This was a valid, and a little less schismatic this time, question raised by Shashi Tharoor (again, on Twitter). Personally, I have no problem with national holidays and if Im not wrong we just have 3 national holidays. Before we can answer whether we should have a holiday on the birthday of a person who worshipped work, we have to decide why in the first place we take a holiday on this day?
Ideally, this type of holiday should be taken so that we can sit aside for a day and think about the great soul. People should get together, whether online and offline, and talk about Mahatma Gandhi: his life, his philosophy, how he supposedly got us independence, his non-violent (and controversial) ways, and what he thought about the world in general (and about sex, according to this Tweet from Pritish Nandy). There should be neighborhood gatherings (do we still have those?) of kids and adults and hold discussions on Mahatma Gandhi. Do we do that? Hardly.
For instance, this time it was nothing but an extended weekend. People pack up their bags and go to visit places they can visit and come back by late Sunday evening. Or they simply laze around. You hear or read things about Gandhi only while casually browsing through TV news channels, Twitter streams and blogs. Music and entertainment channels start broadcasting Valentines-related or festival-related programs days in advance (so that people dont absentmindedly forget about spending their money on greeting cards, expensive gifts and themed dinners). They dont even show themed songs the way they, occasionally, do on Republic and Independence Days. So it just becomes a holiday. So should we have it?
This holiday should be scrapped. But instead of working or studying, people should do some brainstorming on how we can improve our country? When was the last time you constructively talked about making your country a better place to live? We all criticize and crib as regularly as we shit, but how many times we actually think about solutions and how to implement them? If the guys at BlogActionDay can organize blog action days year after year and motivate bloggers all over the world to write on relevant topics, why cannot we organize such days on Gandhi Jayanti? Senior managers and school/college principals should organize cleanliness drives where they visit neighboring places and clean them up. You may think what can be achieved by doing such things once a year? Not much. But do you think our country is so hopeless that if hundreds of thousands of people participate in this annual event, not even a few hundred will carry on the work for a few more days and in the process motivate more people?