What do you remember about Mahatma Gandhi?
Do you recall that today would have been his 152nd birthday? Or that he died on January 30th, 1948?
While birth and death are the cornerstones of a life, these facts typically are not be what we remember a person by.
As human beings we tend to connect with others based on emotions, we respond to their actions, and we think of the legacy they have left behind.
The life of Mahatma Gandhi, whose full name is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was complex. He grew up poor, and yet became a lawyer. He is famous for his work in India, yet he spent 21 years in South Africa fighting for the rights of Indian laborers. He was a devoted Hindu, yet considered all religions true, although imperfect.
He became a famous political leader opposing the British rule, yet he led his fight non-violently. He was well-known and influential, yet he was attracted to a life of simplicity and austerity.
He led his life in the service of others. While the independence of India from the British Crown might have been his biggest political accomplishment, his way of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance inspired and influenced many civil rights movements across the globe.
Today, October 2, we celebrate the International Day of Non-Violence in memory of Mahatma Gandhi.
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “In a gentle way, you can shake the world”, I created the triptych “Gently Shake the World”.
For decades of my life, I was quiet, obedient, and pleasing others. I wanted to stay unnoticed in the background and had no intentions to ruffle any feathers. For the past few years, however, I have been using my voice to speak my truth.
First, I used my voice in a silent form. As visual artist I created abstract art that only hinted at challenges with mental health. Later, I started talking about emotional well-being in artist presentations, lectures, and a panel discussion.
Now, I have reached a point where I can acknowledge openly my own struggle with depression. Now, I share honestly the many lessons I have learned over the years. Now, I create visual art, I speak, and I write about the importance of mental health.
I believe in the gift of resilience and the power of a positive mindset, and I hope that by sharing my story I can encourage others to find strength in themselves.
If my words, my modest fight against the stigma of mental illness, eases the pain of only one person, then I was successful in gently shaking the world. If my words help foster the understanding that mental illness is not a choice, then I was successful in gently shaking the world. If my words initiate the dialogue about mental health between only two people, then I was successful in gently shaking the world.
I want to be an ally, a supporter, a peaceful activist.
And I’m determined to shake the world ever so gently.
PS: Here’s a piece of trivia: Mahatma is a Sanskrit word and means “great soul” or “venerable”. The word is comparable to “saint” in modern English. In other words, Mahatma is not Gandhi’s first name!