Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Thin Fakir from India...

The other day my daugher asked me, "Maa, what did Gandhiji give the Indians?" Feeling proud that she should ask me this question, I was making a mental list of all the things we, as a nation have, because of him and many who followed his blueprint in those formative years. Seeing me take so much of time, I guess she lost her patience and came up with the answer herself," He gave us a holiday every year on the 2nd of October!" She smiled and went away, My jaws dropped and I was left feeling sad. I know shes just a kid and we have all gone through these jokes, but it was just not fair. Each time I read his biography, each time I see the film made by Attenborough, I choke up at this small man and his immense courage, the way he stood tall, the power of his gaze, the sharpness of his wit, the charm, the childlike jubiliance. he, like many who strive to create a difference, was a controversial figure. There have been people who have opposed his views, in his lifetime and also after it. His views on partition, his non violence approach, many have said he taught us the concept of 'strikes' and 'bandhs'.

Yes, he did introduce us to these weapons, but at that time we used it against the British, and today it has become a blunt weapon, becuause we have pushed it far too much, we have used it for all sundry purposes and more, so its lost its effect and brought in vices of its own, so is Gandhiji to be blamed for this wrong usage?

There are many known and unknown facets to his life, today in dedication to him, I would like to share this day of his life with you all..

When most of India was looking at the glittering lights of Delhi on the midnight of 14th August 1947, awaiting the dawn. Glittering lights, loud slogans and a poetic assertion of Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who said: "At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps India will awake to life and freedom and a soul of a nation long suppressed will find utterance." There was darkness in Calcutta. Gandhi was agonized. A few weeks prior to Independence Day of 1947, an emissary of Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel was sent to Gandhi at Calcutta, who was working for peace and harmony among the Hindus and Muslims. The emissary reached at midnight. He said: "I have brought an important letter for you from Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel." "Have you taken your food?", asked Gandhi. When the emissary said " No", Gandhi served him food. And after food, Gandhi opened the letter from Nehru and Patel. They had written: "Bapu you are the father of the nation. 15th August 1947, will be the first Independence Day and we want you to come to Delhi to give us the blessings." Gandhi said: " How stupid!. When Bengal is burning, Hindus and Muslims are killing each other and I hear the cries of their agony in the darkness of Calcutta, how can I go to Delhi with the glittering lights?" These were the heart-rending words of Gandhi. He said "I have to live here for the establishment of peace in Bengal and if need be, I have to give up my life for ensuring that there is harmony and peace." The emissary started for his return journey in the morning. It was a moving sight, full of human touch. Gandhi gave the emissary a sendoff. He was standing below a tree. A dry leaf fell from the tree. Gandhi picked it up and put it on his palm and said: " My friend, you are going back to Delhi. What gift can Gandhi give to Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel? I am a man without power and wealth. Give this dry leaf to Nehru and Patel, as my first Independence day gift." And when he was saying this, tears came from the eyes of the emissary. And with a sense of humour Gandhi said: " How great is God? He did not want Gandhi to send that dry leaf. He made it wet. It is glistening with laughter. Carry this leaf as a gift full of your tears." That was Gandhi's human touch.

I hope kids today and from the generations to come can understand his philosophy and his strength before applauding him for giving us all a holiday on the 2nd of October, every year. I havent had the chance of speaking to my daughter after the joke, but will do so one of these days, if not they, who will spread his message to the whole world now, that he is so long gone.