Today is the International Day of Non-Violence. This was the day when Mahatma Gandhi or Barrister Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a fierce leader was born who introduced to the entire world an unbelievably powerful way of fighting for injustice and inequality without causing any harm to society. That is Ahimsa or Non-Violence.
In India, I grew up listening to the great stories of Mahatma Gandhi or Bapuji. He is known as the Father of the Nation. These stories instilled a strong belief in non-violence even before we children started facing inequality or injustice that is part of everyone’s life. As the years passed, I started seeing how the world is divided into these multiple compartments with the dividing walls of races, nationality, the color of the skin, caste, socioeconomic status, and many more. This list is infinite and every day new walls are rising high, dividing us, giving reasons to start new wars. Along with Gandhiji we also learned about many other great leaders both national and international. As I read more about other freedom fighters of India, I started doubting Gandhiji’s principles of non-violence. I thought maybe we should have fought back using weapons to achieve freedom. Possibly India would have been a free country earlier. India, fortunately, had many great leaders who tried to free the country using their own way. I always felt bad that Gandhiji didn’t support other leaders who didn’t agree with his way of non-violence. Each one of them is equally respectable in my eyes. Sadly, many of these heroes never even received any recognition. Even today, I don’t agree with all the political decisions made by Gandhiji as a leader of the country. But, how can we forget that the movement led by him turned out to be the most powerful that shook the British Empire? What an unbelievable way to protest and fight for our own rights.
More years passed, and I entered my teens. As I was growing, I realized that the world is eviler than I had imagined. My suspicion that Gandhiji’s way of non-violence is not effective has started turning into my belief. I felt hopeless about the world. Mumbai, where I lived faced many terrorist attacks and religious violence during this period. I remember during one episode of the religious violence over a silly politically motivated reason, people killed their own neighbors and damaged their properties. Such incidents motivated residential areas to get separated based on religious beliefs. I was fourteen when I first experienced a curfew. Fortunately, the community where I lived still believed in unity. I remember that at night the attacks used to happen on the minorities in each community. Our apartment people gathered all the possible weapons to protect the minorities in our community. People stayed awake to protect their neighbors. On one side, I saw neighbors helping each other. I saw neighbors risking their lives for each other. But at night, shops were broken in and destroyed. Educated people turned into monsters to hurt others. I kept wondering from where those monsters were coming? When multiple series of bomb blasts and terror attacks shook Mumbai, I felt surprised watching how these bad people can so calmly hurt so many lives without any regrets. I was sure that non-violence is totally useless. These evil people should receive the strictest punishments I thought for destroying the peace and happiness of others.
A few more years passed. I got married and eventually moved to the US. I moved from one democracy to another. How fortunate I’m that I never had to lose my freedom. I could boldly express my opinions without any fears. After my son was born, I felt happy that at least my son is living in a safe environment until one day I got introduced to the problem of the modern world. One day when both my husband and I were working from home, my father called me from India. He was shocked and worried because he had just heard about the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut that killed 26 people including 20 innocent children of my son’s age. The news was just out and we had no details. We turned on the news to find out the heartbreaking incident that still breaks my heart every time I think about it had happened just 30 min away from us. That was my first introduction to the school shootings in America. We rushed to our school and immediately brought back our son home. I was not used to such things. It was a tremendous shock for us. We didn’t know that this was a regular thing here. I was so traumatized that I didn’t send my son to school for the entire week. The schools were offering counseling services but it was hard to overcome the fear. Over the years, I faced such situations multiple times. I felt so angry and helpless when my son had to hide under the table during school lockdowns. It has now become a regular thing. The violence is now happening without any purpose. It is increasing every day. Unimaginably brutal crime stories are coming out every day. We have no easy solution to these problems. How are we going to punish small children for shooting people? Is responding to every social media post using hateful words is the solution for trolls on social media? Is identifying victims of violence based on prejudices is right behavior? If not then what? Today than ever before we need to start believing in non-violence to stop the vicious cycle of hate and revenge. Because I grew up learning the great philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, I’m still hopeful towards the world. The principles that we learned in our early childhood go long way. Gandhiji’s teaching is making me a strong person who believes that the situation still can change. As a mother of two innocent children, I want this violence to stop immediately so that our children can live a long and peaceful life. I hope the day comes when we all can just shed the hatred from our hearts and be respectful of others' opinions. Gandhiji didn’t just teach us non-violence but he also taught us to fight back the injustice, inequality, and hatred with a peaceful protest. So if you have small kids teach them to look at the goodness in the world, to express their opinions in a positive manner, and to refuse to allow inequality by any means. Let’s just try his way now. Say No to Violence!