JOUR­NEYS OF THE MA­HATMA

Fiji Sun - - Big Story - Sa­ten­dra Nan­dan Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Sa­ten­dra Nan­dan is Fiji’s lead­ing writer. This is a poem from his forth­com­ing vol­ume of poems, Gi­tan­jali for Gandhi. To­day is Ma­hatma Gandhi’s birth an­niver­sary. He was born 2 Oc­to­ber, 1869 in Gu­jarat, In­dia and as­sas­i­nated 30 Jan­uary 1948, in New Delhi.

They shot him dead: Three rust-riv­eted bul­lets – Pierced a brave breast, a vul­ner­a­ble heart. Who knew the old man had so much blood in him?

He died with palms folded As he fell in the new gar­den of Geth­se­mane? Two words, like two birds, es­caped from his parched lips.

They said he died peace­fully. Re­ally?

Then they ceased to kill And the land that spilled his blood Was still sur­feited in its sor­row Like a mother hold­ing Her dead child by any seashore.

When he went to Eng­land They wanted to trap him? Mas­ter-ma­hatma: What do you think of our civ­i­liza­tion? Not a bad idea, he said, when­ever that hap­pens.

That rather fat man of vic­tory with a cigar Fumed: How dare a half-naked fakir Strid­ing on the palace steps To par­ley with the King-Em­peror? In those aw­ful clothes: At best in a di­a­per, a khadi shawl, In the dead of win­ter, af­ter the Fall.

The bright Bri­tish jour­nal­ist, Ever search­ing for shal­low an­swers : Will you par­ley with the Em­peror dressed thus, Mr Ghandi? He looked at the young man Mak­ing his ca­reer in Fleet street And so fleet of tongue: Oh, no wor­ries, old chap, The Em­peror will be wear­ing enough for both of us!

This wasn’t a story of rags and riches. It was a lit­tle more: The sun set in its shame.

He ad­justed his rough shawl A bur­den on his bare shoul­ders, His feet firmly on the ground And turned around the other cheek.

Then they re­mem­bered the Salt March To Dandi with a danda! A 230-mile jour­ney on foot. The sar­to­rial semi­otics was smart. They mocked: how can you dis­man­tle The largest em­pire with a lathi? But he marched: that was his art.

When he broke the Salt Laws Re­mem­ber­ing a ser­mon: Ye are the salt of the earth… Feel blessed.

The Viceroy called him for tea In golden cups with a sin­gle sil­ver spoon Af­ter all it was tea in the af­ter­noon. The lord asked : Mr Ghandi, care for a spoon of sweet­est sugar Made by the toil, sweat, tears of your own peo­ple?

Gandhi glanced at the church steeple: No , he smiled: But a pinch of salt could do!

Be­tween salt and sugar A mighty em­pire fell: In­dia, like his soul, was bro­ken into bits : And the oldest ma­hatma Was cre­mated among the dead.

His ashes were left to rust In Delhi’s ru­ins and dust; But a patch of green grass grew On a river’s bank Out of some an­cient roots As birds twit­tered, flew:

Three blood-red flow­ers in si­lence bloomed.

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