about anything under the Sun!
Happy Birthday, Bapuji!
141 and counting – one more year goes by, and the memories continue to fade a little more. The shy, peace-loving barrister that was the architect of India’s independence, now hardly finds mention except in history books, and except on this day, his birthday. Officially, he is still the Father of the nation, a nation that is now a billion-plus people – a fact that even Gandhiji, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t probably anticipate. For if he had, I doubt he’d have invested as much energy as he did on winning our Independence from the British. Surely he’d have known that they’d have left on their own accord by now?
But I digress…the fact remains that Gandhiji was probably the single-biggest influence in shaping our nation’s independent future, back when we were an oppressed colony, an integral part of the Empire on whom the Sun never sets. And he did that in a totally unconventional, radical yet peaceful fashion that he has become the epitome of non-violence the world over. And how do we pay our tributes to this great soul? Well, for one, we give ourselves a holiday..and the kids even get candy. Back in the day, it used to be the sour, orange-colored ball-shaped ones – it was the same every year, and what correlation it had to Gandhi and why that candy was picked, I will never understand. But, truth be told, its not all about just fun and candy. We do make some big sacrifices to celebrate this day, however. Its a dry day for one, so you will absolutely not be able to drink to the Mahatma, no Sir! (Unless of course you are the kind that plans ahead and stocks up the bar for the special occasion). And no meat either! That should count for something?
And oh yeah, the Gandhi statue that stands innocently by the street corner, serving more as a landmark for driving directions than anything else, gets its customary annual ritual. A sculpture that was erected to honor the man spends most of the year as the favorite resting and relieving point for the birds passing through the neighborhood. This one day, the structure bears a true resemblance to what it was meant to be. Washed, decorated and even garlanded by the local politician, its appearance today could almost lull one into thinking we actually care! Then there is the tradition that our friends in the Television world have so religiously adopted. At least a couple of channels will show Gandhi, the movie…and I am glad they do, for I will shamelessly admit that this movie was my biggest source of information on the man’s life. Yes, there was ample coverage in the history books, but all of those lessons largely centered around the Independence struggle and his role in shaping it. There was the odd anecdote or two that I remember reading here and there, but otherwise, what I learned about his life was largely thanks to Ben Kingsley and Richard Attenborough. Lately however, even that seems to be a thing of the past – the real Gandhi has been replaced by a more current practitioner of his philosophy, who goes by the name of Munnabhai and is supposedly better at demonstrating the principles of Gandhigiri even better than the inventor himself. Back in school, there was at least a semblance of homage – there were activities and competitions of various kinds – debates, quizzes, essay-writing, fancy-dress, maybe some social causes that the students participated in etc. that weren’t always the most fun, but certainly helped create awareness on the Mahatma. Sadly, one of that seems to happen these days – schools seem to simply declare a holiday and close, plain and simple. So yeah, quite the celebration for a man who lived such an inspiring life and made such a big impact during his time on Planet Earth! And that begs the question – why do we even deserve a holiday on this occasion? Its not like we did something to earn it, and we definitely aren’t honoring the man like he deserves to be?
What are the odds that the next generation India will even remember the man? I want to say it couldn’t get any worse, but I am pretty sure it will. Wanna place any bets on what Gandhi Jayanthi will look like a few years from now?