Winning essays of the Mahatma Gandhi competition

To support young people and students in their efforts to learn English, to nurture greater openness to different cultures and to support reading in English, The Slovak Spectator is publishing six essays which were the first-prize winners in different age groups in a competition supported by the Indian Embassy in Bratislava.

The winning entries from students at QSI International School, the British International School and the Forel International School follow.

The Slovak Spectator is publishing these essays in unedited and unabridged form.

- Gandhi’s relevance in the 21st century; By Alexander Tham
- Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence; By Kristian Kierulf
- Mohandas Gandhi - Mahatma Gandhi; By Carmel Buckingham
- The Significance of Truth; By Jennifer Kola
- Relevance of Gandhi’s ideas to today’s world; By Vanessa Barthova
- What relevance do Gandhi’s ideas have in the 21st Century?; By Stephanie Haszczyn

Gandhi’s relevance in the 21st century

By Alexander Tham, Class 7A,
British International School, Bratislava
October 2009


Gandhi’s teachings about Satyagraha (devotion to the truth) were not only known in South Africa and India but also around the world, starting in Asia, then in Europe, and also in America. He was not only the Indian leader but also a world leader. Nearly everybody knew him and what he did. They were trying to be like him. They were practicing non-violent protests and solving conflicts without a fight.

Gandhi’s books and actions inspired a lot of other people that did extraordinary things to help the world such as Martin Luther King jr., Dalai Lama, Barrack Obama, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela.

Gandhi was born in India, in a small place called Porbandar. His father, Karamchand Gandhi, who belonged to the Hindu Moth community, was the diwan (Prime Minister) of the small Porbandar state.

His father was truthful and fare-minded and Gandhi surely did inherit these qualities. His mother was very religious. She was strict with traditions such as not eating meat. She was a kind and a peaceful woman.

Gandhi’s parents were role models for him and they helped to formulate his beliefs and personality.

Gandhi went to study law and train as a barrister in England. When he finished he went to South Africa to work there as a lawyer. When he got to South Africa he saw discrimination of blacks and Indians in South Africa. He even experienced discrimination personally. In South Africa he was trying to help to liberate Indians and blacks, to make them equal with whites. He was doing this with teaching Indians and blacks in South Africa to use the method of satyagraha.

Satyagraha is from the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religion. This means that you should be kind and equal with your neighbour, and solving conflicts non-violently. Gandhi extended this concept of satyagraha to resolving conflicts within nations and between nations.

At the age of 40, he returned back to India where he continued his teachings about satyagraha. He was trying to make India independent from the British. The Indians wanted to fight the British but Gandhi warned never to use violence. After many years of non-violent protests and campaigns Gandhi and India won. Gandhi became the Father of the nation for his role in this fight for India’s independence. Thanks to Gandhi, India gained independence without any violent fighting. Sadly, two years after India gained independence, an assassin shot Gandhi. Gandhi died aged 78.

Gandhi didn’t win all the fights. Some of his ideas went wrong and didn’t work. But he always followed his truth and beliefs. Many people in many countries follow his ideas today.

In the recent years, we saw same of the best examples of non-violent ways of solving conflicts within nations and between nations. e.g.: Poland, the Czechoslovak Republic, the Baltic States, the Philippines and several other countries.

In 1989 Poland became the first country in Eastern Europe to free itself from Soviet domination, without violence.

On November 17th 1989, a non-violent protest in Prague against the Soviet occupation turned into the largest protests in the history of Czechoslovakia.
Many people were injured when the security forces attacked these people. Thousands of people gathered together at Wenceslas Square, in Prague. They sat down and sang nursery rhymes. They were only holding candles and waving flags in a peaceful way. Their leader Vaclav Havel asked them not to use violence against the security forces. The Prague protest resulted in protests over the whole country. In every major city like Bratislava, Brno, and Kosice, people gathered together and sat down on town squares. They were holding candles, keys, flags, and flowers. People were giving candies to the security forces, all without violence. The security forces did beat some of the demonstrators but they couldn’t possibly beat up all of them. Some people didn’t go to work and instead they sat down and did this quiet protest. On December 7, the Communist Prime Minister resigned. By the end of December 1989, the Soviet regime had given up and Vaclav Havel was elected president of Czechoslovakia.

On the other hand, some countries are sceptical about applying Gandhi’s non-violent way of solving conflicts. For example Palestine and Israel. Although they respect Gandhi as an important person, to date they were not prepared to adopt Gandhi’s techniques and teachings of non-violence. Let’s hope that in the near future these nations will enjoy peace obtained without violence.

