20 September, 2020

I Met Gandhi, And Then I Met Anti-Gandhi

Imhasly finds India bristling with opinions on Gandhi, but its politics untouched by his ideas

T. Narayan
I Met Gandhi, And Then I Met Anti-Gandhi
Scene One: Moscow, 1987. I ask my 21-year-old interpreter and guide, a student at Moscow University, to take me to the Lenin Mausoleum. "You want to see a corpse?" he asks me, horrified. "Lenin is the Father of the Soviet Union," I chide him. Reluctantly, he takes me to the Kremlin and we join a kilometre-long queue. "They don’t think it’s just a corpse," I say. "Peasants!" he retorts.

Scene Two: Beijing, 1995. This time my 25-year-old interpreter doesn’t admonish me when I ask to visit the Mao Mausoleum, but thinks the visit will cut into my shopping time! "See Mao memorial next time," he advises. He was there only once on a school visit.

Many republics were born in the 20th century and each has a "Father of the Nation". Lenin, Mao, Mandela, Ho Chi Minh, Nasser, Nkrumah, Tito, Sukarno, Lee Kuan Yew, Castro, Jinnah and, of course, Gandhi. Of all the "isms" they left behind, only one has truly survived into the 21st—Gandhism. Not as an official state ideology, but as a popular idea respected around the world.

I am not...



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