Friday, January 30, 2009

Spotlight on Gandhi

Okay, so today is one of the days when this statue is dusted, washed, garlanded and generally decked out for people to come by and pay their respects. Maybe it was not a good idea to declare the day of the Mahatma's assassination as Martyrs' Day; the entire focus remains on the leader alone and memories of all the other freedom fighters, especially the thousands of nameless and faceless patriots, are pushed to the margins. On this day, almost everyone vies to demonstrate their faith in the Mahatma, and at prime time, too. There are the fringe elements, who would use the attention to either denounce the Man, or to publicise their pet cause. The police have wisely declared that any kind of gathering around the statue for more than a few minutes is prohibited and on days like this there is a small posse sitting in the shade of the statue to make sure there is no mischief afoot.

The statue itself was one of the earliest on the Marina, if not the first. Created by the versatile Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, it depicts Gandhi marching to Dandi to begin the Salt Satyagraha. The wide Marina in the background provides a calm counterpoint to the purposeful stride of this statue; surely, one of the more common images of Gandhi, say, spinning his charka calmly would have blended with the serenity of the beach and might even have been lost in it. The stride to the north is again symbolic; he is aiming for Fort St George, the fount of British rule in India. Even in bronze, he seems to be charging to throw them off again.

Maybe it was a good idea to declare January 30 as Martyrs' Day, after all. Any day so chosen would have been some lesser light's birthday; and then that bunch of supporters would have played up his contributions. Gandhiji can afford to share the limelight on this day - if only people would allow him to!

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