Sonal Motla talks about Husain's Gandhi and the concept of Shram Daan

An interesting fact remains that Husain never painted Gandhi’s feet fully placed on the ground

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Sunday, October 02, 2022, 03:26 PM IST
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M F Husain was a great admirer of Gandhi. He painted Gandhi innumerable times. Husain painted Gandhi with the restraint that only a master can. Just in a few spartan strokes, he could bring out the very essence of Gandhi and his austerity.

An interesting fact remains that Husain never painted Gandhi’s feet fully placed on the ground. Albert Einstein’s words on Gandhi, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”, perhaps triggered his thought process.

Gandhi — scientific seeker

It’s often debated whether Gandhi was a philosopher or a politician. But to me he was a seeker. A seeker of truth, with a wise heart full of empathy and love. A scientist that experimented and evolved with theories, values, problems and with life itself... and like he said, ‘my life is my message’... his life teaches us a lot.

His experiments with living, his concepts became fundamental living blocks that are universal. He brought in a new dimension to social transformation through inclusive thinking.

Sonal Motla

Sonal Motla |

Gandhi and villages

“Soul of India lives in villages” said Gandhi. I have a home in hills in a small quaint village, Gherwadi, that houses about forty families. About four years ago, on my way there, I drove past a small primary school, that appeared neglected and in need for repairs and maintenance. With a strong urge to do something about the school, I met the village Sarpanch, who turned out to be enthusiastic. Idea was to motivate the villagers to refurbish the school using their own skill sets.

The families in the village had semi-skilled workers like painters, gardeners and household workers who primarily served the holiday homes in the vicinity. Gandhi, again, was the driving factor.

Shram Daan — offering selfless service

I put in a clause when we drew the contract — the raw materials would be sponsored but the village community will contribute as labour. The school would be painted by painters from the village, the teachers and students would decorate the walls, the plumbers would do the toilets and the gardeners would give two hours after their work day and create a garden. It became a community project. Basis of this decision lay in the Gandhian principle of Shram Daan. 

Grama swavalamban

Gandhi worked towards independence not just of the country, but also on making each village self-reliant. The use of technology in form of the large television screen with internet in a village school of Gherawadi, by its principal, has opened the gateway to knowledge for the community. Online global platforms, social media for commerce, are the kind of empowerments that enables progress. Guidance, access to technology, intelligence to plug into the global market can finally make them a global village.

India is going digital. Gandhi’s dream of ‘Grama swavalamban’ — village of self-reliance, is on its way to be realised.

Back to the villages

Gandhi’s dream of a robust cottage industry seems to be gaining momentum. Design schools like NIFT, are doing amazing research work and design interventions in the crafts to make them relevant to national and global markets.

Covid has shown us the benefits of staying in a green lush village. A self- reliant and globally connected life by using modern technology is a possibility. Even the privileged urban few have chosen to settle in villages for a better life. The time is ripe for a revert to Gram Swaraj. 

It’s time for reverse migration. One realises that Gandhi’s concepts and vision at so many levels are relevant and applicable even more so today, than ever before.

(Sonal Motla has curated Kala Ghoda 2020 with development and art as a theme and is currently working towards the issues on education on art, craft and design with a few educational institutions. Send your feedback to: sonal25fpj@gmail.com)

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