Mahatma Gandhi lives in Kuwait

Surya Prakash (IIK)
Monday, June 16, 2014

The title might jolt the readers out of their senses. When staff met Miss Ghaidaa Mohamad (GM) , an Arabic Instructor working at American University of Kuwait,  this is what we learnt that Mahatma Gandhi lives in Kuwait too. Miss Ghaidaa’s rendezvous with Gandhi began when she chanced upon meeting Mr. Mohammed Al-Nabhan the owner of Masaa Publishing House in a literary forum where the two personalities were exchanging their literary skills. It was upon his advice that Miss Ghaidaa took upon translation of M.K. Gandhi’s excerpts and sayings into Arabic. As she was doing this work she got herself immersed into his philosophy and exchanged her views on his philosophy and its relevance to modern days especially to GCC regions. Read on for more interesting features

IIK: Tell us about your educational background.
GM: Well I have Bachelor’s in English and a Bachelor’s in Environmental Sciences. Then I went on to do Masters in Arabic and Masters in Environmental Sciences. That is how I came in touch with poetry and in becoming a translator between English and Arabic. Somehow I have developed a passion for translation.

IIK: What interested you in bringing out Gandhi’s saying in Arabic?
GM: As I mentioned, Masaa Publications were bringing a new series in Arabic titled “Excerpts and Sayings of great men” with a mission in mind - To educate the GCC society with positive and good messages. I got a chance to pen down the first book in this series, which was about Mahatma Gandhi. Once I started reading about Gandhi, it automatically created an interest in me. I read lot of books on Gandhi, went through various articles to make this book.

IIK: How was the feedback from Arabic community once the mission was accomplished?
GM: It was a nice experience. There are many Arabic readers in GCC, but the resource at present is very limited. I got several responses from the readers across the GCC countries. I was able to use many of his excerpts in the speech  I gave at the university.

IIK:  As a woman, what is your take on Gandhi’s view on women?
GM:  The fact that woman gives birth even to mightiest of the mighty men in this world is in itself a proof  of women’s power is Gandhi’s basis for respect to women. He says women are powerful and have strength surpassing that of men. I personally feel this is a very good attitude towards women all should develop. In GCC for example, by and large, the girls in families are quite restricted and are not encouraged to live a normal life. Scant respect is given to women in this part of the world. This needs to be changed and Gandhi’s views on women are worthy of practicing here.

IIK: Is there a disparity in terms of cast, economics you see and how do you think Gandhi’s views on such disparity help eradicate such bane attitude in society?
GM: Gandhi said we need to see all human beings in the same light. In GCC there is a subtle nudge towards other Asian nationals to push them to the sidelines. This attitude is possibly arising from sort of misconception that has come into being that rich are independent and have no interdependence  whatsoever on other poorer nationals. This was not the case with our older generations where they give ample respect to other nationals. As Gandhi said this could be a life mission for an individual. New generation in the Arab world should change for the better and Gandhi’s view on casteism can be taken as a yard stick and each individual has to take it upon himself to change this attitude

IIK: How does Gandhi’s idea of economics fit into the present day world?
GM: Gandhi always talked about Economics with a soul. It basically means countries or individual’s economic plans should have a soul in it meaning plans to eliminate disparity and uplift all human beings above the poverty line so that all can lead a decent life. As we see in the world over and specifically in GCC, materialistic attitude and market plans to rake in huge profits is the order of the day. This needs a drastic change and only then can we realize Gandhi’s dream of economic equality.

IIK: Gandhi always stressed the importance of safe guarding villages in a country. How do you see this idea being applied in GCC?
GM: Gandhi always opined - and rightly so - that villages are source of valuable food items that help us to sustain life. This being said he was against urbanization to the extent that villages start disappearing slowly. This will spell a doom for life on earth. He stressed that villages should be left green and fertile and not turned into barren grounds to build concrete jungles. In GCC, especially countries like Oman, and parts of Saudi Arabia have an agglomeration of tiny villages  The greenery is vital for environmental safe keeping as is widely now known due to development in environmental science. But Gandhi has said this long time back which I feel is a prophecy of sorts.

IIK: Gandhi is famous for his non-violence movement which brought about a change in Indian history. Is this concept still valid today and is it relevant in GCC?

GM: Non-violence as per Gandhi is a self-commitment. One needs to commit to himself to be peace loving and be responsive to an event rather than reacting to an event. Even greats like Martin Luther King followed this Gandhian principle and brought about a sea change in his nation. Therefore I say non-violence is an act of an individual – to decide and commit to himself. This change in an individual can bring about a sea change in the society. If Gandhi’s principle is embraced I am sure of positive change in the society in GCC.

IIK: Gandhi talked about equal justice to all at all times. Is it prevalent in modern times?

GM: Gandhi’s view on justice stems from his concept on non-violence. For example he peacefully resisted the British rule but he said he would like to help the British people see the futility of ruling over other nations and rather be a part of larger family and participate in overall development of the world. This way justice can be brought to the door step. Tolerating injustice is akin to committing sin. In GCC the misconception as stated earlier brings about injustice in the society In short justice should be available to all irrespective of individual’s stand in society.

IIK: Gandhi famously said; “If you need to see a change in the world, then be the change yourself” Give us your opinion on this famous quote by him.
GM: Before I met Gandhi – after a pause and a smile she continued -in the books, I thought of Gandhi is just another man who happened to have become famous by chance. But then when I started reading books by him on him to gather his quotes, I began feeling immensely influenced by his philosophy. The main thing he had in life was: a mission in his life. The mission was to be Truthful. His book on Experiments with Truth is truly a wonderful auto biography of the great man. All his experiments were with his own life. He seemed to have observed the futility in seeking a change in the world without one self-changing his nature. He became an instrument of the change he wanted to see in the world. His quote is very much apt not only today but as long as life is there in earth.

IIK: Your views on India
GM: India is a great nation and has the power to inspire smaller nations. Its civilization is ancient and has deep roots. That is why I have a strong feeling the future of humanity is somehow buried in India. Small countries like Kuwait need to do some introspection and need to adopt certain values of societ

Surya S. Prakash is an engineer by profession and a passionate public speaker. He voluntarily guides both children and adults in the art of public speaking. He is a motivational public speaker and has been invited by many alumni associations in Kuwait to deliver motivational speeches on Stress Management, Work Ethics. He is presently mentoring English public speaking clubs for children. He is also an editor for some public portals.
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