‘ THE PAIN I AM TALKING A ‘ I THOUGHT IT WOULD ALL BOUT WAS IN MY HEART...’ HAPPEN IN A CIVILISED WAY...’
Mahatma Gandhi and Quaid- e- Azam engage in an extended imaginary conversation and reflect on life after Partition for India and Pakistan
No two men could have been more different from each other as the austere Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was from Muhammad Ali Jinnah. And yet destiny twinned the son of Putlibai and the son of Mithibai as perhaps no two men in their generation were. Both were born into Gujarati- speaking families, both did their matriculation from the University of Bombay, both went on to study the Law in the Inns of Court, London, became devoted to Dadabhai Naoroji and worked for Hindu- Muslim unity alongside the cause of India’s liberation from British rule. That is, until the Two Nation Theory cleft their paths. Even then, convergences hung over them. One was called Rashtrapita by free India, the other Baba- e- Quam, in the new Pakistan. And both died before their nations could become Republics. In this imaginary conversation between the two from ‘ yon high, they see themselves in their legacies, and their legacies in their life’s stories as their countries enter their sixtysixth year as independent nations. MAJ ( Looking through his pince- nez at his watch) It has always been be a waste of time talking to you, Mr Gandhi. MKG Not for me. MAJ They got us nowhere. MKG ( Looking up from his charkha) I know. MAJIt is rude that you should be spinning as we talk. MKG I will stop. MAJ All this aura around of you… this saintliness business... never appealed to me. In fact, it was an obstruction to our talks which were meant to be strictly political. MKG I never said I was a saint. MAJ Your disciples treated you like one. MKG I did not want disciples. MAJ You expect me to believe that? MKG I wanted and got associates. Some truly wonderful ones… How about you? MAJMy colleagues and I had a common goal, a common passion— Pakistan. MKG My goal was Swaraj for all Indians. But even more it was the attainment of Hindu- Muslim unity. MAJ You did not speak for all Indians. MKG I grant you that. But if my aim to keep India united failed, did your success in dividing India leave you feeling victorious? MAJ You do not have to rub it in, Mr Gandhi. MKG Perhaps both of us are losers. MAJ You can speak for yourself, Mr Gandhi. MKG We have both been forgotten … MAJ Your face is on Indian currency notes. MKG I hate seeing my face grinning away on paper money when millions of my people are poor, malnutritioned, exploited… But so is your picture up on every office wall in Pakistan…
( A silence descends on the two) MKG May I ask you, Quaid- e- Azam… MAJ You need not use that phrase. I did not coin it. MKG As with ‘ Mahatma’. I never regarded myself as one! MAJ What was it that you wanted to ask? MKG As I said you got what you wanted— Pakistan. And I lost what I coveted— a free, just and undivided India. We saw India divided… MAJ We saw Pakistan born. MKG It does not seem a happy nation… MAJ Is India happy? MKG I thought I was to put the question… MAJ Go ahead. ( Looking at his watch) I have been waiting for it. MKG I died not of three bullets but of one burnt- up heart. MAJ What is the question? MKGThey called me Father of the Nation. But it was not a nation I recognised. MAJ The question, please. MKG My associates were in no mood to listen to me. They were tiring of the struggle, and of the constant war of words with you when the challenge from Hitler came… MAJ The question, Mr Gandhi. MKG I was alone, whereas you… you were Pakistan’s founder, head of state, head of its Constituent Assembly, head of the Muslim League. MAJ Yes. MKG Now my question is… tell me… having got everything you wanted, every single thing… did you
… die a happy man? MAJ( Taking his pipe out from his pocket) At the time of my death I was in pain. MKG Oh… MAJ ( Putting the pipe back into his pocket) Bau darad thayo… Haa- ji… bau darad. MKGSo we have at least two things in common— we speak Gujarati and we were in pain at the end of our days. MAJ I was speaking of physical pain. MKG My pain was not physical, except of course at the precise final moment. The first shot coming like a flash rather surprised me… The second one hurt, I must say, but the third one I did not really feel… But the pain I am talking about was in my heart… it was as if I had been thrown into a fire- pit— the vivisection
of India and the carnage… I died with that pain…
( The brooding silence returns) MAJ I had thought it would all happen in a civilised way… that … there would henceforth be no Muslims or Hindus in Pakistan, only Pakistanis… though they may worship any way they liked… I do not know how… why… half a million had to perish in the Punjab alone with Muslims and Hindus dying in devilishly equal proportion… and the Great Migration of death and fear… It was all so sickening… Anyway, what is the use of thinking about it now… MKG I saw the slaughter of Hindus in Noakhali… and of Muslims in Bihar… I asked them in Bihar, “I ask you how could you live to see an old woman being butchered in front of your eyes… What made you think of her as a Muslim ?… She was a mother… a grandmother…” MAJ A child in Sheikhupura pleaded, “Do not cut my throat… Do not cut my throat…” and they went ahead and slit his neck… I could have… could have… MKG Did you take the culprits to task or not? And what about your colleagues? MAJ … We lived in different worlds, they and I… ( clearing throat) Ruttie not being there didn’t help… MKG She was a troubled soul.
