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84. The Sorrow of Separation
“Everyone sheds tears when bereaved of the loved one, but the day the blood is shed with the tears then only one knows the value of the departed person.”
It was the month of December in 1917. I had just joined Gandhiji then. In a meeting in Calcutta, the Muslim league elected one of the Ali brothers, who were abducted from Chindwara, as president and kept the chair unoccupied. Gandhiji was specially invited there. We went there in the afternoon. The Urdu speaking people were trying to outsmart each other. The people would appreciate them saying Aamin! Aamin! Tears were trickling down their eyes and some sobs could also be heard. Then Gandhiji was asked to address the people.
He didn’t join the mourners. On the contrary, with a straightforwardness befitting him, he asked, “How many tears in this flood are the genuine ones? If you are mourning the separation of Shaukat Ali and Mohamed Ali, not tears, but blood should trickle down your eyes. If you will brace yourself to sacrifice your life to get them freed, then only yours tears would seem genuine.” Today we can ask these questions to ourselves! Those who came to bid farewell to Gandhi, were they sincere? Those who remained in their houses and wept at his departure, were they sincere? If those tears were genuine, what have we decided to do after his departure? The portrayal of bereavement as found in Mahabharat cannot be paralleled by that in any other literature of the world. In Ramayan too, Bharat was not fortunate enough to see Ram before he went away. We are the fortunate lot that we have Gandhiji’s message before he parted with us. Bharat didn’t have this privilege. He received the news of Ram’s departure after he returned to Ayodhya. He had a lot of near and dear ones to console and advice him to take up the new responsibility. But Bharat did not give in to those advices; rather he considered them improper. Life without Ram seemed worthless to him. He instantly decided to request Ram to return to Ayodhya. After having described this, Tulsidas doesn’t immediately describe the Bharat-Ram meeting. Prior to it comes the description of Bharat’s every step towards Ram, every tear that he shed, and every place that he trod during his journey to meet Ram. Hastily Bharat leaves Ayodhya in his chariot. Before crossing river Ganga he meets Guh, a staunch devotee of Ram. Because of Guh’s devotion to Ram, Bharat alights down his chariot and walks towards him, as a mark of utmost respect. He reveres Guh as much as he does Ram. He enquires about everything that Ram had done but doesn’t leave the place immediately. He visits every place where Ram had stayed, sat and slept. Taking a pinch of dust from there he applies it to his forehead as a mark of respect to Ram. All this while he keeps on uttering Ram-nam and tears trickle down on his face. Tulsidas’s description of Bharat’s visit to Ram along with Guh, his courteous request to Ram and at last his return to Nandigram carrying Ram’s ‘paduka’ with a laden heart, can shake the toughest person too. The plight of Ram and Sita during the ‘Vanwas’ (exile) can be forgotten, but one can never forget Bharat’s lamentation, his penance for fourteen years and his pledge to bear any amount of hardship and sorrow to be with his beloved deity – Ram. Should a country, which has witnessed such extremes of worship and penance, let its religion decline so much that it would plunge itself down in the luxury of life. Gandhiji sent his message before going to jail. He wrote articles like ‘The Moth-dance” to point out the problems prevalent in the society. How many of those lamenting his death implemented his advices in their lives? At this time, when the country should lament over his bereavement, when the blood should be shed along with tears, at such a time depression and disappointment seem to pervade the entire scene. Can anyone claim that the country is lamenting?