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My Gandhi Moment

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

How do we know Gandhi Ji? What makes Gandhi the legend he was? How was he different from other world leaders? What were his unique styles of approaching the challenges and his adversaries?

When we remember him, some key traits which come to our mind are -

  • Patience

  • Persistence

  • Perseverance

  • Non violence/ non aggression

  • Protest by non cooperation

  • Endurance

  • Humble stubbornness

  • Non escapist attitude

His principles are hard to follow because results come in slow and we are generally not that patient to wait longer. Neither it's easy to follow him, because our basic instincts prompt us to react with aggression and following him requires lot of self restraint.

Gandhinian style of protest though is not easy but probability of success is high, as world has seen in case of Indian independence.

I had my own Gandhi moment sometime back.

For an international event, many of us participated voluntarily and coordinator was happy to have us all in his team. Like in any other team, this was a balanced team with mix of very strong and mediocre team players. Work started in a cordial environment.

There are primarily two styles of leadership. - Autocratic/Authoritative and Democratic/Collaborative. Most of the leaders tend to follow the former style and in this case our coordinator was not an exception. He soon realized that few of us are a bit strong and thus were outshining him sometimes. Ideally a leader should encourage such members in the interest of wider cause, but most don’t have patience and guts to let others outshine.

Out of insecurity, this coordinator stared pushing back strong members and on that eventful day amidst lively discussions and counterarguments, when some sort of policy decisions were being taken, he got a bit agitated when some members came up with brighter ideas.

In a bid to prove his might and superiority, he abruptly expelled one member from the group and gave an open challenge to all those wanted to leave. It was his way of saying - “My way or Highway”

Whole team was stunned and in a state of shock. To show solidarity, some members also left the group to protest.

Person sent out was a good friend and of course I was personally hurt. Like others I had three choices - (a) to show solidarity with the expelled pal, leave the group myself (b) Fall in line and follow the leader head down (c) stay in the group and ensure revocation of expulsion and get back all.

I chose the last option - stayed back in the group and started non cooperation movement.

  • Wasn’t performing the tasks assigned,

  • Not confronting

  • At every given opportunity, asking the coordinator to apologize and get everybody back for seamless operations.

Soon, others started following me and widespread non cooperation started, with zero confrontation but with persistent ask for getting back, all those who had left/expelled.

What I started, soon became a movement and work was not moving at all. Event date was getting close, with hardly any progress.

Coordinator was under pressure but not ready to give up easily. He inducted some new members from outside to compensate for those who had left.

With their initial enthusiasm, these new members started work and at one point it seemed my movement will fail.

I remain unmoved and continued with my non cooperation. All other friends, followed suit.

New members continued working but were perplexed with what’s happening and since they lack prior context, were not able to perform to the fullest. Since it was an unpaid event, nobody wanted their terms with other members to be spoilt for the sake of coordinator.

So the work which started moving, soon came to halt amidst that unease in the group and prospects of successful event, started looking bleak.

Event date was coming near and list of incomplete tasks was piling up.

Finally, under immense pressure, coordinator budged and agreed to get back the person expelled and also those who left along-with.

Most of the friends who had left, joined back.

However, the person who was expelled and felt insulted was deeply hurt, was not ready to join back easily and had put some conditions.

Coordinator tried a couple of times but no success. Ultimately, I was entrusted with the task of getting him back.

I discussed with the person and realized his conditions are such that coordinator may never accept - even I thought some of those were unrealistic. On the other hand there was a risk that once this person comes back, coordinator will think that things are back to normal and may restore to his old pressure tactics and pushy nature.

Hence I tweaked my approach slightly and advised the expelled person to stay out and that we will continue to reach him for all support and guidance and at an appropriate time will see if his demands can be met for a graceful entry. At the same time, him not joining back will keep coordinator under pressure and on his toes to keep all other members happy and perform democratically. You may call it ‘Politics’ or ‘Smartness’, but it worked and ensured a very successful event which will remain in our memories for ever.

BTW this last point was also one of the trait of Gandhi ji. it was not possible to deal with mighty British empire without some politics :-)

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