Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blaspheming Mortal Gods


Indians are a nation who seems to be lusting, esurient, desperate and yearning for Gods and demi gods. We make Gods out of stone, marble, drift wood and even mortals- lucky are the ones amongst us upon whom we thrust that status often to their glee. These idiosyncrasies are a lesser matter when compared to the outrage we express over iconoclasm and even honest analysis and discussion about the human Gods we made. Their infractions are seldom examined or condemned.

Recent times have seen a liberal dose of critical analysis of Gandhi -bashing as some call it -   Mahatma ‘bashing’ (sic) criticism. We thrust upon him a status akin to God’s, the most  revered, the infallible mortal, the holy man, Mahatma, the spartan saint, who lived in our midst. The eulogy in the words of Albert Einstein, and which strikes reverberantly, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”. Correspondingly there has been fierce defence of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi- vociferous indignation of any criticism of Gandhi, his utterances, philosophy,or his life.

Why Gandhi alone, we have other mortal Gods to whom we prostrate, let us be hugged and kissed, watch them agape and resent bitterly and sometimes hysterically when they are criticised. We automatically are tuned to become agitated, flustered and resent when our beliefs, faith and fantasies are questioned, are seemed to be threatened by scholarly dissection and argument. We fret and accuse of betrayal, irreverence and rudeness when the comparative cocoon that we built is exposed or threatened.

We made a living God of Sachin Tendulkar the cricketer. When an international Tennis player innocently admitted that she is not aware who this Tendulkar is, cudgels where raised in India and virtual stones were pelted at the tennis player for her audacious admission. Remember cricket is played by a miniscule number of countries when compared to the vast appeal of Tennis. We let Tendulkar hijack a whole nation and cricket insisting and wrenching what he wanted- a farewell series a swan song. And like Nehru’s famous “tryst with destiny” speech, we broadcast live Tendulkar’s 45 minutes grandiloquence from the stadium. We even recast the stands at the stadium to accommodate his mother so she could watch him play from a comfortable vantage point. We awarded him the responsibility as the Member of Parliament and he rubbished it with callousness.  We seem to believe that other countries and people are not blessed with legends.

We cast away old and disenabled parents in the streets of farway strange towns and in the insensitive cruelty of  temple towns and run after fat over fed cow like women and men whom we elevated to pedestals and anointed them as living Gods. We run to them hallucinated and gets intoxicated when they hug us supposedly washing away our sins and agonies. We resist any probity in their lives and in the conduct of the vast empire they deftly built and sustain out of our imbecility and blindness.

Arundhati Roy’s recent comments on Gandhi in a lecture led to hoarsely resentment and accusations of blasphemy. Poet and respected social & environmental activist Sugatha Kumari, a Gandhi fan herself shot off a center page article in a daily rebutting Arundhati’s irreverence of the Mahatma and demanding, even pleading kindness, respect and an iota of reverence are shown to Gandhi; his life be seen as a beacon of unflinching struggle in the path of truth and nobility.

Why do we make Gandhi a saint and God? Why is it blasphemous if we dissect his life, analyzing it, page by page, word by word, deed by deed? Why do not we accept and understand that he was a mortal like any and was infallible? Why do not we understand that he may have erred, had weird beliefs and even seedy behavior, which he claimed was his way of understanding his limitations and cleansing his sinful thoughts  etc.
Arundathi based the lecture on the lengthy forward she wrote for the book of unpublished historical speech of Baba Saheb Ambaedkar. The quotes, anecdotes and incidences where borrowed from archives and facts. 

Gandhi’s reluctance and stubborn fire-walling of the abolition of caste in Hinduism, his opposition to the agitation of the untouchables of Mumbai- the Mahad satyagraha when untouchables resisted the ban that was slapped on them from sharing waters of the public well; Gandhi’s parsimonious attitude to the Vaikon sataygraha when untouchables objected to the cleansed area around the Vaikom temple where they were banned; Gandhi’s opposition to the labour strike against the Mill owners in Mumbai when he ranked their satygraha as “duragraha’ – greed- devilish force,(possibly because the Mill owners were Gandhi’s staunch financiers). Gandhi’s attitude towards the blacks in Africa is bailed out by Sugatha Kumari as an aberration She uses his comparative young age as an excuse for his mindset towards ethnic blacks and the socially marginalized.She often in the article states that Gandhi's life as the title of his autobiography was "An Experiment with Truth".

