My wife rushed to
to be at her father’s side as he underwent coronary by-pass surgery the previous day. I therefore had to babysit Biscuit in addition to my usual duty of taking him for walks, since yesterday evening. My man Friday, Mathew promised to come at 05:30AM to babysit him till I came back from my morning run. He came only ay 06:00 AM and I hit the road at 06:15AM. There was the pressure also at work as the head of finance at our office was to superannuate today. I decided to do a Pani Sir on my run today with no antics. Sehwag deciding to curtail his natural game and play like Dravid in the interest of match situation (Can I hear snickers?). Bangalore
My thoughts keep going back to how Gandhi and his ideals grew on me over the years, maybe, a hangover of the 2 minute silence of the previous day on his martyrdom day. My initial impressions of Gandhi as a young boy were of his being naïve, not cheating when given an opportunity to (Ket(t)le spelling for the Inspector of Schools). He seemed an unlikely hero, with bad handwriting, smoking and drinking on the sly. He, however, seemed to have lot in common with my middle class upbringing in our need to conform to rise up the ladder in society. Seen in this backdrop, I could relate to his attempts at learning western music, wearing western clothes etc. I had faced similar dilemma when as a small town bumpkin I landed at the exalted gates of IIT-Kanpur. I also went through the addictions of smoking and drinking. Here was one hero who looked human with all its frailties and still became a Mahatma revered by the world at large.
My favourite pastime has been reading the roll of honour of statesmen who said absolutely first class stuff about him whenever I visit Gandhi’s ashram at Sabarmati. After reading his autobiography and biographical account by Louis Fischer, I was struck by the simplicity of his approach; being steadfast in the correctness of the means adopted and his having implicit faith in the belief that results would automatically take care of themselves. Only two mantras, truth and honesty and courage to stick to them irrespective of the consequences, absolutely soul stirring stuff! There is an account about him where the author, Louis Fischer says that, Gandhi lets you see his mind working so that you are let into the deductions through which he arrives at his truth, with no dogmatic attachment to the ultimate result. He to me has been a do-it-yourself self improvement guide. I have found it very easy to follow him, with some minor changes for this age and time. I don’t clean toilets; I take garbage to dump it at the dustbin myself instead. I have made groundnuts my preferred source of proteins. I promised once in his visitor book at Sabarmati ashram after buying a spinning wheel that next time I would go there wearing a self spun khadi dress. The act of learning spinning, finding a weaver and the works taught me dignity of labour and more importantly has satisfied my urge for creativity. Whenever I go and sit there at his ashram at Sabarmati, and report compliance of earlier vow, I feel a better person inside and more at peace with myself. His method of step by step improvement with honesty and sincerity gives hope for every individual for self realization. Others who go in the name of heroes, either real life reel life or mythological, don’t admit to any frailties, mere mortal like me given any hope of redemption.
I have come to know that he used to walk long distances and I have taken to running instead. My fetish for donating blood voluntarily every quarter is my answer to his fasting and acts of self-sacrifice for fellow humans. Innate stinginess of mine became glorified as Gandhian simplicity. Somehow, my progress in various facets of life seem to add up to some or the other act or practice of Gandhiji. To deconstruct Gandhi the way I have adopted him in my life makes him more a friend than the larger than life image we seemed to have made of him, to be dusted and sung to on October 2nd and 30th January every year. I think the Hindi movie, ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’, has done a lot to popularize his ideals than all the literature on him.
Blogging, a new affliction of mine, also connects to Gandhi for me. The act becomes a touchstone for me for having the courage to report honestly account of the previous day’s thought process while running. Being the hero of one’s account there is serious temptation to spice up the good deeds and hide the darker side. Over time there would be improvement in this aspect also, readers may find the account boring without added flavours! On the other hand blogging has also encouraged me towards better behavior and thoughts, the touchstone being is it fit to be shared among friends. Even if contrived, such good behavior would grow over time, I hope. Am I getting boring?
I turned my thoughts from Gandhi on seeing Simon approaching with his friend. He was in the act of talking his walk. I told him that he was neither getting nature’s splendor nor was he practicing singing. Hope he did not mind. After crossing Saibaba temple, I forced my thoughts on my FA&CAO who was to retire from service today. I had earlier been threatened by the Officers Association and my Deputy that I would be one of the speakers. I must claim one more fallibility in common with my friend Gandhi, I simply tie myself into knots if I have to speak anything general. I am able to hold forth in technical discussions across the table. I have been feeling more comfortable after a few training programmes with supportive groups and the staff at Hubli have helped me exorcise some of the demons. I still needed to organize my thoughts about what to speak.
Immersed in my thoughts I approached the KM9 mark, I dreaded meeting the Moulvi Mohd. Sheikh. What would I tell him for having missed the appointment for prayer on Sunday last? I found him sitting outside the mosque on my return and I told him about my father-in-laws sudden illness and my wife having been called away to be by his side (this was partially true, f-in-law illness and wife leaving happening on Monday only). I am a Gandhi in work-in-progress only. In actual fact more mundane matters of my laziness and buying of provisions had kept us from the divine appointment.
On my way back I met Anuj’s school mates, I asked them if they knew Anuj. Without the class he was studying in they told me they could not help me. Hope I see him tomorrow. Rest of the run was uneventful. The run was completed in 3 hours 2 minutes.