But, let's get real. Well, while indeed you cannot deny that his impact and influence had shaped the freedom movement in this country to a large extent, I had always wondered what it was about him, really. In fact, claiming to just wonder would be a misleading expression. For any political history oriented tea-cup storm session, I’m foremost a Bengal born “long live revolution”-loving wrongly timed teen who’d swear upon how she’d die only if she were to be born in those times than now. Like my fellow Bengali family, friends and neighbours, I had grown up with a strong taste for hero worship in which Subhash Bose remained the black sheep, and Gandhi, therefore, the Amrish Puri for the Father in the story. I cannot deny that I’ve often nodded and seconded when they commonly remarked about India getting its freedom a tad too early to be able to handle it well, sighing with a “look at now” at the socio-eco-political mess that we’ve neatly landed up at. I could not imagine changing sides between Bose and Gandhi, denouncing the bloodsheds and martyr deaths that went behind it and voicing it for doing it the right way, with the right intent, for the right approach. Growing up in Bengal also meant a certain degree of Communist loyalty, which also added to the force of dismissing photo-frames commonly hung by the Congress party. I had even argued, as a teen, how I saw a point in what Godse did, because – “It’s not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” I agreed with his sense of knowing what is best for Rome.
I had thus grown up to disqualify Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as my hero. Though dismiss I couldn’t, for he was after all the Father of the Nation.
I had never cared enough to pick up this man’s autobiographical book - though it lay in my book shelf for ages - until a week or so back. And how could I? Had I not been born with my stance about him decided? Well, philosophy and “Gandhigiri” are other things, and for another day – you see! Gandhi Jayanti is a holiday I like, especially when it falls on either a Friday or a Monday. I mean, I also like the Lage Raho Munnabhai movie about lending your other cheek forward, but I do not let that passing impulse take a take on my pre-determined opinion of the man himself. While Gandhigiri as a philosophy sounds alright, that time was to throw yourself open and out, to die or to kill. That time was to lose your sanity, and yourself with it – I maintained. I meant frost and fire!
Much lately, what happened is that I found myself kind of stirred up by the accounts of interactive exchanges between the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Paramhansa Yogananda, in the last book I read which is "The Autobigraphy of a Yogi". I refer particularly to the chapter in which it talks about the time the latter imparted upon the former the training of “Kriya Yoga”.
Despite the nudges off and on, I had until recently not quite thought of this “political” man from this deeply spiritual angle at all. His name for me rang the bells of sentiments of India’s independence, and that then always evoked history book and Bollywood movie flashes of turmoil and blood-sheds; which is to say, I’ve always had the shroud of political theories to think and emergencies of such times to overbear on my perspective when it came to think of Gandhi. And what did I think of him and that together? Well, I was juvenile you see, and so I thought of his political stances of peaceful non co-operation and attempts of reconciliation as an impractical, impossible route to the question of India’s freedom. Our purpose was as countrymen back then must have been simple, and it should have been to get it back - as they say – by “hook or crook”, was it not? Now, why were we wasting time talking philosophies here, and of spirituality, of Ahimsa and Satyagraha movement? Now, if that didn’t clearly come out for a sign of the weak, what would?
Only now did I – almost for the first time – stop to think how he was so right, all throughout. Now I get – even if just an inkling - how he knew so much better than that! How he intended good for the countrymen more than the impending immediate political freedom. How his only failure, perhaps, was that he wrongly pinned his hopes on us. How he must have thought that they’d understand when he was trying to tell them what really was good for them, or for that matter for anyone. How the means was not the least less important than the ends, and how we got it wrong. Oh, and how we stopped his voice! And how, even after gagging him to death, he has historically stood so misinterpreted all throughout. Oh, and how deeply flawed our common, popular understanding has always been, and how misplaced our sentiments!
"To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means." - He says, at the close of his autobiography. Kind of sums it up, doesn't it?
As we stand today at the mirth of India’s 69th independence day, fretting and sighing over how everything always went wrong ever since, I find myself wondering: what if this man ever had his chance to finish his job, to do what he had so super-ambitiously set up to do? Where would we be now, if he could lead us to the end with his means? Can we even imagine the potential of a country so rich and so dynamic, had it only learned what he spent until his last breath trying to teach?
And to add, now I see why he is the Father of the Nation after all. And how thoroughly unworthy we have been, the children!