On Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, let us take a look at some of the amazing facts about Mahatma Gandhi, the man who led India to freedom and Independence.
#1. Gandhi did not celebrate the moment of Independence. He wasn’t even in Delhi.
He didn’t hear Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, nor did he celebrate the Independence; rather he went on to fast in Calcutta to stop the intense rioting in the Eastern-Western Bengal.
#2. Growing up, Gandhi was an extremely shy kid.
Son to the fourth wife of Karamchand Gandhi – Putlibai, Mohan Gandhi or as he was called by school mates: Moniya, Gandhi was a very shy kid in the school who used to often run away because he had difficulty talking with school mates.
#3. Not a brilliant student.
Gandhi was a mediocre student, but had high ethics and a good command on English, as one of his report cards suggest: “good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting”. His bad handwriting is something he despised as long as he lived.
#4. Gandhi had difficulty getting along with his wife during the early days of their marriage.
Marrying Kasturba (who was 14) when he was 13, in 1882, Gandhi initially didn’t like her as much, but soon the couple started exploring the pleasures of sexuality, as narrated by Gandhi in one of his accounts. Three years later, Kasturba gave birth to their first child, who didn’t survive for long. The death of their first child had a significant impact on Gandhi, which later played pivotal role in Gandhi’s firm stand against child marriage, which he often referred to as “an emotional curse to Indian women”.
#5. Mahatma Gandhi walked around 18 km everyday, for 40 years!
Walking, Gandhi believed, was the king of exercises and hence he preferred transporting via walking even to great distances. It is believed that to save money, Gandhi commuted most by walking, throughout the time he worked as a lawyer in England and South Africa. He walked around 79,000 km during his campaign from 1913 to 1938, enough to encompass the Earth-twice!
#6. Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement was inspired by an American.
A book of Henry Salt made a huge impact on Gandhi and proved to be his source of inspiration for his mass civil disobedience movement, later in his life. The book was based on life of philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who lived as a hermit and refused to pay tax for which he was put in jail. From there he wrote about Civil Disobedience – that the mass should refuse to pay the tax. Though much of Salt’s writings no impact then; almost a century later it instilled thoughts so strong in an Indian that led to one of the greatest freedom struggles in mankind’s history.
#7. Gandhi failed as a lawyer.
Being shy, Gandhi couldn’t carry on his practice as lawyer in India as he couldn’t cross question his witnesses or put up speeches. In fact, while delivering a speech, his knees and hands would often tremble.
#8. For a brief period, Gandhi was actually in the British-Indian Army.
During his initial days in South Africa, Gandhi served voluntarily in the British Army for medical ill, as the stretcher bearer in the Boer-War. The horrors of the war further solidified Gandhi’s fierce belief in the idea of non-violence.
#9. Gandhi’s job in South Africa was amongst the most well-paid jobs at the time.
Gandhi, as a lawyer to Dada Abdulla & Co. in Natal, South Africa, was paid 15,000 dollars every year at the time. If adjusted to inflation today, that value would be Rs. 12,13,960 per annum which would put him in the top 5% richest Indians, but he gave that up to return to India and work as a ‘satyagrahi’.
#10. Gandhi actually owned a couple of football clubs in South Africa.
In South Africa, seeing the racial discrimination against Indians, Gandhi started two football clubs to propagate his ideology.
#11. Poverty in Madurai forced Gandhi to make “dhoti” his permanent attire.
In 1921, seeing the astounding poverty in Madurai, where people had no clothes to wear; Gandhi gave up his clothes and decided to make ‘dhoti’ his permanent attire. He also got bald.
#12. The first & the only Indian to have been accorded the “TIME Person Of The Year” title.
In 1930, Mohandas Gandhi was named the Man of the Year by TIME Magazine. Now this coveted title is popularly known as the “TIME Person Of The Year”. No other Indian has ever been TIME’s Person of the Year since then.
Gandhi was also the runner-up for the title of the TIME’s Man of the Century; the title going to none other than Albert Einstein.
#13. Rabindranath Tagore was the man who gave Gandhi the tag of “Mahatma”.
While visiting Rabindranath Tagore in 1915 in Shantiniketan, Gandhi referred to Tagore as ‘Gurudev’, to which Tagore replied “if I’m Gurudev, you are Mahatama”. And the rest, as they say, is history.
#14. A born journalist, Gandhi wrote around 1 crore words during his 40 years of struggle.
During his 40 years of struggle in India, Mahatma Gandhi penned around 10 million words i.e. around 700 words everyday, that covered various topics of politics like Independence to social issues like abolishment of child-marriage, prohibition of alcohol, untouchability, cleanliness and nation building.
#15. A day before he died, Mohandas seriously gave a thought to dissolve the Indian National Congress.
Before Independence, the Indian National Congress was a non-political organisation involved in India’s fight for independence. After the independence, it was decided that the Indian National Congress would be converted into a political party. This obviously irked Gandhi and he toyed with the idea of dissolving the organisation.
#16. Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize five times. The committee till date regrets not awarding Gandhi with the Nobel Prize.
Mahatma Gandhi was considered for the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1947, but he never received the award. He was also nominated in 1948 but that January he passed away, and nobody was conferred with the award that year as ‘there was no suitable candidate’. The Nobel committee in 2006 expressed regret that they could never award Gandhi with the prize.
#17. An inspiration to other greatest men including Martin Luther & Nelson Mandela.
Mahatma Gandhi inspired most of leaders of the 20th and the 21st century. Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, all have been known to have been highly influenced by Gandhi and his ideologies. In 1989 when the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize, he dedicated the award to his mentor Gandhi. Even Steve Jobs is known to have been highly influenced by Gandhi, his glasses being a tribute to Gandhi.
#18. Most photographed man of the time.
Though Gandhi did not like being photographed, he was perhaps the most photographed man of the time.
#19. Netaji conferred the title of ‘The Father of the Nation’ to Gandhi.
Gandhi’s title – “Father of the Nation” was first used by Subhas Chandra Bose on July 6, 1944, when the Indian National Army (of Bose) started its march to Delhi. The Union Government, in an RTI last year, explained the the title of “The Father of the Nation” is not an official one as the Constitution has no provision for conferring such a title to anyone.
#20. In a letter to Hitler, appealing him to stop the war, Gandhi referred to him as “dear friend”.
Other than Tolstoy and Einstein, Gandhi also wrote a letter to Hitler before the war addressed as ‘My Dear Friend Hitler’ in which he urged him to try ‘to stop the war’. The letter remained unanswered.
#21. The funeral procession of Gandhi was eight kilometres long.
Gandhi used to say, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world”. He certainly was the change he wished to see in the world; but the question is are you & I being the change we wish to see in this world?