Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mr Gandhi, Mr Gandhi

September 8, 2008

H/l: Help clear the Gandhi trail
Intro: Panel compiling information on places associated with Gandhi needs your help
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Even as West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi stepped in to facilitate talks on the Tata Nano crisis in Singur, the youngest grandson of Mahatma Gandhi is busily looking for inputs of a different kind – a panel that he heads is documenting all the sites in the country associated with Gandhi.

Constituted in 2006 by the Centre, the Gandhi Heritage Sites (GHS) panel has painstakingly compiled a list of places that Gandhi visited or stayed in during his numerous travels for the freedom movement from 1920s onwards, but it requires help from historians and knowledgable members of the public to provide the specifics wherever the panel lacks sufficient data.

In an email reply sent to this reporter, in which Sakaal Times had asked for a list of places that the Mahatma had been associated with in Maharashtra, governor Gandhi sent a 288-page document containing such sites in the State. “We would like to have knowledgable persons’ response to the list,” he said.

As per the data provided by him, Gandhi visited Pune and Wardha the most, followed by Bombay, all between 1915 to 1946. He seemed to have covered all of Maharashtra, travelling often to Nashik, Yavatmal, Amravati, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Panvel, Thane, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Chiplun and Karjat.

However, certain data require more information before it is included in the final list. For instance, when Gandhi visited Kopargaon on February 18, 1927 to address a gathering of Marwaris at Rashtriya Pathshala, the GHS seeks to know if the Pathshala functions from the same venue today.

In Pune, Gandhi unveiled the bust of Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar on September 4, 1924. The GHS requirement is: what is the site of the bust and is there a plaque marking Gandhiji’s unveiling of it? (See box for other Pune requirements.)

It was also in Pune that Gandhi started studying Marathi on February 27, 1915, so that he could access the political literature in that language. On May 20, 1933, he began taking Sinhagad spring water mixed with soda bicarbonate to relieve nausea and acidity. And it was in Pune that he helped set up a nature cure centre in 1944 and subsequently shut it down.

The details that the panel has compiled so far reveal the enigma that was Gandhi – always forthright and sometimes plain humourous. Interestingly, he made some significant statements on Maharashtra’s soil. For instance, when Kasturba and he were travelling in a third class compartment to Pune from Shantiniketan in 1915, Kasturba used the toilet in the second-class coach. He wrote, “I knew that my wife had no right to avail herself of the second class bathroom, but I ultimately connived at the impropriety. This, I know, does not become a votary of truth.

Not that my wife was eager to use the bathroom, but a husband’s partiality for his wife got the better of his partiality for truth. The face of truth is hidden behind the golden veil of maya, says the Upanishad.”

Very few would know that Gandhi desired to work at the Bombay High Court and that he tried very hard via a recommendation from a white judge, as was required in those days. Also, he unwillingly underwent a ‘cleansing ritual’ after coming back from England as demanded by elders of his community, who felt that going to England and mixing with the meat-eating and alcohol-drinking Europeans was a sin.

In a most interesting reply that Gandhi gave to a press reporter who wanted to know if the test-tube method of having babies was not ideal since it eliminated lust and carnality from procreation, at Wardha in 1940, Gandhi said, “Your method, as far as I can see, can only result in multiplying idiots or monsters, not human beings, thrown into the sea of passions.”

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