Salt: Symbolism and Personalities

I was born about 4 years after India got her Independence. The Freedom struggle is something I got to learn from history textbooks and history teachers. How does one get to see, hear, touch, taste and smell the reality of that struggle? How does one understand the oppression of those times; to be subjugated to the diktats of the foreigners and to do their will? It is not possible to feel the emotions, the frustrations, the anger, the sweat of our freedom fighters and the Indian masses of the time.

In February this year, we visited Ahmedabad. A visit to the Sabarmati Ashram was a must. October 2nd, Gandhiji’s birthday a couple of days ago, brought to mind so much that we saw, discussed and thought about. To a small extent the visit to the Ashram brought history alive, the feelings of awe and gratitude for all the men and women who sacrificed so much, so that India and her people are free ( something that is taken for granted and taken advantage of in present day India).

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the nation said many things, but let me focus on this one line: “My life is my message”

What confidence! His life was full, and there is so much one could choose to write about. However, I will focus on one event — The Dandi March. Gandhiji based this march on one very vital ingredient of the poor and marginalized Indian’s diet — Salt. The salt law imposed a salt tax and prohibited the manufacture and sale of salt by Indians and thus took away the livelihood of the poor.

On 12th March 1930, Gandhi with 70 of his associates marched from the Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a village on Gujarat’s seacoast, a distance of about 354 Kms. Thousands of people joined them along the way. On 6th April, after a small prayer Gandhiji raised a lump of salty mud and declared, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire”, and went on to produce illegal salt. He knew that protesting against the salt law was a simple and effective method to get all Indians involved.

The symbolism of salt is relevant in a variety of ways and therefore has been mentioned often in a number of quotes.

“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all” (Nelson Mandela). A fitting message for our present times.

Our guest (migrant) workers and so many more, even up to the middle class, are in need of work, bread, water and salt. For as James Beard said, ‘Where would we be without salt.’How true is that! ‘For the cure for anything is salt water,- sweat, tears or the sea.’ (Karen Blixen) and may I add, warm salt water gargles to keep viruses away.

In the Bible, Mathew, Chapter 5 Verse 13 “You are the salt of the earth”. I am also sure that none of us would like ‘salt rubbed into our wounds’. And of course there are people who take everything with a grain/pinch of salt. I am sure we have each examined if we are worth our salt or questioned if others were worth their salt.

Very interesting! Do you recognize different types of personalities here?

  1. Salt of the earth — good, honest, worth and reliable.
  2. Rubbing Salt into wounds — those who inflict hurt, pain and sorrow.
  3. Take everything with a grain/pinch of salt — the sceptic or the one who does not take life seriously.
  4. Worth your salt — Measuring worth, yours or others

Maybe a fun exercise to see which one we are predominantly. It will call for introspection and perhaps the need to make a few changes.

This prayer composed by Gandhiji and placed at the entrance of his home at the ashram may provide us with a few thoughts to make these changes (https://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/prayer.pdf).

Lord of humility

dwelling in the little pariah hut,

help us to search for Thee throughout

that fair land watered by Ganges,

Brahmaputra and Jumna.

Give us receptiveness,

give us open heartedness,

give us Thy humility,

give us the ability and willingness

to identify ourselves

with the masses of India.

O God,

who does help only when man

feels utterly humble,

grant that we may not be isolated from the people

we would serve as servants and friends.

Let us be embodiments of self sacrifice,

embodiments of godliness,

humility personified, that we may know

the land better and love it more.

Educational Consultant with 2 passions in life: the Child — from toddler to adolescent, and Education — education philosophy and psychology