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Modi Pens Touching Ode to Mahatma Gandhi in Column for NYT, Proposes the ‘Einstein Challenge’

The column, ‘Why India and the World Need Gandhi’, explored the Mahatma’s influence on prominent world leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.


Updated:October 2, 2019, 4:19 PM IST
Modi Pens Touching Ode to Mahatma Gandhi in Column for NYT, Proposes the ‘Einstein Challenge’
Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks after paying homage at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial on the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi at Rajghat in New Delhi, India October 2, 2019. (Image: REUTERS)

New Delhi: In a column for The New York Times on Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday proposed the ‘Einstein Challenge’ to ensure that the ideals of Bapu are remembered by future generations.

“As a tribute to Gandhi, I propose what I call the Einstein Challenge. We know Albert Einstein’s famous words on Gandhi: ‘Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth’… I invite thinkers, entrepreneurs and tech leaders to be at the forefront of spreading Gandhi’s ideas through innovation,” Modi wrote.

The column, ‘Why India and the World Need Gandhi’, explored the Mahatma’s influence on prominent world leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. Modi described Gandhi as the "best teacher" and "the guiding light" who continues to give courage to millions globally and uniting those who believe in humanity.

“For Mr. Mandela, Gandhi was Indian and South African. Gandhi would have approved. He had the unique ability to become a bridge between some of the greatest contradictions in human society,” Modi said.

Explaining Gandhi’s vision on nationalism, Modi said Gandhi “envisioned Indian nationalism as one that was never narrow or exclusive but one that worked for the service of humanity”.

In the column, the PM also admired the Mahatma’s knack of combining ordinary objects like charkha, spinning wheel and khadi with “mass politics” and added that he was never tempted by power. “Who else could have created a mass agitation through a pinch of salt... There have been many mass movements in the world, many strands of the freedom struggle even in India, but what sets apart the Gandhian struggle and those inspired by him is the wide-scale public participation. He never held administrative or elected office. He was never tempted by power.”

The op-ed ends with a call to the world to work shoulder to shoulder to end hate, violence and suffering. "That is when we will fulfil Mahatma Gandhi's dream, summed up in his favourite hymn, 'Vaishnava Jana To', which says that a true human is one who feels the pain of others, removes misery and is never arrogant. The world bows to you, beloved Bapu!" Modi wrote.

The prime minister said that for Gandhi, independence was not absence of external rule, but a deep link between political independence and personal empowerment. "He envisioned a world where every citizen has dignity and prosperity...Gandhi gave us the doctrine of trusteeship, which emphasised the socio-economic welfare of the poor. Inspired by that, we should think about a spirit of ownership. We, as inheritors of the earth, are responsible for its well-being, including that of the flora and fauna with whom we share our planet," Modi said.

"In Gandhi, we have the best teacher to guide us. From uniting those who believe in humanity to furthering sustainable development and ensuring economic self-reliance, Gandhi offers solutions to every problem," he wrote.

Modi also explained how his government was trying to fulfil Gandhi's dreams and is committed to do even more with the world and for the world.

"We in India are doing our bit. India is among the fastest when it comes to eliminating poverty. Our sanitation efforts have drawn global attention. India is also taking the lead in harnessing renewable resources through efforts like the International Solar Alliance, which has brought together several nations to leverage solar energy for a sustainable future," he wrote.

Mahatma Gandhi’s 150 birth anniversary is being observed across India with prayer meets organised at several places, including the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. In the evening, Modi is scheduled to visit Ahmedabad, where he will pay tributes to Gandhi at the Sabarmati Ashram and later address a gathering of village heads from different parts of the country while declaring the country open defecation-free.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister said the nation expresses its gratitude to Gandhi for his everlasting contribution to humanity. "We pledge to continue working hard to realise his dreams and create a better planet," Modi wrote on Twitter.

In a short video on Gandhi, Modi said his message of peace is still relevant to the world community. The prime minister also referred to the seven perversions Gandhi had cautioned people about -- wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, visit without ethics, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice and politics without principles.

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