The unofficial Google doodle on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday incorporates two symbols characteristic of the great man - khadi and the classic round spectacles.
Internet, People, Politics

Mahatma Gandhi’s 143rd birthday unofficial Google doodle

The unofficial Google doodle on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday incorporates two symbols characteristic of the great man - khadi and the classic round spectacles.

Google had doodled Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s birthday back in 2009 with an “indigo drawing of Gandhi on khadi cloth“. Google doesn’t usually doodle birthdays more than once, except for when it is its own (which by the way isn’t actually its birthday).

This Cutting the Chai’s unofficial Google doodle on Mahatma Gandhi’s 143rd birth anniversary incorporates two symbols characteristic of the great man – khadi and the classic round spectacles.

History, India, Magazines, Media, Newspapers, People, Politics

For American cartoonists in WWII era Gandhi was a fool and a traitor

Cartoonists in American newspapers during World War II didn’t seem have much regard for, or an understanding of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This article from the August 24, 1942 issue of Life magazine displays some example and also analyses the reasons behind the contempt:

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They portray Gandhi as either fool or traitor

In India last week Mohandas Gandhi was a British prisoner. So were hundreds of his followers in the Indian National Congress Party. Thousands of other followers, having heard Gandhi’s call for non-violent resistance against the British, proceeded to go violent until the British firmly put them down. An uneasy calm hung over the country as the Japs switched generals around and began talk about invading India.

In the US meanwhile, the newspaper cartoonists went on work on Gandhi, who, for all his faults, is India’s greatest man today just as Franklin D Roosevelt who also has his faults, is America’s greatest man today. But to the cartoonists, Gandhi was just a funny little crackpot, bald as a beanpole, who didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. They treated Gandhi as if he didn’t realize which side was fighting for democracy in this war, as if he didn’t know that the Japanese were at India’s door. In the cartoons was either a fool or a traitor.

This point of view emerged partly because the cartoonists tried to make India’s complex problems just as simple as American pie and partly because, like most Americans, the cartoonists mistook the Indians for a low, uncivilized people who do not know what is good for them. Gandhi’s decision might well prove to be terribly wrong. But in all the cartoons there was nothing to suggest that the US itself might have some moral responsibility for India’s present state and might have some clear duty to try sympathetically to repair the awful breach on the democratic front.

Easier to caricature than comprehend.

Advertising, Print Ads, Vintage Indian Ads

The bald quartet – Gandhi, Nehru, Bose, Patel – in an ad for hair oil

This is possibly from a time when a head full of ideals was more important than a head full of hair. What else can explain the presence of India’s most revered baldies in an advertisement for a hair care product.

This advertisement for Jai-Hind Amla Goonnidhi Hair Oil features the stalwarts of India’s freedom movement – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. With the exception of Maulana Azad, the other four were not exactly known for a dense crop. Even the Maulana didn’t actually have flowing locks, but his was mostly hidden underneath the famous fez hat.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in an ad for Jai-Hind Amla Goonnidhi Hair Oil

Jai Hind Amla Goonnidhi Hair Oil
An effective dressing for hair
Prepared with pure vegetable oil with amla and other Indian herbs

Manufactured by
Jai Hind Chemical Works

This ad also reminds me of the famous anecdote where Nehru during a Parliament debate on Aksai Chin described it as an area where “not even a blade of grass grows.” Panditji was attempting to convince the House that by losing Aksai Chin to the Chinese, India had little to lose. And quick came the riposte from Mahavir Tyagi, “the Prime Minister’s head does not have a single hair but that doesn’t make it useless.”

Some other sources I checked suggest that Tyagi had in fact pointed to his own bald plate rather than that of India’s first Prime Minister’s. Also the first time I heard about it as a child, it was attributed another famous bald head – Shyama Prasad Mookerjee.

Cutting the CHai - Default featured image
History, India, People

The Mahatma and Me

Gandhi T-shirtWhen I was first told about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, it was with the emphasis that he never told a lie. My little mind wondered that, he was a prominent freedom fighter and the British could have easily got all the confidential information about the clandestine activities of the revolutionaries just by asking him. My idea of a freedom fighter was someone who fought with guns and bombs. Ahimsa was only about Gautam Buddha. Then in primary class I first read about him in a chapter where he couldn’t spell the word ‘kettle.’ It felt good; the Father of the Nation was also orthographically challenged like me.

Not everyone agreed with his ‘offering the other cheek’ proposal – the school bullies were more hard-hearted than Lucky Singh (played to the hilt by Boman Irani) in Lage Raho Munna Bhai (LRMB). Now that I have mentioned the film, I would like to mention the one thing that I liked the best about the movie. It attempted to dispel a few superstitions, which deserves applause in the stone obsessed, star possessed and name processed desi film industry.

For me it is difficult to idolise someone. Not everything about them appeals to me. My father, a proponent of good handwriting, compared my handwriting to the Father of the Nation. Not a complimentary comparison, but that was similarity number two. Other similarities might be in the physical structure, a slowly receding hairline and the eyeglasses (though there is a considerable difference in style). That’s where the similarities end. Any way I never did sit down with a weighing scale to compare myself with others. You should never undertake such an exercise.

Today is October 2 – a national holiday (and a ‘dry day’ as Circuit in LRMB puts it) – and also Bijoya Dashami or Vijaya Dashami (depending on the tongue you speak in). A day symbolic of the victory of good over evil. Ravana with his ten heads or Mahisasura masquerading as a buffalo went down on this day ages ago. Today is different, even different from first half of the 1900s in which the Sabarmati ke Sant lived in. History books tell us Hitler was evil (attempt to glorify/defend him at your own peril), so was Mussolini and to some extent Stalin. For Indians the Union Jack didn’t exactly symbolise the good. Who is the evil today, Osama with his kamikaze squad or the oil-thirsty occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or the war mongering general in the nearby country who now preaches peace as innocent Indian citizens continue to get blown to pieces? The evil also resides within us. In this world of grey, there are no blacks and whites. Even Ravana wasn’t all back or Lord Rama detergent ad white.

Gandhi is long gone. The practicability of his ideas and practice in todays world is merely in the realm of academic discussion. Movies don’t impress us much. Decades of senseless cinema has made us numb. All we seek is paisa wasool experience. The coincidence of sharing his surname is still reaped and also venerated. In this currency-less world even his face is fast vanishing. Credit cards have our own photographs instead. He’s there today in the newspapers. A few ads in the newspapers show reverence to him on his 137th birth anniversary (Rajiv Gandhi occupies more column-centimetres on his birth and death anniversaries).

For me Gandhi resides on my T-shirt (accompanying pic), which is neither black nor white but olive green – the colour of the military uniform.

Extensive archival material (including different renditions of his favourite prayer songs Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram and Vaishnav Jan to Tene Kahiye) is available here.