Body text: In January 1948, Mahatma Gandhi, Father of Nation for India, popularly known as Bapu, left us for the heavenly abode. Now in January 2020, Oman’s beloved His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, fondly remembered as Baba Qaboos, left for Jannat ul Firdaus, leaving his people bereaved. Again January has brought grief for the world at large, as we mourn the loss of true leaders who laid the foundations of development and prosperity in their respective countries.
It can be rightly said that one was sand, and one was salt. Sand is often a metaphor for the passing of time, especially with respect to final transformation, as sand achieves its fine state only after mountains wither off over the years under extreme conditions. Sand stands for His Majesty the Sultan’s work and represents years of perseverance and hard work. Salt on the other hand is used metaphorically to signify utility, stability, durability, value and purification. Gandhi in India opposed taxes on salt during freedom struggle, as salt was used by every person irrespective of caste, creed, region, religion, language and economy.
Both Baba Qaboos and Mahatma Gandhi were charismatic role-models who led by example. They always strived towards working for their people and bringing about positive changes in their lives. With a strong value system, they both nurtured people around them and whosoever once met them, was touched deeply for the rest of their lives. They both demonstrated that how one person can be the change they wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi used simple spinning wheel to produce homespun cotton and laid emphasis on simple ways of living and giving up material pleasures.
Tolerance and equality
Both are known for their tolerance and promoting non-discrimination amongst people. Mahatma Gandhi did tremendous work towards upliftment of untouchables in India and His Majesty Sultan Qaboos believed in gender equality and equal rights for all. Today Oman has many women holding key positions in the ministries including education, technology and communication, which form the backbone of any progressing nation. Under his rule, slavery was abolished. On the third National Day, he had said, “Everyone in this nation is equal. There isn’t any difference between big and small, rich and poor; for equality mandates, everyone to be siblings under the umbrella of social justice.”
Personal commitment is another aspect that connects both the global leaders. Baba Qaboos always took personal interest in the working of the government and kept the whole system bonded and grounded. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
With a remarkably even-handed and flexible foreign policy, Baba Qaboos has effectively maintained peaceful international relations with all countries, near and far alike. The Indian Mahatma is a global icon for non-violence. He used to say, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos was a visionary and knew how to articulate this vision into powerful words. He was able to positively influence his people and bring the best in them. Mahatma Gandhi, although once a glossophobic, is today regarded as one of the finest orators in the world who had the power to move the masses.
Guardians of future
Both laid special emphasis on power of education for all. At the time of opening of the Sultan Qaboos University, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos said, “We live in an age of science and education. Education and work are our only means of progress and development within the context of our Islamic civilization.” As Mahatma said, education is the realisation of the best in man – body, soul and spirit. These words hold meaning every single day of our lives.
In 1970, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos ascended to the throne with a progressive vision. His priorities were clear from the beginning and he took important economic initiatives, moving the country away from subsistence farming and fishing. Present day Oman has numerous world-class schools, healthcare facilities, sea and airports, roads, well-established telecommunications network and all round development. No doubt, that he is and shall always be remembered as the most popular leader in the Arab world.
Baba Qaboos and Mahatma Gandhi, father figures for their respective countries, are more relevant than ever in today’s world. Their lives were represented by a common vision of tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and betterment of mankind. Today humanity is in ominous need to learn from the lives of these two legends. Both leaders with their love and compassion for all and service to humanity, shall continue to inspire us every single day, for the generations to come.
Contributed by Dr Priti Swarup Dr Priti is an HR Management expert and has been living in Oman since June 2019; email: [email protected]