Had the Mahatma been Alive Today: An Un-Gandhian assessment

October 1, 2010 Off By Keshab Anand Pegu

In response to a question, Munnabhai in ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ posing a Gandhigiri professor of history said, “Desh to azaad ho gaya par apna nahin raha.” ( The nation became free but no longer remains ours). Munna was asked how would have Bapu reacted to the present situation of India– an India replete with corruption ,communal vandalism, bureaucratic hassles, poverty etc… Mohandas Karamchand GandhiVery witty that the answer was, likewise the message was terse and clear: This is not the India that Gandhi wanted. What follows hereafter in this essay is by no means, a serious exploration of the great soul’s would-have-been-takes. Any discussion on Gandhi demands a sobre attitude while ignoring the humorist in the person. Anecdotes affirming Gandhi’s wit occur, at best as tit-bits or footnotes in our academic and social discourses. Here was a man who enjoyed a good laughter and one who reveled in harmless humours. Just to cite an example or two, Sarojini Naidu nicknamed him “Mickey Mouse” for his appearance to which he unassumingly blushed. His frequent meetings with British governors are replete with funny anecdotes. In one such meetings, Gandhi was asked how could he brave the merciless English winter with those loin cloth. He replied that the governor had worn enough clothes for both of them. Gandhi’s humble acceptance of the rebuke for his insistence on goat’s milk was nothing short of a gentleman-humourist.

Gandhi was a multi-faceted personality. The canvas of his interest extends over a wide range– from food habits to education, from clothing to women’s liberation, from cows to goats, from religion to entertainment, from politics to romance… It would be my impertinence to even attempt discuss Gandhi’s take on all the issues of his interest. But for my own ignorance and the paucity of space, I dare not venture into ‘big’ issues. This essay written in a lighter vein would try and conjecturally capture Gandhi’s opinion on a very few events and ideas confronting India today. A disclaimer is due before I embark on a rather audacious project. That the opinions expressed are purely imaginary and highly personal. That even though every attempt has been made not to have an unsophisticated vulgar overtone, I tender my sincerest apology in anticipation for any of the innuendos and misnomers that might have crept in. That this essay is written for pure and good humour and that nothing may be construed by reading between the lines.

Had Gandhi been alive today, he would have been 141 years old. This is not improbable: Guinness Book of World Records has recorded people as old as 130 years. Still in his trade mark loin-cloth, he is settled not-so-peacefully in Sabarmati Ashram. Presided over by Gandhi himself as the CMD (corporate culture, you see!) Navajivan Trust would be the most popular and trusted NGO. We have an Indian answer to Amnesty International. Once a while, his journey to South Africa to oversee Tolstoy Farm in a post-apartheid society would be closely pursued by the media and TRP-crazy news channels. I wonder if he goes there boarding an Air India flight: there is no railway line connecting India with South Africa, leave alone third class compartments. Even if he boards an aeroplane, he strictly travels in ‘cattle class’. “Raghupati raghav raja ram” would be as popular as “Waka waka” in FIFA’2010.

Had Gandhi been alive today, Narendra Modi would coax him to be the ‘Brand Ambassador of Gujarat’ and replace the Big B. Whether the proposal is accepted or not is a different matter altogether. I shall not delve into Godhra riots because I have a hunch that Gandhi’s presence would have effected the riot to a nigh impossibility. There would be no prohibition of liquor in Gandhi’s home state. Though, he was explicit in his opposition to alcoholism, state intervention was not advised by him. Bapu launches a mass-awareness campaign on the ill-effects of alcohol. Rather than state prohibition, he insists on self-control and inward rectification. Thus the menace of bootlegging stands resolved.

Had Gandhi been alive today, ‘Summer of ’69’ would have had different meaning to Indians. Rather than the Canadian crooning, our own Gulzar writes a song to celebrate the birth centenary of Gandhi; he turns 100 in 1969! Of course A.R Rahman gives a remix rendition of the age-less song; another entry to the Oscars. And chances are, it might just clinch the Black Lady..
How would Gandhi react to IPL fiasco and Commonwealth Games’2010 (CWG’2010) is interesting to perceive. While Bapu applaud the fact that the physical boundaries among nations had broken down in the course of IPL- after all Vasudhaiv Kutumbikam (the world is one family), the scandals of absentee stake-holders and the unaccounted moolah associated with fatafat-cricket will draw enough ire from him. Cheerleaders will be a total no-no. Lalit Modi in his frenetic attempt to establish link with the Mahatma himself asserts, “See,both of us are ‘banias from Gujarat.” CWG’2010, on the other hand,does not get an ambivalent response from him. Severely criticising the colonial legacy emanating from the Games, Gandhi would try to prevail over the government not to siphon mammoth funds into the few-day drama at a time when other burning issues are at stake. The Mahatma would be among the first to file an RTI on the expenses incurred on the Games. Suresh Kalmadi, in his last ditch effort to rescue the image of the Games would try rope in Gandhi’s charisma to plead the countrymen, particularly Delhiites to participate whole heartedly.

Gandhi was a man who kept himself abreast of all developments happening across the globe. Though not a Blackberry mobile phone, he has a black and white Nokia phone -FM inbuilt and yes an MTNL/BSNL connection. Very keen on verbal and non-verbal communications that he was, he subscribes to a cost-cutting message pack. Hold on! will it be a Nokia? Nokia is based in Finland; perhaps, he goes for a swadeshi phone- Spice for instance. Apple notebooks are just too cumbersome with Macintosh operating system. A Sony laptop with Windows7 will do, there being no Indian substitute: who goes for Chirag except Sourav Ganguly!. Apart from a Facebook account to connect with his ‘friends’, he tweets to his ‘followers’. Every netizen worth his/her salt will ‘follow’ him and ‘friend request’ may just clog the net traffic. Loging in with the sweet eponymous name ‘Bapu’ he can dispense with the tons of letters that he writes. Special ‘fire wall’ security designed by DRDO or one of the many IITs would be set in place to ensure that his ‘account’ is not hacked. Had Gandhi been alive today, there would be an addition in the series of ‘Gandhiji ke teen bandar’. The fourth ‘bandar’ will cover the groin with its hands advising people not to adopt unhealthy sexual practices. The threat of AIDS and STDs warrants the importance of the fourth ‘bandar’. A thorough realist, Gandhi was no ostrich which would in the event of an impending danger, bury its head under the sand. I wonder how Gandhi reacts to Baba Ramdev. Would Ramdev market himself as an extension of Gandhi? Or, rather Gandhi does an exemplary endorsement of the ‘churan’s which Ramdev claims, enhances longevity. After all, if Gandhi recommends ayurveda and yoga, so does Ramdev. However the disproportionate amount of wealth in the forms of Patanjali Ashrams in posh locations would be a cause of derision. In my assessment, the relation between the two would be curious- camaraderie as well as abhorrence, mutual respect as well as distrust.

Barrack Obama in an interview told that given a chance, among all historical personalities Gandhi is the one he would dine with. Had Bapu been alive today, ‘bakri ka dhoodh’ would have made entry on the dinning tables of the White House. Incessant thoughts hover me at the moment. Kabhi kabhi mere dil me khayal ata hai, agar Bapu hota toh aisa hota…..waisa hota.. Last but not the least, the Father of the Nation would say, on reading this essay, ” I have an unruly son.”

(Dedicated to my severest critic, my dad,who taught me not to accept any thing without questioning except for the fact that he loves me very much)

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