Tale of two queries

Some 60 years ago, I asked my mother two questions, as we stood near the foot of the staircase. I think she was cleaning rice in a ‘mora’ (a tray made of bamboo strips for winnowing grain at home). We were on the ground floor of our second rented house in Sunnadakeri area of Mysore. In the first floor house we moved to next in the same locality, I fell down the stairs along with the pail of water I was carrying on my way to the ground floor toilet but this has little to do with my questions.

Barely two years had passed since we had gained independence and maybe just one year after Gandhiji’s assassination, I reckon. I remember our family members along with scores of others had assembled in the Police Lines school at Jalapuri and all of us, never mind that ours was a Christian family, sang ‘Vaishnava janato, tene kahiye’ late in the evening, perhaps when Gandhiji’s funeral was being performed somewhere in the north. Those were not days of live telecasts for us to be certain. Perhaps the body lay in state in Delhi.

Those were definitely days when you could scour the entire country, Burma, East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Pakistan included and not come across a single person above the age of three who had not heard of Gandhiji. I was at least three times three. We heard a lot about Gandhiji and still I had questions to ask.

We heard quite a bit about Jesus Christ too, mostly in church and father’s mother had served as a ‘Bible woman.’ No one would describe our nuclear family (father, mother and two of us brothers) though, as devout. Some Sundays we even skipped going to church. On the days we did go, mother would tell my elder brother and me to stay on for Sunday School. Once, I even made it to a group to sing a song composed specially for Christmas. I had discovered even then what a bad singer I was but the group leader did not seem to mind.

So I heard a lot about Gandhiji and may be a little less about Jesus Christ which provoked the two questions.

Can I be like Yesu Swamy (Jesus Christ)? I asked. A quick and sharp “No” sprang from mother. She looked concerned. I did not give up.

Can I be like Gandhiji? I asked next. She relaxed a bit. “Maybe.” I can almost hear all those who know me now laughing their heads off.

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