Not for sale!!

“Terrible manners!” her grandmother would snort, if she ever found out. Or “Curiosity killed the cat, remember!” she’d grumble. But what was going on, on the other side was SERIOUS. Radhika was not being sneaky… she just felt it was important that she know what was happening. 

Her aunt’s husband was in the hall, talking with a stanger (who’d arrived in a silver Mercedes Benz), mostly in whispers. Now when somebody whispers, there’re practically INVITING others to try and eavesdrop. But more than the whispering, what alerted Radhika was that the showcase had been unlocked and Grandma’s precious collection of Gandhi memorabilia had been taken out and laid on the table.
The other man removed his glasses and inspected each piece, one by one. After a long while (during which time poor Radhika got pins and needles in her legs as she sat motionless behind the door), he leaned back and whispered something. Radhika guessed he’d quoted a price of Grandma’s things, and cursed for not being able to hear. But she needn’t have worried, because her Uncle burst out, “A hundred thousand dollars!  Are you sure?!”

Radhika was shocked! Is that what the personal letters Grandma exchanged with Gandhiji, were worth? But she also knew that her Grandma would NEVER, ever sell those letters. Which is why her Uncle had brought in this man when he could be sure Grandma was out at her bhajan class. Would he sell the stuff without asking Grandma, first? She decided firmly that, “Even if Grandma gives me a lecture for eavesdropping, I’m still going to warn her.” This was because she’d also heard the stranger say, while leaving, “I’m back next week, I hope you’ll have convinced the old fool to sell…”

How dare he call Grandma ‘an old fool’! Radhika decided that even if Grandma agreed to sell her letters, THIS man wouldn’t get it! So that night, she snuggled up with Grandma and confessed all. She own ‘bad manners’ and all that she’d heard.  
Grandma fell silent, stared away into the distance. Radhika felt she was probably reliving those exciting days of the freedom struggle. And the important role she’d played as a young member of the Congress Party.

Reporting on situations from trouble spots…exchanging letters with Gandhiji about events to organise and new members to be welcomed…Almost in continuation of Radhika’s own thoughts, Grandma said, “All that is priceless! India’s Freedom Struggle is NOT for sale!” 

Then looking worried, she turned to her grand daughter, ‘Radhika, I had wanted to give the letters to you and your brother. NOT to sell, but to keep and cherish, and when you were older, to remember your grandmother by…but if they’re worth so much, those letters will only create trouble…nobody will read them or remember the thrilling and difficult struggle for Independence -- they will only think of the money!”
Swinging her feet off the bed, she said under her breath, “I’ll have to act fast, before that man comes back!” Radhika felt an immense relief. Somehow, Grandma was smart enough to handle the situation. She went to bed that night, positive that the greedy Mercedes-wallah would NOT get the letters.

A few days later, when her Uncle left for the office, Grandma opened the showcase and removed all Gandhiji’s signed letters to her; a photograph of Gandhiji at the charkha, and an empty reading glasses case. Just before lunch, a shrill siren was heard and when Radhika ran out to see what it was, she saw a fleet of white cars with sirens blaring, sweep up their road!

The next few minutes passed like a dream. In a flurry of flashing cameras, khadi-clad politicians and incessant ‘Namastes’, Grandma handed over her prized possessions from her freedom fighting days to the Minister of HRD, to add to the new Gandhi Research Centre, coming up at the university.

Before Radhika could make sense of it all, the minister had left and the house returned to normal. After the last car drove off, Radhika rushed in to console Grandma…she must be feeling bad after donating her prized possessions.

But instead, Radhika found the old lady seated on the sofa, with a cup of hot coffee in her hands, and her shoulders heaving with laughter! Somehow she managed to regain her breathe enough to say, “I’m dying to see your Uncle’s face tomorrow morning when he reads about this in the papers!”

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