Gandhi could have well chosen to take a bus from Sabarmati Ashram to reach the seas in defiance of the Salt Law. But he chose to walk. And that created all the difference. 'Dandi Drive' could never have achieved what 'Dandi March' did. It got the Britisher's goat; provoking them into provoking the Indian masses! The irony was that they still could not jail him for it would have been like rubbing salt on to their wounds. haha. They later did though, and ended up instigating the already seething India. The world press played a significant role at the time. It unveiled the British hypocrisy for the world to condemn. The debate about Gandhi and his 19th century ways in the 20th century goes on. But the man was sheer genius. No denying that.
We keep seeking the shortest route. With constraints of time and speed hanging around our neck, our natural approach to any problem is to seek a solution that is the fastest, the shortest and the most direct. Gandhi traveled 240 miles on foot, covered scores of Indian villages along the way and made way for the British police to arrest him. He commenced his walk with 78 companions and ended spurting an entire population into action and courage. That was engineering.
There are times and situations when symbolism matter more than the achievement of the objective. What ensues may sink in the abyss of time and disappear in the amnesia of the masses, but not certain symbolic momentary gestures. It's this humble symbolic gesture that touches hearts and minds. That's why perhaps an angry mob would never tire from burning effigies. That's why people danced on streets when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled at Firdaus Square in Iraq by the American military. (Ironically though some years later at the very Square civilians gathered up demonstrating the American occupation of Iraq.) Sometimes the result is of secondary consequence. The impression carved and pronounced by such symbolic moves acts like a fuel. That what Gandhi had almost in his blood was an understanding of this simple psychology. Once you understand this, you will find it evident in all his tactics to be heard and yet ensue peace. The public burning of English cloth and merchandise - that which was called Civil Disobedience, the wearing of a plain simple homespun loincloth at all times (even during a bitter London winter), his otherwise earthen way of living and also the Dandi march. Another interesting point was the frank countenance with which he put in effect his ideas. He'd himself write to the Viceroy apprising him of his agenda - yep, the man was a pain. But again, a genius. The point he wanted to drive home was not that he could make salt, the point was that they (the British government) should not stop him from using what is his, that a law which is against the very people it is made for, must be put through the test of disobedience and resisted by the people.
As history unfolded in Egypt this past week with a surprisingly non-violent protests against Hosni Mubarak, I felt a twinge of happiness run through me. To see a people's movement leading the way and a three-decade-old rule of oppression coming to end is heartening. But more heartening is the non-violent nature of the protest. At a time when war, fear and bloodshed seem to do the talking in International politics, Egypt has humbled everyone and forced Governments of the world to take note. Long live revolution!