Ma­hatma Gandhi and Quaid- e- Azam en­gage in an ex­tended imag­i­nary con­ver­sa­tion and re­flect on life af­ter Par­ti­tion for In­dia and Pak­istan

India Today - - SIGNATURE - Gopalkr­ishna Gandhi The au­thor is a grand­son of Ma­hatma Gandhi and a for­mer gover­nor of West Ben­gal

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?

Pho­to­graphs by GETTY IM­AGES; Photo imag­ing by SAU­RABH SINGH / www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

You got what you wanted– Pak­istan. And I lost what I cov­eted– a free, just and un­di­vided In­dia. We saw In­dia di­vided… 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...



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