“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood”
Albert Einstein said this about Mahatma Gandhi decades ago and I still can’t stop wondering at how brilliantly it captures the essence of that man,the persona that the Mahatma was,is and forever will be,with his unshakeable legacy of nothing but the truth,non-violence and simplicity.That a man who stood for such principles should be subjected to so much abuse and hatred and disrespect is a matter of the greatest of ironies. In fact, it might well be cited as an example of what defines an irony.
The nation of arm chair experts that we are, most of us conveniently blame him for partition without even bothering to know that he was the biggest obstacle for Nehru & Co on one side and Jinnah and his cohorts on the other side to see to it that one of the greatest bloodbaths in the history of mankind is staged here in the subcontinent- in the form of partition. He was obstinate and stubborn in his opposition to split the country into two. I don’t even think he was ever convinced about the idea. They just chose to ignore him and go ahead with the power brokering and the detailing of how to separate the conjoined countries.
While most of them were busy in Delhi bargaining and arguing over who’d get what after the 15th of August 1947- this in the days/months leading up to India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ as famously described by Jawaharlal Nehru, the man we call mahatma was busy with something else. He was running from pillar to post and to pillar again, trying to pour some water of love and peace over the communal inferno that had engulfed the whole of Bengal. And then, he went on an obdurate,infinite fast- to bring to an uneasy compromise the heads of the two inexplicably antagonized communities waiting to slay each other at the drop of an eyelid.Irony indeed that he has,by many people , been described as selfish and cunning.Most of them would be ensconced in the comfort of their homes, hiding under their beds if and when a carnage of such magnitude were to occur.
At a personal level, I was astounded at whatever I have read about him in others’ words and his own. I must confess that I couldn’t complete reading his autobiography- ‘The story of my experiments with truth’- it takes a whole lot of patience than what I have been able to muster, to do that. But whatever I had read it became increasingly difficult for me to fathom that such a man walked this Earth, true to what Einstein had remarked. I got to read more about him in that heck of a book-this time armed with more patience- about India’s excruciatingly painful journey to independence via that treacherous road called partition- ‘Freedom at midnight‘, brilliantly described by Larry Collins and Dominique La Pierre.
I cannot claim to follow any of his principles,just like most of us here. I believe it is too tough for mere mortals like me to have that kind of will power and steadfast belief in those principles. I have though, been involved in arguments on him and his leadership, trying to defend his role against all the vitriol. At the end of it all, I once again, wonder at the irony that we even have to ‘defend’ what he did.I might risk using the word too much, but not least of all ironies was not only the bloodily violent manner in which he was assassinated, but also the venue-at a prayer meeting!
Far from the outset, I would like to underscore one point - don’t abuse him if you can’t agree with him or respect him. Because ,forget about being critical, most of us don’t even qualify to praise him.