Odisha CM Shri Naveen Patnaik is now 73 year old. His nobility as also his empathy for the suffering humanity was amply demonstrated in his humble decision not to celebrate his birth day on 16th October, 2019 on account of the enormous loss and damage suffered by people and State of Odisha due to havoc caused by Fani cyclone in coastal areas in early May this year. He gratefully acknowledged that people of Odisha constitute his family and he is ever indebted to them for their incessant and abundant love for him. Stating with all humility that the blessings of people inspire him on an enduring basis he earnestly appealed to them and his large and expanding circle of associates, colleagues,admirers and well wishers not to travel all the way to reach Bhubaneswar and land in Naveen Nivas for the sole purpose of extending greetings to him on his birth day. In stead he pleaded with them and urged party workers to visit orphanages and institutions set up for the cause of the physically challenged and differently abled to serve them. He also noted with deep satisfaction that blood donation camps have been organized on the occasion of his birth day. Apart from exhorting people not to come and extend birth day wishes to him and appealing them to undertake noble activities by serving those who suffer he requested them to engage in similar activities on the occasion of celebration of memorable days associated with their lives.
Such humanistic and uplifting ideas associated with the decision of Shri Patnaik not to celebrate his birth day and his prescription to his well wishers to reach out to the forlorn and lost bring out his worldview informed by compassion and his deep affinity and kinship for the victims of suffering, exclusion and destitution.
Such noble decision of Chief Minister Shri Patnaik reminds us of the decision of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, to celebrate his birth day, falling on 2nd October, in a manner which would bring out the caring, creative and lofty values associated with the freedom struggle of our country. It is all the more significant to recall those wholesome and constructive aspects associated with the decision of Gandhiji to celebrate his birth day when the country is celebrating his 150th birth anniversary.
In 1942 Gandhiji observed “There is no point in having birthday celebrations of any person without any definite end in view, otherwise they must be confined to just the innocent rejoicings of relatives and friends”. He did not want to reduce his birth day celebrations to routine and commonplace merry making and, therefore, wanted that people should observe his birth day as Charkha Day and engage themselves in spinning, praying and fasting. In fact it was provided on the suggestion of Narandas Gandhi that on 2nd October, on Gandhi Jayanti day, people should engage themselves in sacrificial spinning for the whole day. Such spinning activities dedicated for the cause of the nation as part of sacrificing oneself for the freedom of India from British rule and economic empowerment and independence of millions of poor and deprived people remained at the heart of birth day celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi.
Even though Mahatma Gandhi had the ambition to live for 125 years he did not want to celebrate his birth day in an usual manner. He always wanted to associate his birth day with some higher and loftier cause. When his 75th birth anniversary was being celebrated a souvenir volume containing articles of illustrious personalities like Albert Einstein, Pearl S. Buck and Verrier Elwin was brought out. He was asked to write a foreword. He was not willing to do so. When it was informed to him that the sale proceeds of the volume would be used for the cause of poor he readily agreed and wrote “Who can accept the propriety of my writing a preface for this venture? But if by doing so, I can help fill the purse for the poor, why need I hesitate? I understand this is not meant to be a presentation volume. The profit from its sale will add to the purse to be presented to me for Daridranarayana. A few words from me by way of a foreword will, they argue, help the sale. This is enough temptation for me”. So Gandhiji was elevating the routine celebrations of his birth day to a higher and exalted level by associating it with sublime values.
It was again evident in 1947 when he completed 78 years of age and his last birth day was celebrated on 2nd October 1947. At that time in Delhi communal frenzy had gripped the minds of both Hindus and Muslims and Hindus were out to kill Muslims in the streets citing the ground that Hindus in Pakistan were being killed by Muslims in that country. He stated that if Muslims killed Hindus in Pakistan they behaved like brutes and it was unbecoming of Hindus of India to kill Muslims and replicate brutal examples of Pakistan. Then he wrote, “If you really want to celebrate my birthday, it is your duty not to let anyone be possessed by madness and if there is any anger in your hearts you must remove it. I would appeal to the people not to take the law into their hands but leave it to the Government to decide the issue. If you remember this much, I would consider it a good act on your part.”
Appealing to the good sense of people to get back sanity and strength when humanity itself became a casualty in face of communal conflagration became the central concern of Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of his birth day. It is gratifying to see that Odisha Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik is doing the same thing on his birth day when 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji is being celebrated across the nation. Shri Patnaik on his birth day on 16th October is telling his well wishers to serve those who are in orphanages and in institutions meant for physically challenged. No wonder that on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Gandhiji Shri Patnaik passionately advocated for inclusion of non-violence in the preamble of the Constitution of India. Happy birth day to Shri Naveen Patnaik.
- The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.