A pair of glasses, a pocket watch, a bowl and wooden slippers went under the hammer, amidst high drama ,for a whopping 1.8 million US dollars. I have been watching with sadness interspersed with bouts of anger the dramatics enfolding in front of my eyes since the day news about the imminent auction of Mahatma Gandhi's personal belongings broke. A land, that has not only forgotten the true meaning of his message but seems to revel in perpetrating the exact opposite, suddenly wants to lay claim to the legacy. Outrage is expressed at every corner, more so as the country is soon to face an election. Every political party wants to be politically correct! Even if it means resorting to untruths!
How hollow and pitiful we all look. I wish we could for once at least, be honest and truthful - qualities extolled by Bapu - and look at ourselves with candor. Here we are voicing horror at seeing Bapu's personal belongings been sold in public but have ever respected any of his teachings. Have we kept his real legacy alive? Just yesterday two dalits were hacked to death for offering prayers in a temple and a city woke up to hate posters against minority religions. One may ask if we are worthy of Gandhi's legacy. Nothing around us seems in sync with what he taught, defended and died for. We are still the land where little girls get killed before they are born, where a child may lose her fingers for a handful of spinach, a land where religion, education, spirituality and even Gandhi are being commercialised to the hilt. So one may ask if we are worthy of Gandhi's at all.
One can go on merrily listing all that makes us the antithesis of what Gandhi stood for: we are the land where children have had to wait for half a century for education to become a constitutional right while a bill to raise salaries of parliamentarians is cleared in a trice. Need I say more. We build walls to keep our own away and do not feel revolted when a little beggar girl knocks at the window of our car or feel outraged at any attempt to disturb social equations.
I wish the hullabaloo about Gandhi's memorabilia will make us look deeper at the values this remarkable man stood for. That we remember promises made but then forgotten, that we try and revive compassion and empathy, the very reasons for which a man decided almost a century ago to shed his wants and only live by his needs. Will the wooden slippers bought at an astronomical price remind us of the millions of little feet that still walk without shoes? Sadly I do not think that will happen, soon the news of Gandhi's legacy will be overtaken by some other and our minute memory will fail us one again!
I myself discovered Gandhi rather late in life. For the better part of my life he remained a romantic notion painted by a passionate mom. It was only lately that I understood his true message: to look for alternatives to any situation till you overcome and win. That is what I have tried to do since and I must admit that the formula works. It is a simple one and can be resumed in Bapu's own words: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.