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Education on Gandhian Thought will have takers when it reinvents itself - from philosophy to application

When I read the news piece that Gujarat Vidyapeeth (University) founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 is being forced to close down the Department of Gandhian Thought from this academic year, I sense an opportunity for the University in this day and age.

The closure is due to no student showing interest in the discipline. Apparently, this trend has been noticed over a few years, wherein the student interest in Gandhian Thought has clearly been dwindling. The article on the closure of these courses by Jatin Desai in the Gujarati Press further commented that despite successes of films like Lage Raho Munnabhai which espouse Gandhigiri and increasing demand for autobiographies of the Mahatma, the Vidyapeeth has failed to attract students.

To understand this contradiction better, it is important for us to understand the success of works like “Lage Raho…. Why did Lage Raho succeed ? I remember having heard the director remarking in the promos - many mentioned that they knew the character Munnabhai but did not know Gandhi. Data highlights that India is a young nation in terms of demographics and most people have been born in the post Gandhi - post independence era. What endeared Lage Raho is that the context was modern, the situation was something they could relate to, the vocabulary colloquial, the situations, very real and something the common man could identify with and the Gandhian philosophy espoused was application oriented. The format was fun and entertaining and the philosophy and principles suddenly provided new solutions to old problems and could be practiced by one and all. No wonder, the film was so endearing to all those who experienced it.

Indian culture of poetry and story telling is endearing in the modern audio format of Karadi Tales for children. I recently came across the DVD on the Legends of Indian Music presented by renowned violinist Dr. Sangeeta Shankar. This first of a series of 99 DVD's combines story, drama, dance, music, film personalities, history and research along with lilting music by maestros to pass on the magic of music to the next generation. It is fun to watch, easy to learn and imbibe, has subtitles in multiple languages and is intended to teach the young generation the nuances of Indian Music in a format they can relate to. The formats of learning and channels of delivery are clearly changing. If we seek to get the new generations interested and attracted to the contents, the format needs to be innovative , application oriented, universal and most importantly fun and easy to imbibe.

Gandhian Thought and Philosophy has never been more relevant than in these turbulent times. The reason for the power of the philosophy in the pre independence days was because of its practice in the freedom movemement, its action orientation for non cooperation and non violence. This application orientation is what made it so special.

Today, more than ever before, it is important for the Vidyapeeth to contemporize the format and make it more application oriented than ever. Just think of the possibilities. Gandhian philosophy in managing customer service is well known. Is it not possible to develop application modules on the subject for each role / profession ? Gandhian thought on the inevitability of change is well known. Is it not possible to develop application oriented change management modules for various applications - from a small entrepreneur, to a family to the industry at large.

Gandhian thoughts on truth are well known. Is it not possible to develop a movement around this message to counter a host of issues arising from deception ? Is it not possible to have subjects on moral leadership in schools which talk about the timelessness about truth ? Gandhian thought on making a difference at the grassroots is well known. Is it not possible to have application oriented courses in enabling this difference?

Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar, the Vice Chancellor of the legendary institution of Gujarat Vidyapeeth is a highly accomplished and visionary leader. I am confident that someone of his caliber will take this opportunity and take the steps in this direction. It is the philosophy of Gandhi which got us our political independence and established the power of our people. The philosophy has the power to position India’s beliefs to spear head the moral revolution worldwide in this day of strife, stress and unnecessary violence and greed.

The big message therefore - please do not mourn the death of demand for Gandhian Thought for if we strongly believe that the philosophy is timeless, it needs to only become more application oriented. Worldwide, Gandhian thoughts are shaping the future of nations and economies. We have seen successful application of the thoughts by Nelson Mandela in dismantling apartheid, by Martin Luther King, by leading global thinkers like Stephen Covey who have applied the concepts by popularizing the habits of highly effective people.

Let us help the Vidyapeeth to build the moral revolution. CK Prahlad has mentioned that one of the key drivers to help India become one of the most influential nations of the world is moral leadership and Gandhian philosophy and its application in all aspects of life provides the pathway to this.