Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bapu's Birthday

Many years ago, an old Sikh gentleman had taken me under his wings. To educate me about Sikhism, which I consider as one of the most mature spiritual philosophies in the world. Because of its religious beliefs, this gentleman's family had to flee from Pakistan, and seek refuge in India, after the partition of the country. They lost everything in the process of moving from Pakistan. But their faith, gave them the strength, to rebuild their lives from scratch. He would rarely speak of the partition, but, when he did, he would say one thing. Again and Again.

"It was all Gandhi's fault, you know. If he wanted to stop the country from being partitioned, he could have!"

The independent India that I grew up in, was orphaned in its first year. The father of the nation, fell to an assassin's bullet, and his philosophy -- to many things. Way too many to write about, in a few lines here. My generation was smitten with socialism. And violent revolutions, if the end justified the means. Gandhi was outdated, and irrelevant. Our textbooks would talk about Gandhi, and our teachers would punctuate the sentences with the names of Bose, Stalin and Castro.  It was fashionable to beat up on Bapu, since Bapu would not care. And, in case he did, he was already dead.

In the last few decades, there have been countless occasions, on which, me and my friends, over a drink or a smoke, have blamed the Mahatma. For everything under the sun. From the partition of the country, to a "weak" national backbone -- that made us into a bunch of  "wussies".

A couple of days ago, I got together with a bunch of my old friends, for a nice and quiet lunch. We were looking forward to catching up on the things that had happened in our lives, since we last met. Over a couple of beers, and some smoke. And then, when we were ordering our stuff, the server told us, rather timidly, that we couldn't order any beer. And then, it occurred to us, like a flash in the dark, that it was Bapu's birthday. On the birthday of the father of the nation, no alcohol is sold, anywhere in India. The Mahatma, was a strict advocate of prohibition.

It goes without saying, that we all jumped at the opportunity. One of my friends, was particularly vocal, though respectful. He said, "Sixty-four years after independence, on one nice Sunday that we could find, we can't have an ice cold beer in this free country of ours!  Don't you think it is Bapu's fault?"

The lunch was great. We spent a lot of time chatting and blowing rings of smoke. At about three in the afternoon, my vocal friend offered to drop me home, since he was headed the same way. As we drove through the swanky towers of glass and steel, through the central business district of our city, and took a peek at the golf course, my friend said, "It's amazing how India is changing, isn't it? In a few years, we have a pretty good shot at being a superpower in our own right. I couldn't ever imagine us being this way, if we were not a free country."

I muttered, "Yes, I know. It's all Bapu's fault, isn't it?"

First, he glared at me. And then, he gave me the biggest smile that he ever has. I am pretty sure, that Bapu would have smiled too. After all, it was his birthday.


  1. Can't comment on the facts as much, but who would have thought that Gandhigiri could influence the youth today in such a big way. Was part of the agitation in Ramlila ground in August and it moved me. Gandhigiri still works :)

  2. my dad too thinks it was gandhi's fault-creating another nation and not sending all muslims...what's the point of partition then?
    sadly,the only gandhi that has ever mattered is the one imprinted on the notes.
    and babu,chilled nimbu pani garnished with jeera,chat masala and pudina pattas is what you should/could have ordered.

  3. Actually we have this habit of cribbing and playing the blame game. I think we should be thankful to our country. Living in US for just 6 months and each day something or other happens which makes me wonder, Why I came here? My country is way better than this. If we don't have the infrastructure, honesty and other things, it's not country fault or that of who fought for Independence. It's ours...I wish we could make our country a better place, like a payback...

  4. Dear Neha: Most people will agree with your assessment, although, I am not sure if it is non-violence that works, or the perceived threat of non-violent people turning violent, if their demands are not met. Someone needs to figure this one out!

    Dear Anon: That sounds delicious. I am a bigger fan of microbial products though. If I cannot have the end result of yeast chomping away at cereals, I would rather have milk, reprocessed by bacteria. When beer loses, lassi wins...

    Dear Saru: Every country has its pros and cons. I spent a large part of my life in the US, and in my assessment, it is a great country, that is going through some tough times. You are right, India has its own set of problems, that need fixing. But the fixes are not easy by any measure...

  5. I think the essence of non-violent struggle is that the oppressor him/her/itself realizes the futility and falsehood of oppression. In this process both the struggler and the oppressor become better human beings.

    "गोलियो के बेतहाशा शोर को अपनी ख़ामोशी से चुनौती देने की हिम्मत" - Javed Akhtar (from movie Shaurya)