Almost a century ago, in 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned from South Africa to India.  Some had already started to refer to him as “Mahatma’ because of the work he had done in South Africa.

Since Gandhiji  had lived away from India for many years, he spent the first few months after returning,  travelling and getting to know the situation in India first-hand.

Only after he had fully studied the hardships that the people faced did he embark upon his nationwide campaigns to alleviate poverty, end untouchability,  improve the situation of women and build amity between various communities in society.

Using the instruments of Satyagraha and non-violence, he accelerated India’s march towards Independence.

A few decades earlier,  Swami Vivekananda spent several years, from 1888 to 1893, as a  Parivrâjaka (travelling monk). He travelled all over India, and was appalled to see the impoverished conditions so many lived in.  He realized that due to centuries of oppression,  the lives of the majority of people were  miserable.

He concluded that education was the answer. Education to provide the knowledge which could improve their economic condition.  And education to impart the spiritual knowledge necessary to infuse self-confidence in them.

In order to create an efficient organization of dedicated people to spread these two types of knowledge,  Swamiji established the Ramakrishna Mission.

Still earlier, in the 17th century, Samarth Ramdas Swami devoted himself to studying religious texts and meditation for twelve years. After that he spent twelve years travelling all over the country on foot. He saw that repeated attacks by foreign invaders had made the lives of common citizens miserable.

He describes the situation thus-

माणसा खावया अन्न नाही
अंथरुण पांघरूण तेही नाही
कित्तेक अनाचारी पडली
कित्तेक याती भ्रष्ट जाली
कित्तेक ते आक्रंदली मुलेबाळे ||

After returning to Maharashtra, he established eleven Hanuman temples in Satara district. Alongside these temples Vyayamshalas (gymnasiums) were started as well. Samarth Ramdas Swami believed that a strong body was as necessary  as a mind steeped in spirituality.

Thus he began the task of transforming a timid and weak society into a strong one, capable of fighting against the oppressors.

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Times have changed. The mentality of people has changed.

Values have changed.

Our vision has become myopic. Few so-called leaders of society can see beyond the next elections.

Observing society? – A waste of time!

Solutions to problems the people face? – There are no problems that some freebies will not solve!

Just distribute free laptops to all school-going children. Problem of education solved!

Unemployment problem? – What is the NREGA scheme for? Far easier than creating opportunities in industry and other productive sectors!

Corruption in implementation of government policies?-  Simple, blame everything on the earlier government!  After all, every government only executes the policy decisions of the earlier one.

What would the exceptional personalities of  India Past think, I wonder, if they could see the India of the Present?

They would be thankful they’re not living in the present time, I suppose!

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