Posts Tagged ‘Bapu’

‘…every Indian, whether he owns up to it or not, has national aspirations. But there are as many opinions …as to the exact meaning of that aspiration, and more especially as to the methods to be used to attain the end.
One of the accepted and ‘time-honoured’ methods is to attain the end is that of violence.The assassination of Sir. Curzon Wylie was an illustration of that method in its worst and most detestable form. Tolstoy’s life has been devoted to replacing the method of violence for removing tyranny or securing reform by the method of non resistance to evil. He would meet hatred expressed in violence by love expressed in self- suffering. He admits of no exception to whittle down this great and divine law of love.
When a man like Tolstoy, one of the clearest thinkers in the western world, one of the greatest writers, one who as a soldier has known what violence is and what it can do, condemns Japan for having blindly followed the law of modern science, falsely so called, and fears for that country ‘the greatest of calamities’, it is for us to pause and consider whether, in our impatience of English rule, we do not want to replace one evil by another and worse. India, which is the nursery of the great faiths of the world, will cease to be nationalistic India…’
19th Nov.1909,MK Gandhi
(selected from A Letter to a Hindu, by Leo Tolstoy)


Read Full Post »

The Pulitzer prize winner Lelyveld’s book on Gandhi is sure to raise hell at some quarters in India. In India traditionally saints are served larger than life so much so the fluff from their plaster cast must leave the purveyors giddy. If Mother India is shown in her buff it is outrage but if she is swathed in nine yard saree looking wooden and distant there are those who light incense and sing Vande Mataram. Even as these poltroons sing you can hear meat cleavers being sharpened in their hearts and their souls shut out lest some sense should make singing carry its meaning as well. Those who sing this song of sublime beauty with murder in their heart only make Mother India immolate herself many times over. MF Husain painted Mother India with every right as an artist and as an Indian. But what upset some busybodies was more his religion than his art. Homespun khadi or saffron robes are nothing if the heart has become dead.
Gandhi has been so much reviled even while the blackguards praised him skyhigh. The biographer did not do his job in order to please some or to damn his subject. Let us at least read this book if possible with an open mind before we judge him.
I remember in my high school when I first read Bhowani Junction by John Masters I was shocked by the disrespect shown to Gandhi. It was like someone defacing the Bible or tearing the page from it to light a fire! Time has taught me to take opinions of others for what it is, an opinion.
I have come to revise my opinion of Gandhi as I came to revise on Tolstoy. Henri Troyat’s biography and few others made me realize the great man was far from a saint. But whatever faults,-his pettiness, obtuseness to see the obvious, his vision and life-work is secure. In his faults he is like you and me. He was a man, real. Baring his innermost thoughts in his diary but letting his wife read them may have spelt sincerity in his lexicon but was it prudent? I hope not. Great men also have their weakness when their mind sleeps on the job. WE Gladstone thought he was doing a great service to want to save the ‘angels’ but in working it would not work so simple. Human heart is so treacherous that the great men follows the lead based on some curious premise but sooner or later natural impulses take on the control ( DH Lawrence was right). His diary and his confession at his deathbed we may accept as genuine and that he didn’t sin; but is it necessary to prove nature had nothing to do with it? Gandhi may be accused for homoeroticism and it only makes him human. Another canard, his using his his nieces to prove his self control over his body may or may not be true. Even if it is true it doesn’t in no way detract from his greatness. His lifework of nonviolence as a political weapon makes him a great soul. Forget his fads, his political ideas and opinions. He has been proved wrong as well as vindicated in great many things. He stands 100 percent Indian since his life and its thrust made cultural icons of our past like Buddha, Mahavira Jain and their thoughts relevant in far greater measure relevant for our century.
In spite of whatever revelations the new book may carry Gandhi is secure as far as I am concerned.
He has outsoared the shadow of our night; envy and calumny..’ Nothing that any book on Gandhi may bring out can add or remove even an iota from greatness of his soul. If A Raja is the visible face of Indian politics Gandhi was and still is the conscience of India that I think of a geographical entity and people that populate it. Here we have national life in its vision and in its working. These can never be reconciled so it would seem.