( Silence) MAJ And then … I was ill… MKG Did you know of the cancer when we last met? You did not mention it. MAJ You were not a doctor. MKG True…
( Silence) MAJ So much that consumed our time, our energy, our life, seems so utterly pointless now. What did we fight for and fight each other for…? To see prime ministers… former prime ministers… would- be prime ministers… assassinated… terrorists at our neck… rank corruption… misgovernance… And nuclear warheads… MKG I know! The rise of religious bigotry in both countries… the brutalisation of women in the name of orthodoxy... I sometimes wonder if we are returning to the Middle Ages… The levels of violence in our region are unbelievable… direct violence and disguised violence… exploitation… Money rules everything… it is killing all human compassion… We have to do something about all this. MAJ Remember, we are both dead to that world, Mr Gandhi, stone dead. We are just phantoms… phantoms of the imagination… in this Realm of Un- being… not real beings… MKG We cannot watch idly! MAJ Your methods of civil disobedience have become commonplace in India… a mockery… MKG Has your call of ‘ Islam in danger’ not returned in unexpected ways? But no recriminations, please… there is a new goal for us, Quaid- e- Azam. We have to ensure that innocents do not die again on our land whether as a result of riots or terror or war. We must get India and Pakistan and Bangladesh to outlaw war. MAJ What about Kashmir? MKG Let us meet in Srinagar. Let there be a summit at Dara Shukoh’s Pari Mahal, to inaugurate a new chapter… not replacing the lines of the Partition but redeeming them… Let Kashmir become the world’s capital for conserving nature… I did not know that word everyone uses now… ‘ ecology’… but our physical environment needs to be saved from man’s greed. The way things are going, mining, cutting trees, drawing water from deep inside the land, digging, digging, deeper and deeper… very soon there will be nothing left, our forests, our rivers… our air… our water… will stink… Kashmir can show a way out to the world… not just to us… And say with Jahangir from there… If ever there can be a Heaven on Earth… it has to be here… here… MAJ No mushiness, please. MKG And let us have a festival of music there… sufi music… Kabir’s songs… And Ramdhun… Ishvar Allah Tere Naam… Let India and Pakistan announce from a Srinagar summit a subcontinental plan for ecological wisdom… called the Srinagar Code… along with a de- nuclearisation programme… an exchange of prisoners… a treaty not to violate borders… let India hear loud and clear from Pakistan that it will have nothing to do with terrorists… Let India hear the truth about the Bombay attack… Bombay was special for you… Quaid- e- Azam… I will whisper into Delhi’s ears that the gracious home of yours in Bombay belongs to you… India should not be small- minded about it… If I had a house in Karachi… or Jawahar had one in Lahore… would India not want it? Quaid… your eyes are filmed over… MAJ Are yours… dry?
You got what you wanted– Pakistan. And I lost what I coveted– a free, just and undivided India. We saw India
So much that consumed our time, our en
ergy, our life, seems so utterly pointless now. What did we fight for and fight
each other for…?
GANDHI BIDS ADIEU TO JINNAH EN ROUTE TO THE VICEROY'S LODGE IN DELHI, IN 1939