World biz and more as seen from India

Monday, October 10, 2005

Gandhi and his sense of Humor

When Gandhi was asked by an Englishman, “Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western Civilization?” Gandhi replied, “Yeah, that would be a good idea.” The dreaded half naked fakir to the British, a barrister by profession to the world and a lanky bundle of hope to a million Indians knew a thing or two about humor, timing and his audience. His beatific toothless smile has been the most popular of Gandhi’s portraits. Gandhi was known to have a calm disposition. He seemed unruffled in the most impossible of situations which would have his detractors, mostly the Britishers (at least, initially) in doubt about their ability to poke fun at him.

Gandhi was a brand. He was the man with Harry Potter like glasses, a white loin cloth, and a bamboo stick longer than Gandhi himself. He could easily qualify as a mascot for Johnny Walker’s ‘Keep Walking’ ad campaign, says one of my friends. Robin Williams in one of his Stand-up comedy shows admired Gandhi for not introducing a range of clothing ‘Gandhi – either you are simply not eating or asking the British to!@#$ off’; ‘Gandhi – comes in size 1 and below!’

Gandhi was a freedom fighter and had an ideology similar to that of Christ, ‘Lord, forgive them, coz' they know not what they do.’ If I were to hear this as a child, I would have exclaimed, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But you realize as you grow up, Christ was serious. And that Gandhi was not always kidding.

Gandhi, according to me, disciplined himself to think out of the box. If he were to be successful in the elusive goal of getting the British to talk to the country to settle issues across the table, he had to be different. And he bloody well was. He was just dangerous enough to be trusted by his enemies. He stood his ground, however marshy it was, yet he never resisted arrest. He liked to walk and one of his marathon walks shook the Empire where the sun never set.

I am not a Gandhi fan and neither do I despise Gandhi. But, my mind will remember him. Gandhi is ubiquitous. Editorials like to talk about him. He is used as a metaphor in describing anything remotely associated with non violence on one hand and mindless philanthropy on the other. I will read about him in a newspaper or magazine hours from now and yet be intrigued by the man the nth time I read about his exploits. He is unique like every one, yet different in an outrageous way.