When I was 6 years old, my parents thought it would be a great idea to bring me to the movie theater to watch this movie they knew I was absolutely dying to see.
Yeah, I know. 3+ hours of Bollywood song and dance that would leave any kid tapping their toes and wanting to dance in the aisles.
Well, not exactly. But I am pretty sure that’s what they lead me to believe.
You rock, Ma and Papa. Really.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it starts with Ben Kingsley, an amazingly convincing Gandhi, being shot three times at point blank. At the time, I had no real idea of who this bald, little Indian man was, but I knew that I felt incredibly sad. There was something about his eyes that I will always remember, and no matter what roles Kingsley plays – a part of me will never be able to see past him as anything other than Gandhi.
Interesting trivia: Did you know that Kingsley was actually born as Krishna Pandit Bhanji? I didn’t realize that he was half-Indian until a few years ago, but it kind of makes sense when you think how effortlessly he can play so many different roles. His looks are kind of borderless, if that makes sense.
Anyway, I was sad. I was sad that this man, who I really knew nothing about, had died before the movie had even started. Great. So now I knew the ending. As the movie went on, I got even more sad when I discovered there were no songs.
What. The. Fudge? (I was only 6. I didn’t curse as much as I do now back then).
At intermission (another weird thing. Does anyone remember how long movies used to have intermissions? I am totally dating myself), my older brother, Sudhu Bhaiya, went off to get some snacks. This, now this, I was excited for.
Until he comes back with those nasty ass black Twizzlers. For fudging real? I burst into tears when I realized my parents weren’t going to let me get the red ones instead. Did anyone like black licorice when they were 6? And that there were two more freaking hours left of this sad, sad movie. I didn’t understand much but I knew that the white people were being really mean to all the brown ones. All in all, kind of depressing for a 6 year old brown kid.
So I went to sleep and pretty much wrote the night off as an epic fail.
I obviously grew up. Gandhi came out in 1982, and there has been a lot of time for me to come to appreciate who Gandhi was, what a pivotal performance Kingsley gave in the role and how quickly the movie actually can go by when you appreciate the history and the magnitude of this small man. And if you are anything like me, you wonder how this small man could contain such an enormous heart and intellect.
It’s also amazing to think that he would go on to influence great leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., his influence reaching not only his own countryman, but the world. Through some pretty fucking important shit, like the American Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. That’s a pretty big footprint for a man who often walked barefoot and who rarely went out with anything more than chappals (flip-flops) on his feet.
I know people throw out Gandhi quotes all the time on Facebook and Twitter and all that. I do that too, especially when I haven’t tweeted in a while and I need to feel like I said something smart that day (HINT: you usually can’t go wrong with a little Gandhi or Khalil Gibran. Throw in some Mother Teresa from time to time too). When I read his philosophies, I am blown away by how simple some of his statements are yet how powerful they can be. I also think about the controversy some of them must have stirred at the time and might continue to stir. Especially if taken out of the context of his own life and experience.
“God has no religion.”
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
“Seven Deadly Sins
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice.”
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
“I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.”
“I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and that also that all had some error in them, and while I hold by my own religion, I should hold other religions as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we were Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu; but our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, and a Christian a better Christian.”
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
“They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”
“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”
I don’t know. There are just too freaking many. I don’t know how this became a post about how fucking brilliant I think Gandhi was and how important I think it is that people still hear his words today. Do you want to know what this post was supposed to be about? Probably not, but if you have made it this far, you might as well know. It was supposed to be about whether I would be torturing my daughter Shaila (5) or not by bringing her to see Les Miserables on the big screen. But as I started writing it, the memory of that movie I saw so long ago popped into my head and I had to go with it. So I will get to Shaila and whether she can handle a little too much of John Valjean tomorrow.
Is Gandhi someone whose life you have admired? What’s your favorite Gandhi quote? Who DOES inspire you?