Like what  most of us have been fed about Gandhi, he was not evicted off the train at Pietermaritzburg when he asserted the non-whites right to travel  I class. Gandhi was not endorsing the right of the blacks, but for equal status of  passenger Indians – the elite and middle class Indians like he. Gandhi’s attitude towards caste is perplexing. While he maintained that caste and discrimination was unjust and untouchability was evil he steadfastly endorsed the division of labor based on caste. He refused to admit that caste was the evil cloak of Hinduism.Imagine division of labour in today's world based on caste in which one is born- something not of individual volition!

Gandhi was a wile politician. He was perhaps the first Indian politician to ostentatiously play the communal card with his egregious “Khilafat Movement”. Goodness, Mother of God what had Indian Muslims got to do with the abolition of the Caliphate and the end of the Ottoman Empire in faraway Turkey?
His blatant blackmail with the weapon of satayagraha proclaiming fast unto death until the award of separate electorates for untouchables was withdrawn was perhaps the most cruel and unkind slap on the very same people he ceremoniously elevated as “Harijans”, ironically meaning “children of God”! He used satygraha s a potent black mail to even foster his autocratic views.

Why was SugathaKumari mute in her article about Gandhi’s infamous experiments with celibacy when he slept naked with his two young nieces? Because he was Gandhi and had the halo Indians gave around his being, he escaped criminal censure and was not accused of being willy. Yes that may have been a great experiment on self-control for him and his faithful. But do we care to ask what the poor, helpless young girls had to go through- their state of mind?


Is it not time we chastened and saw icons and great men as mortals and as people who would err, stumble and yet walk through like many? Are we not trivialising their lives when we give them a doughnut – halo and elevate them as Gods? What is blasphemous if we critically dissect their life- be it Gandhi, Christ or Mohamed? 

16 comments:

Renu said...

I agree,I dont like to give them status of god, specially cricketers..they are playing for money,if they are good in cricket, somebody else good in bussiness should also be revered..Even Amitabh bacchan Shahrukh are iconised, and they are laughing to their bank...

I admire only those people who are good in character,live with morals and benefit the society.

Rama Ananth said...

I doubt Gandhi would have had the same influence in these modern times, which he had during that era.
It was a time when people were willing to clutch on to anything or anybody who could show them the way to freedom from the British.
Now we question each and everything, and we should, no celebrity can get away, like in those days when they were treated like God.
Actually that mindset is still there among our uncultured politicians and celebrities, they think it is their birth right to be expected to be treated in some special way.
Catch a modern day Gandhi experimenting to sleep naked, he would have been thrown into a mental asylum.
Media would have ripped him apart with questions, till all of us believed that he had to be hanged until death.
There is no place for people who think that they are species apart.
And I can't stand Sachin or any of these cricketers, who have no ethics, no commitment, other than to make money all the time.
I hate people who put them on a pedestal.

BK Chowla, said...

We have always believed in Hero worship.
I agree with all that you say and that is what is worrying me.
May be,in next few years congress will convince us the Sonia Gandhi is the next incarnation of GOD

Tracy Terry said...

Hmm, thoughtful stuff. At least I suppose it could be argued that at the very least cricketers (good ones that is)do have a talent. I worry more about our culture who worship those 'celebs' who have done little other than become well known for baring their naked breasts in newspapers, who having had sex with multiple who are hero worshipped themselves then go on to sell their stories to the press.

Meera Sundararajan said...

While I agree with you about most of the points regarding Gandhi and our own tendency to hero worship public figures, I would like to point out a small fact - the Khilafat movement at that time was a burning issue as the Muslims considered the Caliph of Turkey their religious leader. In fact until Gandhi came into the scene the Swadeshi movement was very much dominated by the Hindus. He played a strategic role in bringing Muslims into into the national movement. With regard to the rest of the "heros" we forget they are also human and should be treated like that.

Happy Kitten said...

Yes..even Gandhiji was only human and faulty like all humans and is not above criticism. But since he was around at a time when India needed him,I do not mind him being called the Father of the nation.

But then, at this age when nothing can be hidden, it will be a wonder if anyone is called a hero!


Happy Kitten said...

It must be a coincidence or it must be to show me that there are heroes in this world that I chanced to read about one after I read you. It is just that some of us miss them.

http://chairbornewarrior.wordpress.com/2007/12/26/the-tsunami-warriors-deserve-our-salute/

Anil is no more I read..but he himself brought to light many heroes.

