Of Fathers and nations…

Today is the second of October.

Usually celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti.

The “Father of the Nation” is omnipresent across the political spectrum. Statues adorn the landscape all across India, and nearly every city has a Mahatma Gandhi Road. Gandhi’s face adorns all our currency, and quotes attributed to him float on the internet, along with the trademark round frames that he was known for.

It’s been over 150 years since his birth, and this shows no sign of abating.

It is tough to write a critique on Gandhi, at least in India. One usually gets into hagiographic territory, or takes an exactly opposite viewpoint. There seems to be nothing in between. No fallacies, no shortcomings. It is almost too good to be true, isn’t it?

The sad part is that we are hardly given the chance to form an opinion about his teachings, his thoughts, his views. It seems like sacrilege to question anything about the Mahatma, and an open invitation for trouble. And so most commentators, even celebrated ones, stay safe and continue to deify him. But is that right?

The ‘Father of the Nation’ epithet is a tough one to carry, one that places huge responsibility on the frail shoulders of the Mahatma. It isn’t like he had asked for it, but it was thrust upon him. I don’t think he would have been too pleased about seeing his face on money, while his teachings advocated the opposite.

And so we all wake up on 2nd October to a host of WhatsApp messages and Instagram quotes, with political leaders speaking about him in all earnestness, while living the other 364 days of their years conveniently pushing his teachings aside. We too post our share of Gandhi quotes sourced liberally from Google Images, and forget about it the very next moment. A few of us curse under our breath, given that dry days are not so well-received in certain sections of society.

Would have helped if instead of praising him to the skies, the system would allow for honest discussions based on fact, and on his teachings and infamous experiments. It would serve well to put forward such material for deliberation, and then attempt to arrive at a conclusion if one person can truly be the father of a civilization of thousands of years.

And yes, let us not forget the unfortunate sidelining of another gem of our nation – Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was born on arguably the worst day to be remembered, in hindsight. His contributions are conveniently forgotten, and that he died an unnatural death is buried in archives along with him. How much of Shastri are we taught anyway?

See you tomorrow!