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.

Categories: History India People