How to Fight Like Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi pushed the Brits out of India with some unorthodox methods that we often take for granted. There’s a lot we can learn from this stubborn and scrawny man among men who knew how to fight for his principles—on his own terms—and win!

Let’s begin with a (now famous) train journey that changed Gandhi’s life, and eventually the course of history. It was 1893, late at night in South Africa. A barrister named M. K. Gandhi was travelling first class when a white passenger entered the compartment, took one look at him, and summoned the conductor. The conductor insisted Gandhi to move to third class.

“But I have a first-class ticket,” Gandhi said.

“That doesn’t matter,” replied the conductor. “No coloureds!”

Gandhi refused to leave. A policeman had to remove him from the train.

It was a bitterly cold night. Gandhi shivered, and pondered. Should he retreat to India or remain in South Africa and fight injustices like the one he had just experienced?

By dawn, he had his answer: “It would be cowardice to run back to India without fulfilling my obligation. The hardship to which I was subjected was superficial—only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice. I should try, if possible, to root out the disease and suffer hardships in the process.” At that moment, he chose a path he remained on for the next 55 years.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was many things: barrister, vegetarian, sadhu, experimenter, writer, father of the nation, friend of all, enemy of none, manual labourer, meditator, teacher, student, walker, tailor. Most of all, he was a fighter.

Gandhi fought the British, and he fought bigotry—among foreigners and among his own people. He fought to be heard. His biggest fight, though, was the fight to change the way we fight.

Gandhi imagined a world without violence, but he was realistic enough to know that was unlikely to happen soon. Meanwhile, we must learn how to fight better.