Also, in some countries there are dictators that rule there. Gandhi’s techniques will be harder to apply in these countries, but lets all hope that they will have peace one day.

Gandhi made many of us realise that we need to work together and to fight the real fights that are meaningful to all of us. Today we see conflicts starting because individuals and some nations want more economical power, more natural resources, and more territory. Also we see nationalistic motives, religious and racist motives (e.g. Hitler wanting to destroy Jews). You can’t stop these things. We are humans. We always want power, more territory, more natural resources and etc. We are greedy. But, many of these conflicts could be solved with Gandhi’s teachings of Satyagraha.

However, we should also concentrate on issues that are likely to affect all of us e.g. global warming, earthquakes, and tsunamis can destroy the world! It is really important that we get together as the world and cooperate with each other. It will not be easy. There will always be conflicts and arguments. But we shouldn’t spend time solving these conflicts and arguments with violence. Instead we should use the quiet method of negotiating and agreeing on things.

“The principle of an eye for an eye will make the hole world blind,” said Gandhi. We should all try to compromise with each other. We should try to understand the other side. We should compromise together so we can save the world form dangers such as global warming, world destruction and etc. That’s why we should compromise.

“I’m inspired by Gandhi!” said Barrack Obama. Gandhi inspires the US President Barack Obama. Gandhi’s ideas are very relevant today because people follow Gandhi today, for example Barrack Obama, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and many others were inspired by him and still are.

So are Gandhi’s ideas and teaching relevant today? Yes, they certainly are because a lot of people in the world follow his ideas and teachings and therefore are inspired by him. We all should apply his ideas and teachings in our every day live and fight for the end of nuclear weapons, war itself, poverty, racism, hunger, environmental destruction, homelessness and violence of any kind.

“My life is my message,” said Gandhi. We all should hope that his thoughts, ideas, prayers, and dreams come true.


"Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence."-Mahatma Gandhi.

By Kristian Kierulf (15)
Forel International School


Gandhi was a person of great significance. He believed, that however significant he may be, every single person on the world was just as important as him. Achieving piece in India was his goal. A goal that becomes that much greater when he said he wants to achieve it by fighting, but not through violence.

The situation in India was Terrible. The british were making hell in India and to its people. The laws they issued did not take notice of the native people, or worse, they did take notice, only to purpously make the situation worse for them. Indian people were forbidden to vote, own property, they weren't even allowed to be outside during night hours. Rumours of rebelion were present for a long time, but there was no leader to make them come true, no leader that knew how to persuade the people that it is possible and they can do it.

Meanwhile, Mahatma Gandhi had an encounter with discrimination against indian people. He had a ticket which booked him a 1st class place on a train, but when a British man spots him, the man starts to insist that he sits in the third class, that this is not a place for an Indian man. Gandhi resists, and on the next stop he is brutally thrown off the train. This unfair and offensive act sparked off the thought and the wish of rebellion against this violence and untruth. And following his beliefs and ideas, he sets off on the path of unifying his country together in peace, or, as he would say: „there is no path to peace. Peace is the path.“

And so, making use of his ever present charisma, his presonality and of his brain, India had for the first time from the occupation of their land serious hope of achieving independence and piece in their own country.

The plan Gandhi presented was a plan that wasn't exactly accepted by people before, in the past, it was a plan of achieving peace by doing the appropriate actions, by showing and saying out loud things they disagreed with. It was a plan that was very similar to all the others which were thought of before, with one, but the the most radical and world changing difference – independence was going to be achieved with no violence whatsoever. No violence from the side of the Indian people.

„Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.“ said Mahatma Gandhi.

And so we come to the thesis of my essay. Many people think they can achieve Peace by fighting and killing the source of evil. As if eliminating people that hurt you, or do wrong things which you don't agree with would solve the problem. But what do you do by hurting them, or worse, by killing them? You do exactly the same things they did to you, exactly the same things that made you decide to take some actions against it. How do you make peace when this viscious cycle keeps repeating?

Until then, no one was able to summon as much strength to promote the idea of non-violence as Gandhi, and yet it is such a reasonable and straight-forward idea, that it is a mystery it was'nt used in such a big scale before. „An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind“ said Gandhi.

We don't use violence every day. For example when we don't agree with someone or something, we don't hurt them, we rather discuss it or argue. But why don't we apply this practice once it gets larger in scale?

