way to empower themselves.

  • vivek pachpande

    of course Gandhi’s ideas were apolitical, he was not so concerned perhaps for Indian independence than creating a community of people who’d be governed by their own conscience.

    I know, it might sound perhaps farfetched, but if we look at his entire life, then we’d be content to say that for him political freedom would necessarily come second to the freedom of individual’s conscience.

    but one is at a loss to understand do we really want to indulge in Gandhigiri? are we really so courageous enough to do that? are we really aware of full consequences of Gandhigiri,—the deep philosophical conflicts it presents, and the conflict it creates with duties to one’s own self?

  • Old Nick

    vivek pachpande, would you please expand on this? —

    are we really aware of full consequences of Gandhigiri,—the deep philosophical conflicts it presents, and the conflict it creates with duties to one’s own self?

    I am not aware, but am curious. What conflicts exactly do you mean? How do those conflicts manifest in a person’s daily life?

    Thanks in advance.

  • dieing philosopher!

    nic, I mean that the self-preservation is the first duty of individual towards herself, and Gandhi’s philosophy undermines this fundamental duty. I am not talking about Ahinsa, we all know his horrendous statements towards the end of his life about the fight in Kashmir—with every bullet of the brother Paks every Satyagrahi will fall down. . . without malice towards the person who is firing towards them. . .

    now, isn’t it conflict with one’s own duty of self-preservation? we might find the outlet in believing in rebirth or that kind of thing, but it is the fact that this life won’t be coming back to us, so, is it worth it to squander it away on some ideology? to maintain that one should always put his other cheek in response to violence, is what? is it not hinsa towards one’s own self?

    of course I might be wrong, of course I might be hasty in my opininons, but understand please, that Indian people are suffering from Bappoocracy, they look towards their leaders as father figures and expect too much of them and then suffer as we all know. respecting Mahatma is one thing, making a shop of his ideology is another. . .

  • dieing philosopher!

    oops! sorry! the second thing is Gandhi’s entire philosophy is the story of repressions—don’t do this, don’t do that! don’t drink, don’t smoke. . . don’t indulge in sex. . . if you are aware of his life nick, then you would remember the dialogue between Mahatma and his first son, Harilal. Harilal was a black sheep of Gandhi family for the simple reason that he never accepted anything blindly what Mahatma told him to accept. . . this position might be somewhat hazardous, he says “fire burns is a truism, but let me experience this truism first hand, bapoo! please don’t force your protection on me, it undermines my intelligence…”

    with all kinds of repressions we are creating a society which has split personalities and all kinds of disorders. Gandhigiri at the least is unnatural, it is like a cloak which one possesses to hide one’s own cowardice and helplessness!

  • metolius8

    If the question is “Who gets to own a historical figure”, I ask you when did any public figure of note avoid becoming a brand. Jesus didn’t. So why be upset when we are offered “Gandhi G-shirts” or “the Gandhi Diet”? I mean really people…

  • Some more news: Gandhigiri at the United Nations.

    And apparently, it is India’s entry for the Oscars.

  • stupidshark

    Hi Rob,

    Your mail came as pleasant surprise as you not only read my Blog but also appreciated the thought conveyed in the Blog. So Thanks! As now I am more resolved to write as good as I can. My mobile phone number is +91-94148-92850 and I am free in the evening hours (6 PM to 10 PM IST +5:30 GMT) but being mainly a student I am not in position to bear the call cost but than we always have INTERNET and Yahoo/MSN messenger to share the ideas. But with deepest of regret I want to tell you that I am not well (Viral Infection) thus not in a position to immediately help you though after 3-4 Days I will be healthy enough to Talk with you….

    Now about the questions raised by you in your e-mail:

    Q1: Why in India Gandhi’s message seems suddenly resonant again?

    Mainly because it is First time since independence some Main-Stream Film maker tried to combine the Gandhian philosophy with Entertainment and given the Box-Office success of MunnaBhai’s First movie the sequel was destined to be viewed by many. Apart from that the Success and impact of movie Rang De Basanti among youth also paved the way for taking MunnaBhai Seriously. Apart from it, it is the first time Gandhi is taken out of the Archives and made available to commoner.

    The movie offered applied aspect of the Gandhian philosophy in solving very mundane problems of daily life. Otherwise in India Gandhi WAS most discussed but least understood figure. Basically before LRMB (Lage Raho MunnaBhai) a faction of Indian (especially the Congress Party) glorified Gandhi to the extent to a God because they benefited from this as they projected themselves as the true heirs of the Gandhian Ideology (though Gandhi himself would have objected for this) and Other Faction Portrayed Gandhi as the Ultimate Villain as they made him responsible for the untimely death of Bhagat Singh or they blamed him for his helplessness in Stopping the Partition. Thus in a way both separated Gandhi from the Masses but what LRMB did was it returned the Gandhi back to the masses (a place where he truly belongs) and offered them practical Gandhian Advice on various issues.

