Sevagram, October 2, 2020: Nehru, Sardar & Mahadev Desai wait for Gandhi Ji to wakeup

The trio are waiting for Gandhi Ji to awake and are getting slightly worried because he usually is an early riser. He was also worried for some time, his secretary Mahadev Desai informs

Mahatma Gandhi with C Rajagopalachari, Sevagram, 1940 (Photo courtesy:
Mahatma Gandhi with C Rajagopalachari, Sevagram, 1940 (Photo courtesy:

Nachiketa Desai

They fidget and look at each other with a questioning look. They have been waiting since before dawn to wish Gandhi Ji on his birthday. But though sunlight was filtering through to them, there was still no sign of Bapu.

“By now he would have been ready for the day,” blurted out an anxious Mahadevbhai, “he never wakes up so late. I had checked last night but he had no fever then. But he certainly seemed preoccupied and worried.”

Sardar Patel raised his eyebrows. “ The thought had occured to me as well. What is he worried about? I had asked but he indicated that he would talk about it later. Looks like this year he will give the Charkha also a miss. I don’t remember when he last missed working on the spinning wheel for an hour. What is wrong with the year 2020 ?”, the Sardar said thoughtfully.

“ Well, today is a special day. The year-long celebration of Bapu’s 150th birthday concludes today. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat would be listening to the bhajan, ‘Raghupati Raghav, Raja Ram/ Patita Pavan Sita Ram’ instead of ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” quipped Desai.

“ Mahadev, you are already thinking of a headline and the report you will clear ! Can’t you ever stop being a journalist,” said Jawaharlal to tease him.

“Jawahar, on this day too you will again be blamed for all the mistakes made by Modi. You are responsible for everything that has gone wrong in India since 1947,” said the Sardar with a smile, adding, “you are far too toleant, Jawahar for your own good.”

“ Don’t I know,” replied Nehru with an exaggerated sigh. “Whenever I look at Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp—what do they call, Mahadev, this unsocial media ?---I discover that my ancestors were all Muslims,” he replied in the same spirit.

“ They also say that Bapu betrayed the Hindus by picking you as his political heir and not the Sardar,” quipped Mahadevbhai.

“ Isn’t that why they have put up the tallest statue of the Sardar on the banks of the Narmada,” Mahadevbhai said loudly with a surreptitous wink at Jawaharlal, “Sardar afterall is the protector of Hindu interests.”

The Sardar looked irritated. “Don’t provoke me, Mahadev. You know very well that I don’t like idolatry. On top of that they have spent an obscene sum of money, some three thousand Crore I am told, on getting the statue made in China. They displaced hundreds of Adivasis to install that monstrosity of a statue. It’s a bloody insult added to injury,” he said with an angry look at Desai.

“As if I don’t understand how the obscene amount was spent and who shared how much of the pie,” the Sardar muttered to himself.

“ Whatever people might say, Modi must be credited for helping Gujarati industrialists become rich. I saw a report that Mukesh Ambani is now the richest Asian and his personal wealth is over Rupees Six lakh Crore. He is apparently the fourth richest man in the world. Isn’t it extraordinary that he earned Rs 90 Crore an hour ? Gautam Adani too hasn’t done too badly for himself,” interjected Nehru.

“Imagine ! Jamnalal Bajaj and Ghanshyam Das Birla, the two industrialists, had helped Congress, Bapu and even Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore for setting up Santiniketan during the freedom struggle. But what did get in return ? They did not expect anything and neither Congress nor Bapu were in a position to give them anything in return. But look at these people now ! You scratch my back and I scratch yours is the culture,” the Sardar fumed.

“ I know Gujarati businessmen and industrialists much better than you. They spend money when they see profit. They spent money like water in 2014 in installing a simpleton in power. They will of course squeeze him for returns. When this simpleton himself preens and says that trading is in his blood, why blame the industrialists for trading with him,” the Sardar added in a torrent of words and ended with a grimace.

Jawaharlal and Mahadev Desai looked at each other but said nothing.

“Mahadev, it is not possible that you do not know what is troubling Bapu. You after all have been close to him. Tell us why is he upset,” asked Jawaharlal in a bid to change the conversation.

“ Well, it is no secret, really. All of us have been upset seeing the direction the country has taken. Communalism and materialism seem to have spun out of control. Atrocities on the poor, miorities, women and Dalits have increased; land, forests and rivers besides natural resources are being taken over by the rich and the powerful; small farmers are losing their land and livelihood and are committing suicide. Cottage industries are shutting down, scientific temper has given way to superstition and educated youth are unemployed... Bapu cannot stop reflecting what went wrong, when and where,” he said grimly.

Both Jawaharlal and Sardar Patel got up and took Mahadev Desai’s leave.

“ You are right, Mahadev. We should have given some thought on this. What is there to celebrate? And with what face do we extend birthday greetings to Bapu ?” they both said, almost together and left.

(Translated from the original in Hindi. The author is a veteran journalist and commentator based in Ahmedabad)

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