The truth is we do, but there are so many conflicting minds that it would take too long to solve the problem this way, and always someone wouldn't be satisfied with the result, so people end up thinking differently and they try to eliminate the source of trouble instead. This is but a short sighted solution though, if it is in fact a solution, since peace in fear is not peace in mind, but trouble and anxiety. What Gandhi proposed was not to kill the trouble, but to solve the trouble, to change it to its very opposite, to change it from bad to good. and that is why Gandhis' plan eventually worked and India was finally and righteously freed from the british empire after a lot of dedication and will, with only a small fraction of the people killed and murdered than as if there would have been a war. This is how good ideas change the world, if they can be presented in the right way.


Mohandas Gandhi - Mahatma Gandhi

Carmel Buckingham (Age 11)
Forel International School


Mohandas Gandhi was a political and spiritual leader of India. He was born on the 2nd of October, 1869. He was also very strong on non-violence. He preferred to do all things peacefully. Mohandas Gandhi was later named Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi has many famous quotes.

To ‘be the change you want to see’ in the world can be either hard or easy, depending on how committed you are. You don’t have to have a good reputation, you don’t have to be chosen, but you have to be committed.

If you want to see and understand the reason and meaning of the quote, look at what Gandhi did. ‘Be the change you want to see.’ It makes prefect sense when you put your mind to it. If you want something to happen, you shouldn’t wait for someone else to it. You should do it yourself. Just set forth and do it. No need to hesitate; no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.

You also shouldn’t expect anything to be in the same order as it was before. Change is always different. There is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

If you want things to change, you should be and do the change. If you don’t, it won’t happen. And we can’t change others unless we change ourselves and influence the others. The following is inscribed on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abby (1100 A.D.)

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.”

And ‘be the change you want to see’ still stands true because if you do want to make a change, there’s no need for you to wait for others to do it. Imagine if you were them. You’d be changing the world. And so that’s what you should do. If you see something wrong, better it. And if someone else thinks the same way and they see something wrong, hopefully they will better that, too. All in all, Gandhi’s quote ‘be the change you want to see’ still holds and it shall hold forevermore.

Gandhi was a remarkable man, he was very peaceful, and he had many great ideas. Gandhi was one of those special people that have a strong impact on others. I don’t know how others feel, but ‘be the change you want to see’ will be engraved on me forevermore. However else others may feel, it is their choice, but I hope Gandhi has made a difference for everybody.
Gandhi’s quote shows that you can be the change yourself as long as you’re committed and believe in yourself. Although life can be a maze or a difficult riddle, you can still try to make the changed to try to improve the world. But you can’t start too big; you start small and then grow and grow. That’s the way it stands. But Gandhi’s quote is like a map on our journey to better the world.

“Be the change you want to see” can be mentioned in passing without you thinking twice about it. But when you look back upon it, the message sticks. You think of it whenever a problem pops up and you help solve it. You’ll think about it when others help or do something they noticed was wrong or missing. Either way, ‘be the change you want to see’ is still relevant in this century and hopefully in the next. But so far, what we know is: “Be the change you want to see” is an inspiring quote, touching and meaningful. “Be the change you want to see” will always remain, even in other situations, graved upon us. Gandhi did the right thing and his quotes and ideas have changed the world.


The Significance of Truth

By Jennifer Kola
QSI International School of Bratislava
October 21, 2009


The best way of solving an argument is believing that everybody has a piece of the truth, which is one of Ghandi’s famous ideas of Satyagraha. Careful questioning, attentive listening, and summarizing can lead to a truthful solution of the argument in a nonviolent way.

Questioning everybody involved is the first step to finding a conclusion that satisfies everyone. When asking the questions, try finding out what or who caused the argument in the first place. Then, ask more specific questions to clarify the issue. Speaking in a friendly and confident way is very important, so that the person asked can trust you. Questioning is necessary so that you gain evidence, and it makes the people asked feel honored because you show them that they are important to consider. ,

The next step towards a resolution is attentive listening. Sitting up straight and having an interested expression on your face is essential to having the person asked telling you the whole truth. Only make eye contact if that is considered respectful in the culture where the person asked is from. Concentrating on what the person is saying and repeating what they said in your head can help you listen properly, too. Another important thing is keeping track of the information and truth gained by taking notes. Listening also gives the people the feeling that they are respected and important because you consider them and try to find out what they think about the argument.

Summarizing what everyone said and forming a conclusion is the last step in this process. Find connections in the responses that the people gave, and be sure to consider every single point of view. Finally, form a conclusion and propose it to the people that were involved in the argument. Explaining your evidence is very important too, so that there will be no misunderstandings. Summarizing is one of the most significant things to do because you need to combine the data gained in a respectful way and present it to the people involved in the argument, so that the argument can be resolved.