Lady Lilith said...

Interesting perspective. Very informative.

Usha Menon said...

Such a debate on the character of Gandhi ji has been observed many times in the media and also among individuals. While it is too much to term him as an incarnation of God,we must agree that he was a great personality of those times.

Locomente said...

I came to know about some facts about Gandhiji very recently and it shocked me. I agree that he was a good leader and thats all. Not Godman or God sent.

Similarly, Sachin exelled in his profession. That doesnt mean he is beyond the world.

Anilkumar Kurup said...

@ Renu
“I admire only those people who are good in character, live with morals and benefit the society.”
Isn’t that a rare quality, perhaps never found in vestal form?

@ Rama Ananth
Do you think times have changed vis a vis elevating people on to pedestals? Our mindset is the same. Gandhi was a wile politician and one with a difference, preferring to lead a Spartan life, his cause sufficiently aided by largesse from big business houses and wealthy men. To claim that he was infallible and above scrutiny is rubbish and naïve.
@BK Chowla
Though you may have mentioned about Sonia Gandhi’s elevation in lighter vein, the acute possibility cannot be ruled out when you consider that she and her nit-wit son are the Congress’s mascots., the party their private club.
The culture of anointing as gods is rather a dangerous and at the same time an infantile mindest.Blogger Tracy Terry said...
@ Tracy Terry,
Cricketers- Since you mentioned that I must say – “Lara, Ponting, Richards, Sobers,Kallis, and the peerless Bradman were all superstars and icons in their own self. None of them demanded and thought it was their birth right to extract the cheap status that Tendulkar has acquired. They all faded into history with grace and are still remembered. Whereas look at Tendulkar and the way Indians knelt down and crawled to arrange a farewell series for him against a weak West indies team. Then his audacious indifference as the nominated member of parliament…!
Idolising is too acute in India.

@ Meera Sundararajan
Gandhi used Khilafat a matter that was not of great interest to Indian Muslims as a tool to gain leverage. He would not want a separate electorate for Dalits nor did he advocate abolition of caste, both he saw as insignificant when compared to a foreign idea Khilafat. And also remember that the abolition of the Caliphate paved way for the reformation in Turkey. Something which is still not found among many Muslim communities in India,

@Happy Kitten ..
I do not trivialize Gandhi’s unifying power during the freedom movement, or his personality that towered over the Brits. I am against this pontification of Gandhi and objecting to all forms of criticism of him.
Yes I read your link. True unsung heroes!

@ Lady Lilith
Thanks for the comment.
@Usha Menon
I’m not saying he was not a great personality. But stop this glorification as a sort of God. Accept his flaws , his errors.
@Locomente
Yes you are right, he was a good mass leader and man with a cause. We must leave it there and not put him inside the rainbow. He was flawed as any of us.

Insignia said...

We are a bunch of insecure folks. We need to make someone idol and God and what not and elevate to a higher position and show "we too have a great person in our clan"

Its crap. Do you remember the ruckus created when Maria Sharapova asked who was Sachin? All said, we will not learn. There were other peers with Gandhi without which we wouldn't have got freedom. It wasn't Gandhi alone. Same with Sachin. Same with anyone else. Yet we idolise one person and elevate the status. Crap! crap! crap!

Anilkumar Kurup said...

@ Insignia,

Yes B, we go overboard.
I would agree that Gandhi was the unifying force that brought disparate people to line up against foreign rule. While accepting and lauding his contribution we ignore the many others who were stalwarts as he and most of all make him a God and proscribe all forms of criticism and questions about him, his life and his words and deeds. That is ridiculous and nonsense.

Anilkumar Kurup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rudraprayaga said...


Indians are a lot who in their blood carry hero worship,slavery and fascination for foreign goods.Even now the coteries around Sonia's family consider them to be some super humans.The country has been confiscated to them.

Gandhiji,a man of flesh and bones owned a brain that could contain certain good qualities at least more than the common man.Though he was never above flaws and faults,the measure of negatives was less than that of positives.

When Nehru was selfish in capturing and retaining power for himself and his successors, Gandhiji to a certain extend kept himself aloof from power.

Arundhtati can analyse or criticize anybody,but I think she is wrong, when she rated Ayyankaali above all.No doubt it is commendable that Ayyankaali was a personality that worked for the down-trodden and uplifted them too.

Anyway you have unleashed a lot of information here with an Anil-touch.Nice.

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