A part of Delhi University’s curriculum, Gandhiji’s ideals and teachings continue to inspire students with their relevance in today’s life and times

At the Delhi Book Fair in August this year, the Gandhi Smriti bookstall drew a large number of youngsters, especially Delhi University students. Most of them wanted to buy Gandhiji’s My Experiments with Truth prescribed as a reference book for a course called Integrating Mind, Body and Heart (IMBH), initiated from the first academic session of the newly-introduced Four-Year Undergraduate Programme and mandatory for students of all disciplines.

“No education is true education unless it is founded in truth and non-violence,” said Gandhiji and the stated objective of the course is to instil these very principles of non-violence and truth in each student by creating awareness about Mahatama Gandhi’s practice of these beliefs in his own life.

The course content includes episodes from Gandhiji’s childhood, life as a student in London, a professional in South Africa and his transformation into the great leader as he would be known later.

Under the course, the students are to maintain a diary to record any episode that happens in their lives which bear some resemblance to the chosen episodes from Gandhiji’s life for a comparative study.

Ananya Anupama, a first-year student of Kamala Nehru College, was upset at the behaviour of the girls in the PG accommodation she is staying in after she came to Delhi from Odisha. But her viewpoint of looking at things changed after reading My Experiments with Truth and this is what she wrote in her daily diary: “I deeply focussed on my own mistakes stressing the fact that the whole world appears to be bad because of our own ‘black eye’. If we wish to change the world, we must bring the change in ourselves.” She says that earlier there would be fights but now her own changed attitude has brought about a difference in the behaviour of other girls as well.

Inspired by Gandhiji’s simplicity she also wants to lead a simple life and not waste money on luxuries. She prefers walking to college than taking an auto.

Nihika of the same class says Gandhiji, too, made mistakes that all young people make and so it is easy to relate to him. But what is inspiring is how he overcame temptations and not only became instrumental in freeing India from British rule, but is today revered across the world as a symbol of peace and non-violence. “Gandhiji’s life has motivated me to become less self-centred and help those in need.”

Archana Dixit, who teaches IMBH in Bharti College, says that with no exam, it is more challenging to engage and involve the students in a meaningful way. Faculties at various colleges under DU are trying to make the course interesting by incorporating ideas that would appeal to students. These include showing films on Gandhiji or taking students to the Gandhi Museum. The teachers are also devising ways to ensure that students do not feel the pressure of the mandatory course. IMBH students of Miranda House were shown not only a film on Gandhi but Prakash Jha’s Satyagrah to give them a different perspective.

Teaching the Mahatma’s life and beliefs at the undergraduate level is not new in DU although it was not compulsory earlier. The ‘Reading Gandhi’ course was initiated as an optional subject for the three-year undergraduate programme some years back. Dr. Chetna Sharma of Kamala Nehru College says that while IMBH is more symbolic in nature, Reading Gandhi acquainted students with Gandhiji’s views on a wider scale.

Hinna, Neha, Suman and Laxmi Yadav, students of second year of Bharti College, say they opted for the Reading Gandhi course out of choice. Hinna says that while they had been reading about Gandhiji from their childhood, the course has given them the chance to go deep into his philosophy and thinking. Suman feels that in the present day scenario when people are self-centred, Gandhiji’s teachings become all the more important. Laxmi feels that Gandhiji’s views are all the more relevant today when people do not want to do physical work and are dependent on machines.

Neha says, “Earlier we knew Gandhiji only as a freedom fighter who stood for truth and non-violence but by reading Hind Swaraj, which is part of our course, we came to know about his views on many other issues, including women.”

Most of the students feel that though modest, knowing more about Gandhiji has made some impact on them at the subconscious level.

It is not just the students for whom Gandhiji is a part of curriculum but youngsters like Khushbu have also been influenced by the Mahatma’s philosophy. Looking for a book at the Gandhi Smriti stall, Khushbu, who is doing her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Medieval History, says one can find solutions to almost every issue confronting our society today in Gandhiji’s philosophy — be it violence, intolerance, education system or rural-urban divide.

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