By Life Positive
A moving excerpt from Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s short story, death of Gandhi
Birla Mandir! Taller than the neighboring buildings, it stood with its head held high in the sky. It had a certain dignity, a high-born élan, and it was far more important than the residence of the Viceroy. Yet ….yet, somehow, to me it seemed to be a prison.
Soon I was led into Gandhiji’s presence, and I paid my loving tribute to him. I felt a lightness of being which was unprecedented.
What I saw was completely different from what I had expected! The image of Gandhiji in my mind had a halo around him; he had eyes that shone with a divine power and authority. I had seen him in the guise of Vishnu riding the eagle, and I had seen him with a third eye on his brow.
But it was a human being who stood before me now. A man who opened his mouth and laughed innocently whenever I was in tears! I could talk about my needs; I could confess my sinful deeds. For Bapuji was someone who loved me.
May the thunderbolt fall upon the heads of those terrible sinners who had made a god out of my Bapuji! What tricks and tactics they had employed for the purpose! They had got poets to sing in praise of him. They had painters to draw pictures of him. They even had a few dry and hollow men construct obscure interpretations of whatever Bapuji told us, sharing in our mirth and joy, correcting us with grief whenever we went astray, and advising us on the little problems of our everyday life. And they called it “Gandhian Philosophy!” Whatever Gandhiji said could be understood by the forty-crore Indians. For it was all about things that mattered to them. There was no need for an interpretation. But the “Masters” of those interpreters did not want the poor to understand what Gandhiji was saying.
No, it was nothing new. The World had seen the same thing happen before. The mendicant of love who was crucified at Calvary two thousand years ago was turned into the Son of God. What he said too was given a series of interpretations. He was portrayed as a very handsome young man in the pictures they drew of him. And many a false poem was written about him. And the result? Today that man was beyond the grasp of human beings. Why take such pains to make a god out of my Bapuji? Why couldn’t he be treated as a human being? There was something there; there indeed was a need, a reason.
There was something that spread the light of vitality and love of life in the hearts of the beggar and the downtrodden in every nook and corner of India. Love for Bapuji! That love aroused their sense of freedom. And there were some people who were terrified. If that love was not transformed – their interests were at stake. When Gandhiji was turned into the eagle-borne Vishnu, when his sayings were turned into divine utterances, the god of freedom was transformed into the god who had already become an instrument in the hands of the master and the zamindar. And the sense of freedom that had been aroused in millions of people was thus frozen.
Translated by V.C. Harris
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