Gandhi and the Cynic

June 1, 2011 Off By Keshab Anand Pegu

Note: [M. K. Gandhi was invoked from his ashes on a hot May afternoon. It was 43 degree centigrade in Delhi. Barring a few security personnels and an old lady in the curator, Raj Ghat was empty. It was neither October 2, January 30 nor was any dignitary from abroad present in the city. Assembly polls were concluded in a few states and Congress fared well. Close on the heels, in fact just the day after, petrol prices were hiked. The cynic, an unassuming young man with an air of arrogance and peculiar condescension, woke the toothless man from his slumber.]

Cynic: Are you aware that petrol prices have hiked?

Gandhi: Is this the way you greet an old man? Without any formal salutation, words of welcome and adulation? I thought I have left a country of sycophants only.

Cynic: But I read in history textbooks written under the tutelage of successive Congress governments that you do not endorse formality. You are no respect-seeker.

Gandhi: Is that so? They have misunderstood me, then. I have always wanted to be adulated. Anyway, I ignore your impertinence. Why did you call for me?

Cynic: Two answers. The reason and the rationale. I invoked you to ask whether you are aware that petrol prices have shoot up. Two, I enjoyed watching “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” and took it seriously enough.

Gandhi: Okay (smiles in his toothless style). I am aware but helpless. You see global economic condition propels the rise.

Cynic: Instead of confessing that you are “helpless” (gesticulates for the quotation marks) why don’t you say that you are not much bothered? If you were to live today, you would travel in a car however modest it be, but no one would charge you a pie for the fuel.

Gandhi: Son, you are too weak in history. Perhaps you were told in the class, I am sure you must have bunked it, that I traveled third class and after Non Cooperation movement, avoided much patronage from business houses. Indeed I traveled on foot across the country.

Cynic: Mr. Gandhi, Situations have changed. Do you recall, even when you were alive in body and flesh, someone very correctly put: It requires riches to keep you poor…? Now given the angst against you among certain section of the society- whether their grudges against you are valid or not, I do not know- you would be in the ‘hit list’ of some organizations. A scion of your political dynasty, a coalition dynasty in fact though you would love to believe it is a namesake and nothing more, Rahul G., once traveled in a local train. You should have seen the trouble and ruckus it created. It almost brought Mumbai to a halt. When the not-so-young bachelor with an Italian girlfriend much like his father, Oh! let me not poke my nose to his private matter, visits the house of a Dalit…

Gandhi: Hold on, aren’t they called Harijans now?

Cynic: Please, enough of your euphemisms!  I was telling when he visits the house of a Dalit, security personnels run amok clearing ground of ‘bad’ elements. In short, your abstinence from luxury will be a rich man’s indulgence.

Gandhi: No comments.

Cynic: ( smiling idiotically just to allaying the situation ) Okay, Mr Gandhi, do you have any message for your countrymen?

Gandhi: I had told time and again, my life is my message!

Cynic: Come on, Mr Gandhi, be PRACTICAL.

Gandhi: I refuse to make any statement, then.

Cynic: Final question. Do you love me, after all these?

Gandhi: (with a pensive look) Yes. Errr… No. A certain writer has accused me of perversity. Good day, son.

Cynic: Good day, Mr Gandhi. Can I invoke you again when I have some questions? Though I must admit I am least satisfied with today’s interaction.

Gandhi: Of course. Why not? But…

Cynic: I learn some manners?

Gandhi: Precisely.


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