"The old man will not die". They said while they were returning back from Beijing. In those days the students were agitating in support of democratising the Chinese system.
When the tanks rolled down on the streets to suppress the student movement, he was there. During those days Beijing was like wobbling sea; heavy movement of army, unrest among youngsters, all sorts of rumours and what not! When i heard that the old man hadn't yet died, i thought the reference was about the ailing and elderly Chinese leader Syao Fing.
But i was wrong; the 'old man' was none other than the one who was described as 'Immortal' by well-known Marathi writer, Vijay Tendulkar. The 'Gandhi' that we are talking about was not the modern 'Gandhi' who gave slogans to take India to the 21st century, overnight. He was the other one, an old man, who lived among the people who had lagged behind and were still languishing in the 18th and 19th century. The old man lived like them, lived among them, to imbibe self confidence and dignity in the minds of toiling masses. How could the old man, who felt prey to the three bullets of a communal man reach China? How could the Chinese youth agitating for democracy identify with him? So much so that they started talking about his immortality?
When i was thinking about the relevance of 'Gandhi' in the modern context, in the context of finding solution to the complex problems facing in these tough times, i was reminded of an event of yesteryears.
I was a college student, and i was getting introduced to politics. Not the kind of politics in vogue these days, but the more truthful one, practised those days where discussion was on plans, policies and principles, where community welfare got precedence over fulfillment of individual's selfish motives.
One fine morning, during the late 1953, we heard that Acharya Kriplani was travelling by Frontier Mail from Delhi to Mumbai. Five-six of us bicycled our way to the station to catch his glimpse, hoping to hear a few words of wisdom from him.
The rail station was reverberating with slogans in honour of Acharya Kriplani. In response to that, Kriplaniji came out of the compartment, fuming, "What is all this commotion about? Why are you raising slogans for me, go raise slogans for Jawaharlal Nehru, go to the ministers, what will you get from me?"
Summoning all my courage, i said, "We have come to get a message from you..." Before i could place the matter properly, Kriplaniji shouted, “Do you want to hear from me? That old man died, trying to convey his message, did you listen to him? Did you follow his footsteps?"
Alas.......had we done that, India would have been different from what it is today!
In fifties a young Indian met Albert Einstein during his trip to USA. During the course of conversation, he said, "Mankind has to choose between you and Mahatma Gandhi".
Einstein was a bit surprised when he heard that, he was one amongst the supporters of Gandhiji, why did the young man place him as an alternative to Gandhi?
In response, the Indian said, you have given us an equation that lead to devising an atom bomb, Gandhi gave us a weapon to fight injustice, the weapon called civil disobedience - weapon called Satyagrah. Mankind has to choose, as to which road it wants to tread, the one with atom bomb or the one with peaceful Satyagrah.
Even today, the rivalry between Einstein and Gandhiji is unresolved.
Do you want to know who is that Indian who had juxtaposed Gandhiji and Einstein? He was none other than Manohar Lohia, well-known freedom fighter and revolutionary thinker.
Ganesh Mantri, Former editor of 'Dharmayug'
Translated from Gujarati by Dr. Alaka Sarma