Amartya Sen's book - An Argumentative Indian
Though Mahatma Gandhi played a central role in India’s fight for freedom, the generation of today hardly seems interested in him. The point of focus here is not whether his efforts were good or bad – the point is that he made a distinguished effort, and while we may have an inclination to discuss about every other person, why such apathy to the supposedly father of the nation?
One of the primary reasons for this is the restriction on free opinion. As ironical as it may sound, we have no freedom to discuss about the person who helped us in attaining freedom. We are not allowed to discuss, debate, argue and explore him or his philosophies. We have to swallow them ‘as-is’. Even a comment or an observation on his work, would provide fuel to some or the other so called nationalist group in India, who would charge you with allegations of disrespect against the nation.
It is because of this no one discusses him or his ideas. It is because of this that his ideas have remained ideas of the past - they have not been adopted or further developed to fit into the contemporary times. It is because of this that his influence is constantly diminishing and it is because of this that he has been type casted into a mere monument of an old man walking with a stick.(Have you ever see a portrait or statue of the young Mahatma Gandhi ?)
But what be the cause of this ‘because’? We can identify this to India’s fixation of manifesting its extraordinary achievers as God. We have national gods as well as regional gods. Mahatma Gandhi and Sachin Tendulkar are examples of the first category. Rajnikant is a prime example of the latter category. These achievers are the Gods of the masses. And one is neither supposed nor allowed to evaluate, criticize or discuss God .God here is too big to be discussed by mere mortals like us. Whatever they do or say has to be accepted. End of discussion.
And what be the cause of this ‘fixation’? The deeply religious psychology of our countrymen might have something to do with it. Another cause of this fixation is the fact that we do not have many role models to look upon. Hence the few we have are propelled to God status. This scarcity of role-models could be attributed to the fact that we do not have enough role – models in proportion to our enormous population and the few we have are not projected well enough to influence the mass population.
Explore the icon - Sachin Tendulakar. Today Sachin is an active player, still playing – still a bit of a mortal. So we discuss about his game, his attitude, his commitment, his excellence and his shortcomings. Hence we learn from him. After 15-20 years when he is away from the limelight, he would have become a God and it would be prohibited to discuss about him. He would become a fountain of experience and excellence from which no would be allowed to drink, and eventually people will become disinterested in him. His legacy and class would not inspire the coming generations anymore. The ‘little master’ would become a ‘lost master.’
In the same way , we have lost and are set to lose so many sources of inspiration; if we do not inculcate the nature to debate on them. Without debate , instead of building on a legacy , we would find ourselves always starting from scratch only to lose mid way and then again starting from scratch again and again.