Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Gandhi, My Father' & Maslow's Theory

Having been fed on Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, 'Gandhi, My Father' was not a flick I wanted to watch. I dismissed it to be another Gandhi film. Until, my parents watched and raved about it.

After a long time, I ordered it on DVD. I realized my parents were quite right about the movie. It was a poignant portrayal of the relationship between Father of our nation and his son, Haridas.

The film’s three main characters - Mahatma (Darshan Jariwala), Haridas (Akshaye Khanna) and Kasturba Gandhi (Shefali Shah) - have given a commendable performance. Kudos to producer Anil Kapoor and director Feroz Abbas Khan. Akshaye as an ambitious yet obedient son sparkles. Darshan's smile lingered in my mind long after the movie was over. In my opinion, he is the best 'Gandhi'. Shefali Shah has done a wonderful job of being a duty bound wife who adopts and follows the path of her husband while doing her best to protect the interests of her son in which unfortunately fails.

While we might know quite a bit about Mahatma from school and other sources, this movie captures the facet of Gandhi as a father. The movie is about the trials and tribulations of the family by the consequence of Gandhi dedicating to the cause of liberating India. While Mahatma wants his son to give up his dreams and join him in the 'war', Haridas wants to become a lawyer, like his father. The movie captures how Haridas transforms from being a subservient son to rebel who inflicts great pain on his father, probably without being aware of it. He falters, in life and character. Disowned by his family, Haridas meets his end as an orphan and in penury.

Why did this happen to Haridas? Was it because his safety, psychological and esteem needs weren’t met?

As Wikipedia says Maslow's theory is predetermined in order of needs important for human beings. It is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level. For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely return to work during periods of remission.

I am not sure if there is empirical data supporting this theory but it is very logical. Considering that it is an important concept taught to marketing students, it surely seems very relevant.

It would be interesting, if we apply Game Theory and imagine what could have happened if Mahatma had acted as a father and helped Haridas to fulfill his dreams. Would that have averted the tragic fate that Haridas met?

Gandhi stood for principles. Haridas would have gained his father but the nation could have lost Mahatma, if any compromises were made. Gandhi was an extraordinary man who took simple yet profound decisions. Was it because Gandhi had moved up the Maslow's triangle and his needs had been fulfilled that he could spurn the pleasures of life and devote himself for liberating his motherland? In that case, if his security, psychological and esteem needs had been met, would Haridas have followed footsteps of his father?

No one can say, now.
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