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Monday, Oct 25, 2021
Outlook.com

Gandhi, the Commodity

His deification wasn't as dramatic as the uses his name was put to

Gandhi, the Commodity
Gandhi, the Commodity
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

FOR India’s midnight children—those born in a freshly partitioned and free Hindustan—Gandhi and Nehru represented the two facets of adolescent, post-colonial pride. The tension between the Mahatma’s anarchic vision of a self-sufficient village India and the armature of a sovereign state that a hard-hatted Nehru was fabricating feverishly at Tarapore and Khadakvasla, Sindri and Bhakra Nangal, was not always clear to us. For us primary-schoolers of the ’50s, it was the ‘Sabarmati sant’ who in the words of the famous Jagriti film song had ‘miraculously given us freedom sans shield-and-sword’.

We knew that the young Gandhi had refused to cheat at school, even when his teacher had nudged-and-winked so as to present the visiting inspector with a class of word-perfect spellers. We could almost hear the goat which kid Mohandas had consumed with a friend bleating normatively inside young Gandhi. We awaited with solemn, juvenile eagerness the two-minute break from all scholarly activity at 11 am on Martyr’s Day—January 30—when Gandhi was gunned down at the eponymously rechristened Tees Janvari Marg in Lutyens’ Delhi. As Stanley Wolpert’s empathetic and meticulous biography makes clear, the assassin’s bullet found its mark that day in 1948 just after five in the evening: “Mahatma Gandhi’s passionate heart poured its crimson blood out onto his white shawl. His gentle body collapsed and stopped breathing at 5.17 pm.”

But national commemoration of the Father of the Nation rightly required that we remembered the Great Man outside the restrictive space of families huddled over an evening cup of tea. So even if mildly anachronistic, individual Indians stood up in non-familial groups, wherever they were—at offices, schools, colleges, factories at...

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