This time round, on October 2, it took me some effort to shake off a sense of shame, after the manner in which the Birth Anniversary of the Father of My Nation went round in celebration, in 2011. I never did feel in consonance with all that the Mahatma exhorted as the summum bonum of existence, and always felt that my country would have become independent anyway, without his, no doubt, stupendous and morally-right efforts, though in what time-span it would have transpired, and what extent of blood may have been shed in the acquiring of that independence ( an even more hypothetical question ), whether less or more, is anybody’s guess.
The Poet Laureate of Bengal ( both sides of Bengal, or Bongo, if you wish, I mean ) who had his roots on either side, notwithstanding the administrative divide of that state, in 1905, by the ruling power, and the division rescinded exactly one century ago, in 1911 ( did anybody damn well mark that centenary around here, in Bangladesh or in India ?), contradicted what the Mahatma held as the raison d’etre, for all that he said or did.
When the great earthquake took place, before the countries acquired their different identities, the Mahatma averred that it was consequent upon those on the surface of the earth leading sinful lives, whatever that could mean, whereas the Bard of Undivided Bengal pooh-poohed the idea, and knocked the wind out of the Mahatma’s sails, insisting that there was no way in which the behaviour and actions of people, whether of greed, selfishness or debauch, on the surface of the earth, could result in any shake-up below. I can well imagine a Quaid-e-Azam, an encomium, title and appellation that the Mahatma bestowed, reading all about this, tilting his head back and laughing, and firming up his belief even more, in a yet-to-exist, Land of the Pure.
It was Sarojini Naidu who said tongue-in-cheek, that it cost the country a lot to keep the Mahatma in the poverty that he was accustomed to. If we do believe that, then what does it cost the exchequer to have a President of the country ( who avowedly insisted upon assuming office, would be more than just a rubber-stamp during tenure ) , to mark the Mahatma’s birthday in what the eminently-readable columnist Jug Suraiya calls, Swizzerland ?
Tailpiece: The Swizzerland trip was followed by a designer Merc, all of Rs 6 crores, with full security paraphernalia, in a country where the Finance Secretary said the minimum required subsistence income for an individual, could be determined at a paltry Rs 32 per diem, period.