    Apart from this resurrection of Gandhigiri is also a result of prevailing “Anarchy” in India where Corruption and Violence became the norm rather than being exception. Prior to LRMB, Mr. Bacchan as The Young Angry man Tried to solve the mundane problems of “AAM ADMI” through Violence but since last 30 years the commoner had realized that the proposed solution (By Mr. Bacchan) failed to deliver. So in this state Gandhian Ideology offered a “NOVEL” alternative. We can also understand the recent emergence of Gandhigiri in light of the Rise of Middle Class. The Great Indian Middle Class accepted Gandhigiri immediately as it offered them an viable alternative because this class is though unsatisfied with current state of affairs yet have materialistic comforts thus they just can’t adopt the Violent methods as they are “too career oriented” and “too Sophisticated”. So Gandhigiri offered them away to express their anger and dissatisfaction without worrying out the Massive Retaliation by the “Power Centers”.

    We can also view the emergence of Gandhigiri after so many years from the angle that it’s only now the Indian Mainstream Cinema is experimenting with the novel storylines (thanks to Multiplex Culture). And it’s only recently when we started to fathom the real potential of Celluloid in influencing the masses. This line of thought further gets vindicated if we see it with the fact that Books Reading as a habit is on decline thus Movies/Television are the only mass medium that have a sincere following.

    Q 2. Have you encountered obvious /acts/ of Gandhigiri? Is the movie changing the way younger Indian generations think of the Bapu? Are people talking about him more?

    How much is, in your terms, the “Gandhi within ourselves” entering

    conversation and thought these days?

    Obviously being the Flavour of the Day, Acts of Gandhigiri are very much common now a day. In Jaipur (Rajasthan, India) Students are giving flowers to the Vice Chancellor, People are going for “fast until Death” so as to make authorities do their job, peaceful Candle Marches are being organized etc. and interestingly many of these acts are resulting into success. People, Students and Mass Media are talking more about Gandhi and discussing more about Gandhi. Even “Gandhi-within-oneself” is being referred more.

    Bapu is the latest “in-thing” and the younger generation is changing it’s perception about the Gandhi. Now rather than saying “Mazboori ka naam Mahtma Gandhi” (helplessness thy name Gandhi), kids are singing “Bande me tha Dum” (the Guy had Guts). So in nutshell the scenario is indeed changed. But then comes the ultimate question….

    Q 3. Will Gandhigiri last?

    Well the answer is both Yes and No. No because the kind of Moral Discipline and Spiritual strength required for Gandhigiri is not common and thus many of us are not fit for following the Gandhian ideology in its pristine purity. Mainly because the New Generation is a follower of path of Least Resistance and their Guiding beacon is Principle of Least Effort that means though we all want improvement but at the same time want it to be done by some one else. That means that the newer generation believes more in “passing the Buck” than “Shouldering the Responsibilities”. This attitude gets evident when we see the Voter Turn-Out at general election. Be what ever the reasons but the Indian intelligentsia and the great middle class (which are main engine of change) are shying away from their responsibility.

    Apart from this, practicing Gandhigiri comes in direct conflict with two main characteristics of today’s generation. Firstly, today’s generation believes in “immediate gratification” whereas Gandhigiri requires that one should take the “rightest” path may it be the longest one. Not many would love to get their job done in 30 days (though through the proper channel) when all they have to pay few extra Gandhi-Chhap (slang for Rs. 500) to get it done in matter of hours. Generally bribes are decried either by the older people or by those who cannot pay bribes due to resource crunch otherwise it is termed, accepted and offered as “service Tax”. I don’t want to sound cynical but that’s what is the attitude of younger generation towards normal problems. Secondly, today’s generation lacks Altruistic Attitude, the basic lynchpin of Gandhigiri. Today’s generation is very much preoccupied by Self that they do not have time to think about others. They will protest against bribe but not because they do not like it as a matter of principle but because they think that their protest will ensure that they need not to pay the bribe and thus save the money. I have seen numerous examples where corrupt officer can get away scot-free even after asking for the bribe if he offers to the so-called-idealistic-citizen to do the job without the bribe and ironically the modal-citizen accepts the offer and walks away. A true Gandhian should have refused the bait and should have complained about the official but instead people rationalize their Selfish Act as Honesty by arguing that they got their job done without bribe. But what they forget to take into account that their walking away without lodging the complaint is also a kind of bribe. So in summary, the present breed of Gandhians is more of opportunists rather than true followers.

