It was quite a fortuitous encounter with the ‘Mahatma-Bapu’ comfortably ensconced in a remote-corner bench during my extempore visit to Sabarmati Ashram in a mood of ‘Khadi-tourism’ on the eve of his 150th B’day. As usual, he was in a pensive mood that triggered me into my contemplative gear. Maybe a contagious effect! I submitted my respects which he warmly acknowledged before I expressed my decade long desire to ask him a few questions. He appeared to be hesitant initially then agreed to encounter me in the spirit of Ahimsa and Satyagraha. Our conversation proceeded somehow on expected lines meandering through a web of allegations and explanations.

“What are deep thoughts that are troubling you at the moment, Bapu ?” I ventured to ask him.

“I am just coming back after meeting British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Even now, after gallons have flown down the Thames, he is nasty and venomous towards me.”

“Why so? You never harmed him in any way. Doesn’t he trust your Ahimsa ?”

“He couldn’t believe, I am alive !! That’s very mortifying. I assured him, it’s me ‘Mahatma-Bapu’, alive and kicking, not his spirit !” He responded, ‘Then how can I, rather why should I believe, millions of Hindu-rabbits perished in Bengal famine ?”

“I almost exclaimed, ‘Yes, they did because you plundered our food. They were thrown at the mercy of vultures. Disgusted to the core, I hastily walked out thinking all ideals that I pedalled throughout my life require to be re-visited. It is Kaliyuga after all.”

In a mood to probe deeper, I lobbed a deadly Googly at him, “Bapu, who has disappointed you most out of Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, JL Nehru or NR Godse ?”

“It’s Clement Attlee who has disgusted me the most.”

“Why so ?”

“Years after Quit India fructified into a logical conclusion of utter failure, this fellow went to Calcutta and unnecessarily spewed, Ahimsa and Satyagraha had no decisive role to play in freedom struggle…that I only kept the cauldron boiling. Worst mortification that I have ever undergone.”

“Not even subsequent terrible blood-bath post-Partition-1947 with Nehru-Mountbatten in command ?”


“Not even your slaying by NR Godse ?”

“Not really. In fact, he liberated me for the better otherwise I would have been worse off soon after.”

At this juncture, I decided to be more direct and less insinuative as I discovered him to be interested in having a dialogue with me. Probably, he needed a diversion from his pensive temperament.

“Tell me Bapu, did you purchase the ticket of First Class railway compartment for yourself for your historic journey or through some travel agent ?”

“Certainly myself. Nobody even knew the concept of travel agent booking tickets for intending travellers in those days.”

“Then the Booking Clerk behind the window didn’t or couldn’t see your dark brown complexion? Why didn’t he refuse to issue a ticket to you at that very moment of reckoning?”

“I do not know for sure. Maybe he was directed not to refuse me the historic ticket.”

“Fine. Let’s proceed. Every First Class Rail compartment is manned by an attendant or TTE in uniform at every entrance. More so in that era of such an obnoxious racist regime like South Africa. How is that you were not stopped at the entrance itself while you were entering the compartment suited-booted with an English hat on your deep brown head and First Class ticket in your pocket ?”

“Entrance was not manned at that moment. If it was stage-managed to look like that, I don’t know.”

“Then you were discovered in the compartment after a train ran a few Kms. and pushed out at the next railway station? Was not all that unadulterated drama ?”

“But the drama provided me with a fulcrum to visualise anti-apartheid movement in South Africa! Isn’t it a great milestone ?”

“But you were under South African apprenticeship for a much larger objective !”

“But how ?”

“You were Sargeant Major in the South African White Army with no issue of racism raised at all !”

“Then ?”

“To digress, divert and destroy freedom movement in British India ?”

“If I was a ‘Useful-Idiot’ of South African Whites at that turning point of history, I didn’t realise that.”

“Then why are you admired as a shrewd politician ?”

“That is for you to find out.”

