A copy of “Freedom at Midnight” arrived home on 14 August and with that has begun my intimate tryst with those defining moments of history exactly 68 years ago. The timing couldn’t have been better. The entire nation is waiting with a gasp to see how the country unfolds under Narendra Modi’s leadership; a rebirth of some sort.
Having just leafed through the preface and prologue (I often find these sections more interesting than the actual book), my thoughts today are not so much patriotic, but more personal.
Reading the anecdotes on Gandhi triggered a train of thoughts. We all know that Gandhi had a penchant to travel by third class in trains, along with beggars, lepers, untouchables and peasants of those days. But then you hear Lord Mountbatten lamenting in the book, “If you only knew what those whims of Gandhi’s cost the British Treasury!”
“We were so frightened he would be assassinated, that all those travellers in the third class compartments – untouchables, beggars, lepers – were police inspectors in disguise.”
In fact, the Mondays when Mahatma used to keep silence, were “blessed” days for him.
Such was the impact of that tiny man!
We have all had to manage such men. Obstinate, pig-headed almost, a mind of their own, ways of their own and who just cannot and will not listen to any reasoning against what they set out to do.
Oh, how we love them!
My grandfather was one. Towering at six foot high, he really commanded respect and instilled fear in everyone of us.
He was the guy who sent his daughter to post graduate school while the rest of the country was still coming to terms with child marriage. My conservative relatives would have been worried sick that he would not be able to find a suitable match for her.
He would wake us up at 5 AM and practice multiplication tables during our summer vacations, which we regularly spent in his house.
He would have us forage for herbs in the country side to add to tea.
My father-in-law was another such man. A trail blazer of his own accord he broke out of the generations old agricultural profession and took up a job with the police force.
These men set their own rules and demand for us to follow them. We follow them, partly out of fear, partly because we know that a counter argument would be futile; but mostly because we know they rule from their heart. They follow what they preach. Their integrity and pride is very high. And they dare to direct others to follow the path they think will lead all of them to a better place.
We love them for that!