Where are you, Gandhi thatha?

Where are you, Gandhi thatha?

"My father RKJ (popularly known as Malnad Gandhi), sowed the seeds of patriotism in all of us by narrating stories of Gandhiji, Tilak, Gokhale and Subhash Chandra Bose."

In the early 1940s, I was in my pre-primary school, in the then small town of Shimoga. I was playing with my friends in a nearby park that had a public radio system, when I noticed people suddenly surging towards the speaker as the radio broadcast news that Mahatma Gandhi was shot and that he had passed away. We kids started sobbing with adults even though we could not understand the gravity of the announcement.

I belong to a family of freedom fighters. Out of six siblings, five of us excluding me (as I was the youngest) had the honour of being sent to jail for our active roles in the freedom struggle. My father RKJ (popularly known as Malnad Gandhi), sowed the seeds of patriotism in all of us by narrating stories of Gandhiji, Tilak, Gokhale and Subhash Chandra Bose. 

When he was studying for his Law Degree in Elphinstone Law College in Bombay, my father was greatly influenced by Gandhiji’s lectures and writings. He had attended the speeches of great national leaders like Motilal Nehru, C R Das and Sarojini Naidu, and the speeches had an enormous impact on him. When Subhash Chandra Bose resigned from his lucrative civil service and jumped into the Freedom Struggle to follow Gandhiji, my father RKJ —caring little about the college education he would lose— jumped into the aandolan. He even abandoned his tweed Suit for a dhoti kurta, eschewed hot beverages, and went to the extent of getting his rich crop of hair shaved.

When father started the khadi andolan in Shimoga, my mother used to send the best quality of yarn to Gandhiji and Rajaji. Father wore Khadi till his last day.

My parents made a patriotic pair. While my father was deeply involved in the freedom movement launched by Gandhiji outside the home, my mother enthused the people of Shimoga from inside the house. 

Here is an incident worth recalling— when my father and my five siblings were in Shimoga jail, a police van stopped in front of my house. When the Inspector said he had a search warrant, possibly to plant incriminating evidence, my mother stood blocking his way with her outstretched arms and told him he could enter the house only after crossing over her dead body. Needless to say, they had to beat a hasty retreat as a crowd started gathering.

Gandhiji taught our nation Satyagraha, a movement based on non-violence. However, today the huge void between what he stood for and the state of present reality is glaring. We see people organizing processions for silliest reasons supporting black marketeers and tax evaders.