06 March 2009

Vaishnav jan

One of Gandhi-ji's favourite songs is called "Vaishnav jan." It's always associated with him because he loved the lyrics and tried to follow those ideals. He also wanted to instill those ideas in all he met. He was honoured with the title "Father of India," and I'm sure he would have wanted his children to follow them. The current crop of Indian leaders think that they are honouring Gandhi-ji's memory by bringing his glasses and slippers back to India. Perhaps if they were a little familiar with the Mahatma's favourite song, they may not have made that mistake. So I'm helping them along with the lyrics and meanings of the song. You can listen to the song here if you want to sing along.

Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je, peed paraayi jaane re /
Par dukhe upkaar kare toye, man abhimaan na aane re//

The true devotee [of God] is one who understands the pain of those who are not their own,

Always ready to help those who are unhappy, and does not let arrogance enter his mind.

If the government was really interested in honouring Gandhi-ji's memory, they should be able to understand the problems that the people are facing. I would say the biggest problems are that people don't have enough opportunities to fulfill their potential. There are not enough places at institutions of higher learning, and not enough jobs for the few who do get a chance to study. I would say these things take just a little bit of priority over making a huge noise about Gandhi-ji's things that he gave away during his lifetime and nobody cared about for at least 60 years.

Sakal lok maan sahune vande, ninda na karen keni re /
Vaach kaach man nischal raakhe, dhan dhan janani teni re //

She bows to the whole world, does not criticise anybody,
Words, deeds, and mind are kept pure, blessed is the mother who has such a child.

Well, this first bit the Indian government does really well. Bows to practically the whole world. "Oho, you want to come and blow up people here? No problem, please go ahead... consequences to you? None, don't worry... we will strongly condemn the acts but words have never hurt anyone. Do you mind if we blame the previous government for your actions? That way you can seem to be victims too!" Their words are definitely pure... deeds and minds not so much. Mother India is not very blessed with some of the current leaders that we have.

Sam-drishti ne trishna tyaagi, parastree jene maat re /
Jivaa thake, asatya na bole, par dhan nava jhaale haath re //

All are looked upon as equals, desire is abandoned, and he treats women as if they were his mother,

His tongue tires if he attempts to lie, he does not want other people's wealth.

I really wish the government would have this attitude. Right now, men and women are not looked upon equally, different castes are not looked upon equally, hell, ministers seem to expect the public to defer to them. Violence against women is a huge problem and their opportunities are still restricted in much of the country. Lies are the bread and butter of politics and stealing the taxpayers' money... that's an Olympic sport in itself. If only the government would spend some energy and time on this.

Moh maaya vyape nahin jene, drudh vairaagya jena manmaa re /
Ram naam shu taali laagi, sakal theerth tena tan ma re //
Desire and illusion don't hold him, he has detached himself fromt he world,

The name of God is on his lips, all places of pilgrimage are in his body.

Government is very much attached to power, but not so much to the people who give them their power. They do use God to stay in power as much as possible... for some reason if God / religion is mentioned people forget rational thinking and hand over their brains. So instead of religion being something that unites, politicians use it to divide and the "we will protect you from them" seems to work better in the short term than "we'll get schools and electricity and water," of course the latter are much more difficult than the former, especially when there's nobody to protect against... other than goons who work for the politicians.

Vana lobhi ne kapat rachit chhe, kaam krodh nivaarya re /
Bhane narsaiyyon tenu darshan kartaa, kul ekoter tarya re //

He has no deceit, no greed, has given up lust and anger,
If Narsi [the poet] is in the presence of such a person, his whole family will get salvation.
Government's definitely failed on all this... the bad side is shown to the people of the country, they're really nice to foriegners as far as I can tell.
So, I'm asking those ministers who want to keep the memory of Mahatma Gandhi alive, take a page from his favourite poem and be that person... building statues, getting bits of memorabilia back won't keep his memory alive... as Gandhi-ji liked to say, "Be the change you want to see in the world," or at the very least, stop interfering with people who want to see change happen.

Gandhi-ji was a brilliant tactician, he knew what would work against the British and what would unite Indians at a time when India had not been united for at least 2500 years. For all his non-violence, he never backed down from a fight. The fight wasn't physical, it was one 'half-naked fakir,' in the words of Winston Churchill, versus the greatest empire the world has ever known... and the fakir won. He also knew the power of experimentation to test his beliefs and he went against the opinion of most of the country when he decided to test if he had truly conquered desire for women [the experiment showed him that he hadn't conquered it.] He had a backbone... and great bravery, which is desperately lacking in the Indian government.

So, Gandhian legacy is... call a spade a spade, work for the good of humanity and not oneself... stand up for what you believe in... what do the politicians of today believe in, other than enriching themselves and making sure they get elected the next time... his legacy is not his eyeglasses and sandals. Seriously.