Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gandhi - The Good Boatman

I am SHE. When Manja offered to take my contributions - about 2 weeks back - I started thinking of a topic. (I haven't written anything for many years now.) Gandhi was the first thing that came to my mind because at that time, I was reading "The Good Boatman - A portrait of Gandhi". I hadn't given this away to Manja in any way. This also set me think why Manja hasn't written anything on Gandhi all these years? Was Gandhi a taboo to him? But on Dec 19th, Manja, for the first time, mentions Gandhi and makes his unique observation that Gandhi is an antithesis to Darwin's theory!

I am a domicile of North India for more than three years now. North India succumbed to the horrors of partition or 'batwara' more than 60 years ago (Note: Indians, known for their excesses, don't call it 'The Great Partition') Many people in North India hold Gandhi responsible for this event - not because he made it happen but because he couldn't stop it. So, here in the North, it is not uncommon to find someone criticize Gandhi. But surprisingly, I found that the very people who criticize Gandhi don't miss a chance to criticize (Sachin) Tendulkar!

I am proud at making this discovery as it at least clears why people hate Gandhi. Gandhi was no longer human and had risen to the status of God, and people wanted him to grant them all their wishes. So when Gandhi 'let down', it was unbearable. Just like, if Tendulkar 'threw away' a cricket match, it was unforgivable.

So, does one enter into a discussion with such people who ask too much from their Gods?

No. Just forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing.

If Gandhi was born a thousand years back, there would certainly have been another relegion called Gandhism. Chances are less but you cannot completely rule out Tendulkarism too.

I want to end this entry with a paragraph found in the book mentioned earlier, that brought me close to tears. You may not like it as much as I did but I would still leave you with it -

In May 1944, a Gandhi thought to be dying was released by the Raj. He recovered and was joined by Rajagopalachi in the hill town of Pachgani. Following consultations between the two, a wire went from Rajgopalachari to Jinnah asking if the latter would object to his telling the Press that Jinnah had rejected his formula, which he intended to release. Jinnah wired back saying that it was wrong to say he had rejected the scheme. If Gandhi dealt with him direct, Jinnah would refer the formula to the League.

Gandhi now wrote to Jinnah, proposing a meeting. Jinnah agreed and said they could meet in his house in Bombay. Because of Jinnah's poor health the talks at 10 Mount Pleasant Road commenced only on 9 September 1944 and continued till 27 September. The two met fourteen times. Newspapers printed pictures of the two smiling. Many in India prayed. Wavell, the Viceroy, wrote in his diary that he was 'sure that the G-J meeting will result in a demand for the release of the [Congress] working committee' 'The talks were so pregnant with possibilities' observed Asoka Mehta and Kusum Nari, 'that every reporter waiting on Mr Jinnah's lawn began to feel himself a historical character.


milieu said...

hmmm interesting analogy btween G and T.
The previous post and comments were so dense that I have to read them in bits. Though I hope to understand it and maybe contribute.
Meanwhile, I think the following article by George Orwell on Gandhi is very instructive. Orwell 'analyzes' G from an English eyes and that level of skepticism is perhaps less acceptable to the average Indian. Dunno if it is a bad thing though.

Orwell on G

Maju said...

If Gandhi was born a thousand years back, there would certainly have been another relegion called Gandhism.

True. I would not even totally rule this out if the future happen to be less illustrated than what we used to think.

I can even imagine the schism between those who fight and those who just cry "violence!"... The latter would become orthodox and be adopted by the new rulers "converted" to "Gandhism" and interested in manipulating this faith into mere shepherdry for the masses. The genuine one would be wiped out in the name of "nonviolence" or "Satyagraha". The whole meaning would be lost, Gandhi's writings expurged, authorized biographies made canonical...

We have seen similar things happen before.

Chances are less but you cannot completely rule out Tendulkarism too.

Doubt it. The fame of sportsmen is much more volatile. In any case it would be imposible to export, at least out of the Commonwealth. (Honestly: had to make a search to find out who he is - we don't play cricket nor baseball here and we look upon them as something much more exotic and impossible to understand than yoga or eating dogs.


George Orwell on Gandhi

It's a very sharp and comprehensive criticism. From someone who did not like his politics and philosophy very much but still can't but admire him in.

The Orwellian question remains open: how valid can be Satyagraha in a society where there's no freedom whatsoever, where any such attempt would just immediately end in dissapearence and death without almost anybody even noticing.

But Orwell himself was not very enthusiastic about what could be done against authoritarian regimes at all, not violence either. If you read "1984" (the original version specially, not the revised US version) you get the terrible feeling that in the "perfect" authoritarian system there's nothing that can be done at all.

But, well, the perfect authoritarian regime is not necesarily viable in the mid run. Lack of freedom means automatically massive corruption and lack of effective feedback, what eventually leads to collapse. Nevertheless this implosion may take generations to materialize.