    I still believe that we all have Gandhi in ourselves but most of the time talk and discuss about him to portray ourselves as intellectuals and liberals rather than really identifying and assimilating him in our “consciousness-proper”. What is needed more than having the “Gandhi-within-ourselves” entering in our conversation and thought more and more, he should enter in our deeds.

    However, it does not mean that current “fad” of Gandhigiri will fade away without making any significant change in the common psyche. LRMB had offered us a fresh outlook and a alternative to our contemporary world-view and some of us will make it their final world view. And to me if LRMB can covert a Single person into a true Gandhian then movie will be successful beyond expectation.

    Amen ! ! !

  • stupidshark

    if any one is interested in my philosophical undersatnding of movie Munna Bhai, Please visit my Blog:



  • joshua hendrickson


    what a beautiful point you make about Gandhi learning from the suffragettes. It really made me think about how the struggle for women’s equality (I won’t call it feminism, which is much too limiting in my view) has in so many ways defined all of human history, with obvious emphasis on the last three centuries.


    who owns a historical figure? I agree; we all do. And more: “we” “own” all public figures past and present. That we can use or misuse these figures as we like is part of the tragedy of history: nothing can truly be understood, not even in its own time by its own practitioners. Jesus couldn’t foresee becoming a t-shirt, but that isn’t even the least of the perversions of his own mission that began the moment the nails were hammered home.

    As for Gandhi himself:

    I am not a fan of repression in any form, and so find much of the Mahatma’s practices unappealing; however, I laud his courage, both personal and spiritual, which was by any measure titanic.

    And these days, doesn’t the whole world seem blind?

  • jdyer

    “Who gets to own a historical figure, and how do we reanimate them when living memory fades? As with Albert Einstein, we’re stuck on a strange threshold with Gandhi: one generation remembers him vividly, personally, yet two or three generations know him only through fiction and caricature. My own experience of Gandhi stems almost exclusively from the 1982 Ben Kingsley movie; if I had to pick Gandhi out of a lineup of Gandhi and Ben Kingsley, I’d probably pick Kingsley.”

    There is a confusion here between a thinker’s image and the thinkers ideas and influence through his work.

    No one owns an image.

    But what is an image? Does it reflect anything real? Probably not!

    The work on the other hand is real and tangible and is owned by those people who understand it and use it in their own work.

    This is true even of Gandhi, who is over rated it seems to me as force for peace in the world.

    What did he achieve. India was on the road of independence in spite of him. He didn’t or couldn’t stop the violence between Hindus and Muslims which claimed the lives of millions.

    His ideas of non violence could only have put into effect in democracies such as those of Great Britain and the US.

    His tactics would never have worked in Nazi Germany nor in Soviet Russia. How would they work in Iran? Needless to say his fate in Iraq would be certain and obvious.

    So what are we left with?

    A Gandhi can easily destroy an imperfect democracy but he cannot overturn much less reform a totalitarian state.

    This is the problem with his work. His image appeals to many and will continue to appeal. But then images are empty they don’t refer to anything substantial.

  • Sir Otto

    I believe it was Ghandi, I may be wrong, who said “all religions are true”. I think this may have been a uniting factor in a part of the world with many points of view.

  • enhabit

    two points

    i believe that if the palestinians had adopted and kept Ghandian political techniques long ago… the middle east would be a profoundly different place right now.

    hero worship can sometimes be a way of rationalizing ourselves “off the hook” because we all fail to understand that the extraordinary can spring from us all.

    with all due respect to shakespeare who i seem to recall said something like: there is nothing so common as the desire to be extraordinary.

  • plnelson

    And if so (again), at what point in the evolution of a nation (or of a society symbiotically linked to a religion) can we mere humans, so easily confused and prone to conflation, sense the obsolescence of our particular foundamentalism?

    I think your analogy is seriously flawed: religious fundies think their beliefs are the word of God, and immutable.

    But US Constitutionalists imagine no such thing. The Constitution is merely an instrument, devised by men and which can be changed anytime we want. Indeed, it’s been amended plenty of times in history, and part of the genius of its design is that it has a process for self-alteration build right in! (would that this were true for humans).

    The fact that the US, in it’s current governmental form, has been around for 200 years verifies the good design of the Constitution, but we can change it any time we really want to.