Throughout history there have been exceptional men who’ve inspired us by the way they lead their lives and accomplish success. This is VK Nagrani’s Badass Guys Series.
Think about all the most famous thought leaders who made significant change in the world through nonviolence. Who’s the first one to come to mind? Nelson Mandela? Martin Luther King Jr? Cesar Chavez? While those are all solid answers, none of them would have been who they were without Gandhi. He was born Mohandas Gandhi, but after a lifetime of peaceful protest and civil disobedience, he was given the honorific nickname “Mahatma” by the Indian people, which means “high-souled” in Sanskrit.
It’s hard to look at Gandhi from a purely physical perspective and see the badass dude within. After all, he was old, frail looking and so skinny he had to use a walking stick just to move around. Passive resistance wasn’t really a commonly known thing back then, so it’s hard to imagine this gaunt old man who didn’t appear to have the strength to lift a burger to his mouth, igniting the revolution that would liberate the second most populated country on Earth from British rule.
Keep reading to see why we at VK Nagrani think Mahatma Gandhi was a total badass.
1. Unexceptional Student
As a child, Gandhi was rather unremarkable: timid, average grades and not particularly adept at anything. He was forced into marriage at the age of 13, and rebelled against it at every step of the way. Gandhi smoked cigarettes, ate meat and even stole change from his household servants.
It was the passing of his father, and shortly thereafter, the death of his own young child, that caused Gandhi to start shaping up. He was interested in becoming a doctor, to be able to save the lives of people like his father and young baby. He became a lawyer instead, but it was here that his famous altruism was born and developed.
2. Activism in South Africa
Gandhi relocated to South Africa at the ripe old age of 24, and experienced the same discrimination that all people of color in South Africa were facing, exemplified in him being thrown off a train for refusing to move from the first class section. A section for which he had a legitimate ticket.
The Indians he experienced in South Africa were either rich high-class employers, or indentured laborers, with not much existing in the middle. Being a foreigner, he saw all Indians as Indian, regardless of their place on the social stratosphere. Gandhi developed his strong sense of nationalism from the disparity of the classes and structural racism he faced during his time in South Africa.
For nearly twenty years, he rallied for the equal treatment of Indians throughout the country.
3. Salt March
Gandhi’s rise to fame was spread through his belief in “non-cooperation,” which is to say that he believed that the Indian people allowed the British to be in power through cooperation, and if they refused to do so, that the power would return to the people.
Historically, Britain loved to tax the impoverished peoples of their empire for the most beloved and household items. In the case of India, the Brits were taxing salt, a staple in every Indian household. For context, similar taxes were the reason behind the Boston Tea Party. Gandhi’s 240-mile march to the Arabian Sea, where they could collect salt freely, was a symbolic defiance of government monopoly and civil disobedience swept across India.
In an act of extreme irony, the world’s most passive and non-violent man was gunned down on the way to a prayer meeting. Even after his death, Gandhi’s legacy of peaceful resistance purveys, and he stands as a beacon of world peace and is still recognized today as one of the greatest figures of altruism that has ever lived.
Keep reading VK Nagrani’s blog to see more of our Badass Guys Series!