22 September, 2020

A Panchatantra Of My Very Own

Encountering Gandhi's Dandi, rare Raj relics, a pickpocket, a wanderer and a cool cabbie

illustration by Sorit
A Panchatantra Of My Very Own
As everyone knows, the Great Power that is India is like a kaleidoscope—a terrific jumble of shapes, colours, sights, smells, memories, propositions, ambiguities and encounters—which, when shaken, reforms itself into altogether different patterns. I have been acquainted with the place for more than half a century, giving it a shake whenever I have revisited it, but out of its shifting suggestions, five experiences, in particular, remain unaltered in my mind.

The sweetest of them happened long, long ago, when I was new to the country, and enraptured. I had decided to follow some of the route of Mahatma Gandhi’s historic Salt March of 1930, when he walked from Ahmedabad to the village of Dandi on the Gujarati coast, allegorically to defy the British imperial government’s salt monopoly by plucking a handful of the stuff from the Indian Ocean.

I was seduced by the very idea of Gandhi, and I found Dandi a kind of dream. The village innocence of it, the simplicity, the glistening salt-flats, the fishermen—the very banyan tree where...



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