Founding father of world’s largest democracy was tried for treason in the modern-day capital city of the very state he was born in, nearly two and a half-decade before his life long efforts bore fruits – yes, such is the veracity of time, what is a known truth today, may in the days to come, fade into a mere build-up to the greater reality. Before we go any further, I’m duty-bound to inform you that I’m a fan of Bapu ( can’t say the greatest but yes one of significance ), every line, every word that you’ll read here on will drip my admiration for the greatest Indian ever, the Mahatma, so if you happen to be someone who doesn’t like him as much, you may leave this article right here, enjoy the holiday that his birthday grantees to every Indian! Coming back to the historic trial, our beloved barrister did not particularly win cases, in fact if we judge him, on the ratio of victories in the courtroom, he might well come out as the most unaccomplished lawyers of all times, but this man was not meant to be just an advocate, he carried in this heart and soul letters that bore meaning which far exceeded usefulness of any rule book. In his argument, Bapu said and I quote.
“Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence.”
Justice Broomfield, who was in awe of the short, skinny & funnily dressed Indian man went on to sentence him but how he pronounced the judgment celebrated Gandhi, the man in no uncertain terms. Historians write that he frequently visited Bapu in the jail with the stated intention of forging friendship with the jewel of India. He even titled Mohandas as his spiritual friend in the book that he wrote after his retirement. Think of the audacity of the situation here, a British judge that finds a man guilty of treason against the British empire, goes out of the way, denouncing tradition to celebrate him in every way possible. Our Bapu was such a man!! He was less of a man and more of a living miracle, it is a pity that most Indians (87% according to a survey done by Sriram publication house) have not read even one full book on father of the nation. if you happen to be one such person, go grab ‘my experiment with truth’ today, you would not regret it. Before I get to the title of this article, let me underscore the degree to which circumstances now have changed. How the societal fabric that held values dear and regarded it above all else has found greater love in material manifestations; therefore, natural love for such powerful principles may not be as evident in the present times as it used to be then. We’re a society that values sensationalism over sense, chaos over clarity, histrionics over history; great moments do not get created over ‘viral’ semantics, history is created slowly, one moment at a time and it almost always is without frills.
In keeping with crazy times, I want to imagine Bapu as a modern-day figure, someone with responsibilities of pleasing not just principles but also materials and targets. So, I imagine him as a CEO, and in doing so, I try to explore which among the values that he demonstrated superbly in the Indian freedom struggle would he practice in the 2019 avatar. Here is my pick.
Truth: Gandhi can’t be imagined without truth, in an organizational setup, therefore, I presume that he would have created a culture of candor, one in which people spoke their minds freely and fearlessly. Political correctness, sugar coating & diplomatic recitals must have been things that he would have disliked the most and should situation demanded even acted against. He would have professed Satyagraha, (Sanskrit and Hindi: “holding onto truth”) and that would have meant pure ethical business conduct. Shortsighted, penny wise pound foolish practices like mindless misreporting, treacherous misrepresenting, wilful misguiding; putting things under the rug, creating a smokescreen, stealing information would not have existed under his watch uncontested. He was a compassionate man but not in situations that demanded action, the way he called off non-cooperation movement when it turned violent teaches us that he would have been extremely heartless and curt in curbing things which he did not find righteous. In his world, it was not about taking the most profitable however unethical but the right decision, always. He knew to march ahead and lead just as well as he knew to stop and retreat.
Democratic dissent: Mahatma neither lacked confidence nor will, he was, in fact, the very opposite of weak; so he would not have surrounded himself with spineless ‘yes men’. He in his role as a CEO would have encouraged diversity of views, he would have welcomed intellectual challenges, even the most difficult & daunting ones. Bapu believed in merit and originality; he was dead against lifting information from open sources without quoting creator. Historian Ramchandra Guha writes that he fired his temporary assistant (not naming him because he was a timid man and has earned nothing more than anonymity for the character that he showed) on a visit to England, when he found that the assistant cleverly stole Franklin’s line from one of his journals and produced it to Bapu as his own, on the matter of civil liberty. Bapu was a well-read man, he found out in an instance and showed the man the door. He knew to dissent like nobody I have read about or know did. Bapu knew that to encourage people to come with their original ideas he would need to create a culture of acceptance and respect and I sense that he would have done exactly that, even a CEO.
Love and Compassion: Hate the crime and not the criminal, he exuded love and compassion even for his opponents in measures equal to what he bestowed upon his supporters and followers. He would have made sure that ills of favoritism, nepotism, red-tapism, did not exist in the org that he led. He believed in reformative actions which essentially is about understanding the depth of the problem, from that we can conclude that he would have disallowed superficiality and hollow problem-solving. He was an ardent egalitarian, therefore, he would not have rendered deferential treatment to people basis tenure, caste, affluence, color, regionality, etc. As a CEO, he would have respected his competition and not bad-mouthed them. He would have shown no malice for those who chose a path different from his, he would have done everything possible to create a framework that encouraged people to understand before they concluded matters. He would have built an organization with bricks of empathy and care.
Sardar Patel, Deputy PM and Home Minister of Independent India, reached Bapu in the week that Godse took him away from us forever to pursue him to allow security personal guard him and to let for thorough frisking of all who got near him or the premise that housed him, as he started building his argument on the threat that the agencies had picked up. Bapu told Sardar, could you come to the point quickly Patel, I’m getting late for the evening prayers.
So, I’m concluding it here in the shortest possible way that for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, CEO, India incorporation; ends would have never justified the means!
On that note, Happy Birthday Bapu and thank you for all that you did, spoke and wrote about. You continue to be my superhero!