In the name of Gandhi
While recently covering the rough and tumble of the Indian elections for the Global News, Tapan Sinha found one of the most riveting human- interest stories of his career.
. The wintry countryside looked desolate in the evening. Tapan and crew stopped at a Punjabi dhaba and ordered tea and pakodas. Some villagers gossiped over cups of Masala chai. Few minutes later, an old man entered. They touched his feet.
—Welcome, sir! The owner sounded reverential.
The man looked majestic in orange robes. White hair further enhanced his charisma.
The owner wanted Tapan to meet their Guru who inspired public respect and love.
Curious for a byte, the correspondent started asking questions about the elections and possible results.
The man said in impeccable English: These days elections are run on muscle and money. The independent India has junked the high principles of Mahatma Gandhi.
—Did you meet the Father of the Nation?
—How old were you at that time?
—I was 16.
—Now, how old?
—I am 96, thanks to yoga and a Gandhian lifestyle.
—Look younger than us!
The Guru smiled.
Where did you meet Bapu?
—In his ashram at Sabarmati.
—How did you reach there?
—Ran away from home.
—Father served the British police. I did not like the servility. Wanted to serve my country. So I ran away from a home that hated the freedom fighters and called them traitors…
—Interesting! What happened next?
—I landed up in Bapu’s ashram and stayed there for six months.
—How was he?
—Extra-ordinary. Out of this world. Without peers. True saint.
—Any incident that haunts?
—Yes, one incident that haunts to this day.
He was quiet. Then: It is still painful.
—How? Please elaborate.
After few moments, the Guru spoke: Bapu was very punctual. Once, the lunch got delayed by one or two minutes only. Bapu, a stickler, did not touch the food, despite the pleading of the entire ashram. We felt miserable and guilty for keeping the pious man hungry. That day, nobody ate the lunch. We fasted and made it as a penance.
—Yes. We were devoted to him—like the rest of the nation. He was the soul of India. His words were sacred. Bapu was the noblest. I have not seen such a great man in my long life.
—Why did you leave the ashram?
—Well, he advised youngsters to complete the education and serve the mother- land from our homes. We did that.
As they were talking, the loud procession of a candidate stopped. The portly man stepped down from fancy car, surrounded by gunmen. Eyes blood-shot, the bejeweled man asked for their votes and then sped away, his men firing in the air, wildly.
The Guru looked grimly at the storm coming up on the distant horizon…
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
For more details, please visit the blog: