Saturday, December 07, 2013

Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

© Debbie Yazbek/AFP/Getty Images
The news of Nelson Mandela’s death, at 95, on December 5, was all over the internet. But, as with all major news, you haven’t read it till you have read about it in the papers next morning. There is no need for a separate tribute or obituary on South Africa’s legendary freedom fighter. The headlines across the front pages of Indian newspapers in English said it all. Comparisons with Mahatma Gandhi, that other apostle of peace, were inevitable.

The Mahatma of our times is forever free
The Times of India

‘He was a giant among men’
Hindustan Times

Nelson ‘Gandhi’ Mandela passes away
The Tribune

Mandela leaves heart in darkness
The Asian Age

A giant of forgiveness
The Free Press Journal

‘Mandela has gone up there to sleep with the angels; it's time for him to rest’
DNA (Daily News & Analysis)

© London Herald, February 11, 1990
Mahatma of our time
The Telegraph

Without Mandela
Indian Express

Peace icon Mandela is no more
Deccan Herald

A legend departs
The Hindu

Work done, Mandela bids adieu
The Pioneer

Anti-apartheid icon Mandela passes away
The Assam Tribune

Nelson Mandela was a wise man whose words were filled with wisdom. Of all his sayings, I found this profound—“In my country we go to prison first and then become President.” It spoke of the 27 years he spent in prison, under apartheid, from which he emerged to become a free South Africa's first black president.


  1. I was watching the news about the approaching storm in the UK when news came in about Mandela's death. His achievements are remarkable and he really was one of a kind.

    1. Sarah, he had a dream for South Africa, in fact, for the whole of Africa, but unfortunately things aren't shaping up as he probably had in mind.

  2. Even in his closing years he was still such a palpable presence. He will be missed.

    1. Charles, one can imagine what a towering presence he was for most South Africans.

  3. 27 years in prison! That's a life time.

    1. Neer, and the rest of the world stood by and watched him rot away the best of his years in prison.

  4. He was an amazing man. Thanks for this post, Prashant.

    1. Tracy, you're welcome. I thought he deserved it. He was candid about his weaknesses and often told his people not to see him as some kind of a messiah.

  5. I think his lack of bitterness was amazing. He was truly remarkable.

    1. Col, thanks for referring to Mandela's "lack of bitterness." I ought to have mentioned it in my post. It reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote—"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

  6. Someone interviewed in the media here observed that Mandela used nonviolence as a tactic rather than as a moral principle. I suspect he learned that from Gandhi. I'm wondering whether Gandhi would have left a different legacy had he lived to die as Mandela did. Maybe you have an opinion about that.

    1. Ron, an interesting observation. It was said about Gandhi too, and Churchill saw it. Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama borrowed from Gandhi's avowed principle of "ahimsa" or protests through non-violent means, also known as passive resistance. In fact, his mass civil disobedience movement was more a tactic than a moral line to push the British towards granting India self-rule. It has been acknowledged that Gandhi wouldn't have achieved all that he did had he not been politically shrewd. His frequent hunger strikes were a potent tool to make both friends and foes follow his line of thinking. He gave the British many sleepless nights. In that sense Gandhi was a statesman-politician. In the end, he succeeded, without raising his voice or his hand.