This is the best way of solving an argument because it considers everybody involved, and it is very accurate. Everybody has a piece of the truth that is necessary for solving an argument. In addition, you come up with a solution that works with everybody. This method can reduce using violence to solve arguments when used properly. Another advantage of using this method is that it can reduce hate and revenge in the world. You can be the change you want to see in the world, and you can reduce violence and hate forming from arguments. That is also what Gandhi wanted to accomplish with his ideas. Try being a little change by using this nonviolent way of solving arguments; everybody has a piece of the truth. If many people do small things to help, it can actually have big effects in the future.


Relevance of Gandhi’s ideas to today’s world

By Vanessa Barthova
QSI International School
October 19, 2009




Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869- 30 January 1948) was a great thinker of his time. Gandhi, who majored as a lawyer, played a big role in the peaceful independence movement of India. Gandhi affected many people’s lives resulted with millions of people followed his teachings. He believed in Ahimsa, a Hindi term of non-killing, and Satyagraha, the force of truth. Gandhi stood up for what he believed in, which he did in many radical ways. Gandhi and his ideas of non-violence really influenced today’s society. Even after his death, Gandhi influenced many people who were working for common good.

Ahimsa literally means “non-killing”. Under this phrase Gandhi taught “…you may not offend anybody: you may not harbor an uncharitable thought…To one who follows this doctrine, there is not room for an enemy.” This was a true force of non-violence. People all over the world were touched by Gandhi’s teachings. Many people even tried to apply his techniques when working for common good of their society. One of these people was Martin Luther King Jr. He was an activist of the African-American civil rights movement. While he was working to gain rights for African-American people, he used Gandhi’s methods of non-violence and peaceful protest. Instead of people fighting with fists, he asked them to fight with actions and peaceful resolution. He organized sit-ins at segregated restaurants, boycotts, and marches, which connect to the time Gandhi organized the salt march for the independence of India. Although Martin Luther Jr. does not exactly live at this time, he was also one of the most famous prominent figures who were influenced by, and followed Gandhi’s ideas and teachings.

The idea of racism still comes up in today’s society, and people today, just like Martin Luther King Jr. follow Gandhi’s ideas and philosophies to achieve greater good for people all over the world. People through out history were influenced by Gandhi’s teachings.

Another key term in Gandhi’s teachings was Satyagraha. Satyagraha means force of truth. It is a term composed by Gandhi to indicate his theory of non-violence where Gandhi fought for civil rights and stood up for Indian Independence. Gandhi fought for equality, and was against discrimination and racism. He believed that the truth will come out sooner or later, so there is no point to push it with violence. He said “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for, but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.” This quote was really important in Gandhi’s teachings. This is one of the things that today’s society does not understand, although Gandhi made an excellent point by making it. You should always stand behind what you believe, and if it is the truth and not just your pure imagination, sooner or later it will take action; you just have to stand behind it and fight with non-violent actions.

Whereas people nowadays days don’t know how to do that. What we must realize is that things can be achieved without violence, because with violence, no good really comes out of it. When you use violence you might achieve things faster, but you hurt more people and even your self in the process.

Gandhi was a man of peace and if we all just follow his message, we can make the world a better place.

Gandhi was important in his time; he was a great leader for his people, and a great role model for other countries in the world. Just because time passed and people changed from generation to generation, it does not mean that Gandhi and his ways will be forgotten. Gandhi still has a lot of influence over today’s society. He is being looked upon as an inspiration and a role model by millions of people, especially in India itself where he is still considered as martyrs. His ideas area real motivation to leaders everywhere, because Gandhi showed the world that peace could be the solution of a conflict. If we follow Gandhi’s footsteps, and learn his ideas of wanting spiritual happiness rather then just wealth and material things, the world will truly be a better place.


What relevance do Gandhi’s ideas have in the 21st Century?

By Stephanie Haszczyn (15)
British International School, Bratislava


“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.” So what relevance do Gandhi’s ideas have in the 21st century? Do they actually mean anything to us anymore? Are Gandhi’s ideas of the past, or should we try and follow in his footsteps.