Read Full Post »

Mahatma Gandhi
Father of the Nation

In the 30s Gandhiji rebuked Minoo Masani on one occasion for not cooperating with Sardar Patel. Minoo defended himself saying that on a couple of occasions he had misquoted him.
‘All right,’ said Gandhiji,’we shall dismiss Sardar tomorrow morning on condition that you find me someone who has all Sardar’s qualities but not his faults.’
At this Masani laughed outright and told him that he knew very well that he would have no such candidate available. Gandhiji asked, ’Are you a bigger Mahatma than me not to accept human foibles?’ Next morning a somewhat chastened Masani called on Sardar. (Ack: Minoo Masani-Debonair Nov’77)

One of the social workers in Gandhiji’s Ashram developed a relationship with a woman worker who was already married. Her husband had deserted her and used to come once in a while. Since law was clear that divorce was granted only if one partner was absent for seven years at a stretch. The lovers were in a fix. They finally appealed to Gandhiji to help them out.
Contrary to expectations Gandhiji asked the lovers to go ahead and get married and live together. He cheerfully brushed aside the law of bigamy saying unjust laws should be broken. He attended the wedding of the couple and blessed them.

Mrs. W.H Fisher, an American in her sixties sought advise from Gandhiji who advised her to teach adults in he villages to read and write. She doubted if it would do any good to bring in US basic reading books like ‘Sally Sees Spot’ into Indian equivalent. Bapu argued, ’If it is a cotton growing village, first teach them to write the word ‘cotton’ and then, ’This is a good cotton,’ ‘good land makes good cotton, bad land makes bad cotton and so on.’’
Mrs. Fisher’s adult literacy program has been one of the most successful in the country and was tried in other countries as well. (Ack: Laine Johnson-New York Times)
‘How can you say one thing last week?’ an associate asked Mahatma,’ and something quite different this week?’
Replied Gandhiji, ’Ah because I have learnt something since last week.’
Once in England Gandhiji was asked why in India only women fasted and not men. Gandhiji replied that women fasted as they prayed for a good husband. As often some of them got bad ones. And men did not have to fast. The wives they got were generally good.’
Gandhiji arrived in Marseilles on Sept 11,1930. French media was intrigued by ‘the naked fakir’ and one French reporter was shocked to see him wearing only a loincloth and a shawl. At a time plus fours were in fashion his was quite far out. Noticing his embarrassment Bapu said disarmingly, ’In your country you wear plus fours. In mine we wear minus-fours.

Sarat Chandra Chatterjee (1876-1938)

Once a Bengali scholar called on him and denounced Rabindranath Tagore’s writing as superficial and sentimental. He said: ’Rabi Babu writes for the elite, not for the masses. You are much greater than he. He will never be able to write like you.’
Sarat Babu retorted, ’Yes, you are right I write for people like you and he writes for people like me.’

Siddhewswari Devi (1908-1977)

Her delicately rendered ‘thumris*’ made her one of the brightest lights in Indian classical music. Her rendition was such she was synonymous with thumris as Begum Akhtar was with ghazals.
In 1962 Kasarbhai was giving a concert in Mumbai to the delight of all who were present and the crowd could not have had enough. Kasarbhai spotted Siddheswari among the crowd. There were more requests for thumris and Kasarbhai pointed to Siddheswari Devi and sweetly said, ’No, not while the Queen of Thumri is right in our midst.’
Graciously acknowledging the supremacy of her rival she continued with her concert.
(*tumri: Thumri is a form of ‘light-classical’ vocal music. It does not follow the tala and raga rules of music very rigidly. http://www.culturalindia.net)

Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

The Nightingale of India was closely associated with Indian National Movement and her poems captivated many. G.K Gokhale once remarked,’ Do you know, I feel that an abiding sadness underlies all that unfailing brightness of yours. Is it because you have come so near Death that its shadows still cling to you?’
‘No,’ replied the poet, ’I have come so near life that its fires have burnt me.’

Read Full Post »