“OK Bapu, let us move on to larger issues. India, even if it was British India, was your motherland. You grew up out of it, inherited all her legacies and values. Why were you not sincere in your resolve to liberate India from British-occupiers ?”

“How else India could have existed? So many Kingdoms snarling at one another, every Kingdom infested with scores of Jaichands, so many of Jaichands born to numerous concubines of Kings in Harems fighting to capture throne, one King looking the other way rather inviting a foreign invader to attack Kingdom in his neighbourhood, no trace of attachment to the motherland, no sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’, drifting away from Sanatana ideals…”

“But Sardar Patel had an alternative mode of merging them all into one nation and he explained it to you very well. You failed to understand him or flatly declined to understand him obsessed with an agenda ?”

“I was entirely sceptic. Centuries of multiple monarchies at one another’s throat then one nation by that Gujju farmer !! Are you joking ?”

“But he did that. It is before you.”

“What’s the state of affairs? One Jinnah deserted and died of TB leaving behind a teeming mass of fledgeling Jinnahs. One Jinnah dies and so many are born afresh, even now.”

“But defenceless, innocent Hindus were brutalised and plundered for centuries. Even that failed to soften your heart ?”

“They were not entirely defenceless and least of all innocent. Without Ahimsa and Satyagraha, an armed rebellion underway steered by Subhash Bose and other petty revolutionaries could have succeded in liberating India from British occupation. A society practising Sati / untouchability can not be regarded as innocent.”

“So then according to you, they deserved to be brutalised and plundered by marauders from across the globe ?”

“What was the alternative then ?”

“You are Mahatma after all. You could have unleashed a social awakening movement, mobilised all Hindus to a point of convergence, fight back to throw out those invaders? Also brutal ideologies of Islam / Christianity that they brought into the country, now claim to belong to this country ?”

“That’s impossible to achieve because Hindus can never unite. With this limitation in mind as a given reality, everything else should be planned.”

“But how? Dr KB Hedgewar succeeded for sure, critical mass attained, now no looking back !!”

“Nobody could have expected or anticipated such a rare phenomenon with Hindus during those decades. I was not a failure on that count.”

“You were a pathetic failure because you are claimed to be a great visionary in addition to being a Mahatma. Why are you perpetually sceptic? First with Sardar Patel then with Dr Hedgewar ?”

“Well, Hindus are nurtured to be sceptic, negativistic and self-destructive. How many Hindu parents do you know who tell their kids, go and grab the moon or recite Gayatri Mantra before us ?”

“You have a point but as a Mahatma…”

“You may discontinue calling me a Mahatma!”

“Bapu, why did you suddenly full-stopped Quit India Movement ?”

“Otherwise then it would have succeeded!”

“That’s precisely was your mission, isn’t it?”

“None of it. This success would have plunged the continent back into multiple monarchies and the dark era of concubines and Jaichands.”

“So then Bapu, you played your cards very well, like a shrewd Gujju !!”

At this moment, ‘Mahatma Bapu’ gifted me an enigmatic smile and I nodded to affirm my acceptance.

“My last round with you Bapu. You practised a very strange variety of Brahmacharya, never heard or seen before in the recorded history of Sanatana Dharma. It is now ridiculed as a Gandhian Brahmacharya with Khadi condoms !! Where did you pick up this idea? Did you pick up more such ideas, weird or otherwise which you earnestly could not pursue as you were slain prematurely ?”

“You are too inquisitive. Now is the time of my prayers and Bhajans. I am a bit late. Ba is waiting for me with hot water to wash my feet.”

“But Ba is your wife. You ask your wife to wash your feet! Isn’t it disgusting ?” I almost exclaimed.

I could not resist myself from registering the parting shot, “Are you expecting NR Godse too in your prayer-Bhajan sessions? How will you go? Where are those damsels to tag and tug you along ?”

‘Mahatma Bapu’ cast a heavy look at my face, then trudged slowly leaning excessively on his walking stick.

I am still languishing in a contemplative mood bequeathed by the enigmatic conversation.


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