Was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, of Porbandar, just another name, just another life, just another voyage or was his life the story of one man's quest for truth? A quest that changed the history of nations and imprinted his influence on three continents during his lifetime. And continues to influence humankind even today, fifty-two years after he was murdered.
Born on 2nd October 1869, the youngest of six children of the Divan of Porbandar Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi and Putliba, Mohan was affectionately called Monio. Mohan grew up in Rajkot where he married his partner for life Kastur, who later became 'Ba' (the loving mother) of everyone who came under the influence of her husband.
The life's journey of this child went through a lot of names, places and incidents, all leaving their influence on Mohan and he leaving his indelible stamp on them.
From Mohan and Monio of childhood to Mohandas and Mr. Gandhi of youth to Barrister Gandhi of young manhood. The journey went on to Gandhibhai, the activist barrister fighting for the rights of the Asian indentured labourers in South Africa at the turn of the century. Mr. Gandhai as the Boers of South Africa called the leader of the Asiatics. The Coolie Barrister, fighting for the rights of South Africa's Asian citizens. To the loving Bapu that the Indian farmers christened him when on his return to British India he championed their cause against the Imperialist farmers. To Mahatma the Great Soul the wielder of the new weapon of Ahimsa, and finally The Father of the Nation the liberator of India. Mohan inspired such reverence that even his detractors refer to him respectfully as Gandhiji.
From Porbandar, his birthplace, to Rajkot where he learnt the lessons of childhood which shaped his life, to London where he became a barrister and was exposed to the life of a young gentleman. He was influenced by many schools of thought.
From Rajkot, where on his return as a young barrister he first encountered British Colonial rudeness and discourtesy. To South Africa and the platform of Peitermaritzburg station which kindled the spirit of fighting injustice and not bowing to tyranny. To Spiekopfmond as a stretcher-bearer who witnessed the barbarism of the so-called civilised whites and then from Ladysmith to Newcastle the march across South Africa, which brought the racist administration to its knees, the activist saint had evolved.
Back in India, travelling the dust plains of India and discovering the real India. The journey continued, learning and teaching. The journey was heading for the eventual awakening of the person as well as the nation he represented. From the clubs of the Brown Sahibs to the Charpais (stringed wooden beds) of the dusty village gatherings, from the viceroy's palaces to the huts of the Indian multitudes, from Champaran to Bardoli, the fighter for the rights of India's poor was taking shape.
From Calcutta to Karachi and from Lahore to Madurai the leader who shaped the political fight for India's freedom and eventually forced the British to leave was creating the new Indian political organisation, The Congress.
From the orthodox heartland of Varanasi to Puri and Rameshwar. The emancipator of the persecuted untouchables, the social reformer who attacked the hypocrisy of Brahmin Supremacist Pune and the segregators of the Temples of Puri, and embraced the Harijans into his Ashrams at Sabarmati and Sevagram.
The journeys he undertook to the nooks and crannies of British India whether by foot, bicycle, elephant back, bullock carts or OxFords (Cars pulled by oxen), or the third-class compartments of trains. The first circumambulation of the country to discover India and her people. His travels in Champaran to experience the poverty and exploitation of the small farmers. He left no part of India untouched, be it on his numerous movements, be they in Bardoli or Bihar, whether they were for Harijan uplift, or to interact with the fiery Pathans of Baluchistan. His trans-oceanic travels to Britain to negotiate with the imperial government or to interact with European nations to garner support for Indian freedom.
His famous journeys, from Sabarmati to Dandi, The great Dandi March which broke the back of the Colonialist powers, his walks through interior Orissa that brought emancipation to the Harijans of this most backward of Indian regions. To his final walk through riot torn Noakhali, to heal the wounds inflicted by fanatics on his beloved motherland, as she prepared to cast off the fetters of slavery and discovered that her cruel captors had dismembered her. The one-man Peace Force healed the wounds of Noakhali and Bihar, Hindus and Muslims.
The journey of discovery, evolution, triumphs and failures finally ended at Birla House, New Delhi, at 5.13 p.m. on 30th January 1948, when three bullets symbolising the savagery, intolerance and fanaticism of man pierced his chest. A Seventy-eight year voyage that culminated in "Hey Ram".
His Journey continues even today in the hearts of millions across the world. The saga of the Mahatma continues amongst his worshipers, amongst his detractors and those who are discovering him even today. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi the man who influenced, centuries, continents, countries and people continues to travel across time even today.
Albert Einstein very prophetically said of the Mahatma, "Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth."