Gandhi’s Talisman and The Modern Indian Values

Abhijeet Pratap
2 min readJan 21, 2017

One of the most valuable keys that Mahatma Gandhi has left behind for the people is his talisman that can often be noted on the initial pages of the NCERT textbooks. The Talisman tells you to think of the poorest face you have ever seen. India has come a long way from Gandhi’s era. Several things have changed about it. However, if anything has not changed then it is the status of the poor who are still as marginalized and vulnerable and just as exploited as they were in the pre-independence era.

Arvind Adiga has raised these same questions in his book, The White Tiger.

Gandhi’s Talisman is as follows:

“ I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”

Gandhi asks us to think before we step and if the steps taken by us is going to be of any use for these people. India might have grown richer than it was at the time the nation achieved freedom. However, the situation of the poor has not changed much. Adiga’s characters are both from the poor and the rich segments of India. His novel mainly highlights the growing inequality in Indian society. Gandhi had envisioned a nation where social bonds were stronger. He had envisioned a nation built on the foundation of trust. The current picture is very far from Gandhi’s vision and this is what Adiga highlights when he writes about Gandhi’s notion of trusteeship in his book. However, he also analyzes the reasons why the picture Gandhi envisioned could never be realized. The poor have to bear the brunt of the atrocities the rich commit. There are some fundamental weaknesses in the Indian social system that would never allow India to become what Gandhi wanted. These social inequalities are difficult to address — Adiga highlights.

Gandhi has left behind keys to bring his dream of equality true. India has turned into a nation very different from the one Gandhi dreamt of. The problems are still there as the leadership failed to address social and economic inequality. Gandhi’s vision of Sampoorna Swaraj (complete self-governance or full liberty) is not possible unless his dream of complete equality can become a reality. Seeing how far we Indians have drifted from Gandhi’s vision, it appears, the dream is going to remain a dream forever. The road to Sampoorna Swaraj is difficult but every step taken to address social and economic inequality brings us closer to the dream.