Mahatma Gandhi lived to set an example. “My life is my message.” His life’s doings show us that it is possible to live in a world of peace and a world in which matters aren’t solved by fighting and violence. Therefore, why shouldn’t his ideas be relevant even in this century? If he died for his ideas and visions for the world, then maybe we should reconsider what they actually mean to us today, and how they can be applied to our everyday life. So, are his ideas relevant in the 21st century? Perhaps not. Gandhi’s ideas of peace and love may be almost impossible to abide by in this century. Are we are too bound by our efforts to create new weapons of violence in order to defend ourselves? Are we too concerned about how we are to keep ourselves safe, rather than make sure that others are coping too? Gandhi spoke of peace, and wars concluding without so much as a conflict. But is this relevant to the world we live in today. It might just be too late for Gandhi’s ideas to become relevant to us. Concepts of peace in today’s world could never be applied to major countries which develop weapons of mass destruction; it is because of these violent perceptions that countries have that stop Gandhi’s ideas becoming relevant to us. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” As one of Gandhi’s quotes, it’s here he’s telling us to work together, and, if people choose not to accept his ideas, then it will be increasingly difficult to unite the community, or even the world.

Gandhi’s ideas of peace are positive incentives for people to base their opinions and beliefs on, yet to what extent they abide by those ideas is entirely up to them. Gandhi’s statement: “An eye for an eye and everyone shall be blind” justifies that all Gandhi strived for was peace and love in the hearts of everyone.

Then again, Gandhi’s ideas could be relevant to us in the 21st century. He was partially responsible for the independence of India from Britain, and his strong beliefs concerning peaceful wars convinced him to write a letter to Hitler amidst the Holocaust, at the peak of the Nazi reign. Unfortunately, the letter never reached Hitler, as the British intercepted the posting, unwilling to settle the war in a peaceful way. For Gandhi to write such a letter, addressing Hitler as ‘friend’ and signing off as ‘I remain, your sincere friend’, simply shows Gandhi’s incredible ability to forgive, and his ability to take into account that Hitler was just a black stain on the dappled sheet of humanity. “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” It’s as though Gandhi’s love for life was endless. His concept of life, and humanity itself meant everything to him.

Gandhi’s influence back in the 1900s was so great that we perhaps should take a second look at his ideas and the reasons as to why he was so astonishingly popular and publicized. The publicity he received points to his being different than the average lawyer, or the average person. He captured the attention of many people because of his frequent protests against anything he disagreed with, and was praised for the peaceful way in which he did it. Maybe that could be one of the major reasons people listened and followed him- they didn’t want bloodshed, they wanted their voice to be heard in a non violent way. But, all in all, how relevant is this mellow form of resistance, how relevant are these concepts of tranquillity? Are all of Gandhi’s methods of quiet protest relevant to us in this day and age? It would be surprising if the answer was yes, as Gandhi’s fasting ideas would more than likely not attract the attention it did back then. Although, these ideas could be used the basis on which people plan demonstrations, as to not allow them to become more than just demonstrations, and it keeps them peaceful.

Gandhi’s ideas are relevant to us in the 21st century because they ultimately motivate us to cancel wars and fight for peace. “Peace is the most powerful weapon of mankind. It takes more courage to take a blow than give one. It takes more courage to try and talk things through than to start a war.” This is one example where Gandhi’s ideas of peace are extremely relevant to the 21st century. He’s suggesting that weapons of mass destruction are things that people are hiding behind as they’re too afraid to show courage and be peaceful. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Another one of his quotes. But what does he mean by that? Is he simply speaking about the way in which we approach problems? He is quite obviously sharing his opinion of how we should address issues which come our way, and he is supposedly telling us that the best way for us to make a statement, is by pushing it across slowly, gently. Nothing violent happening, everything moving in a peaceful way, which is exactly what Gandhi’s whole life story is about.

He was so against conflicts and prejudices, that even on the Indian Independence Day, when Pakistan split from India, he hid away and mourned for the loss of friendship and trust there. He was so against there being a split in the nation; he disagreed so much with the tensions between the two religions: Islam and Hinduism that he refused to celebrate the independence with his own people. It was said that he could end a small conflict with his mere presence; how he did that was probably related to the influence he had over people. Gandhi was the image of peace. Perhaps the attitude he held towards all things in which anger was unrestrained is an attitude that is relevant to today’s generations. “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” These quotes are truth, and, as Gandhi points out, violence is evil, and it is the coward’s way of showing resistance, the easy option. He says in another quote that it takes more courage to talk things through than to start a war. Somehow amidst these quotes, Gandhi is trying to state that violence is pointless. The only way to show true resistance, and the only way for things to become effective is to push them forward peacefully.

Gandhi was recognised as one of the ‘founding fathers of the modern Indian state’. He was recognised throughout the world as a hero, and as the man who gained India’s independence from the British Empire using peaceful methods. His concepts consisted of non violent protests, people living together in harmony; a world without war. His ideas and quotes are all recognised as having importance in today’s world. They are relevant in helping us understand ourselves and they should guideline us into a safer, calmer world.

(The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in the writings above)

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