Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star...
We will never tire of speaking of people who are dead and gone, long ago. That's fine, but the truth is we don't spare the likes of men like Gandhi, Tagore, Nehru and even Ramakrishna. This is a peculiar and sorry Indian trait of damming people who have risen to heights, by their contribution, be it nationalism, patriotism, philosophy, literature and religion.
It all started in the eighties with T.K.Mahadevan's explosive biography on Gandhi. Then, one former personal secretary's irreverent gossip on Nehru. Tagore wasn't spared. A noted writer in the nineties made disparaging remarks on Tagore's creative writing, was lambasted for it, then dragged people like Satyajit Ray into the vitriol, faced protests (from Bengalis of course!) and then finally said how much he loved Calcutta, and wrote a public apology in The Telegraph, a Calcutta based newspaper.
Subhas Chandra Bose suddenly became a fascist or a rightist, Jiddu Krishnamurthi's personal life was probed into, Ramakrishna from a saint became a little 'sinner' and of course Mother Teresa the gross proselytizer.
Indian habits die hard. But mind you the criticism takes place in the most unfriendly and back biting manner after the people have left the world, and are defenseless to clarify their positions. Of course even if they were living, perhaps they would not have done so.
The film Gandhi was openly criticized by some intellectuals including a former Finance Minister of West Bengal. Tales of Nehru's flirtatious ways came into the vapid lives of people wanting to rake up sensationalism. Lady Mountbatten was brought into the not so rosy picture, their 'adolescent' love letters to use Mathias' expressions, the private secretary who after having left Nehru wanted to weave stories.
What better can such people do? They are bored of lassitude and inertia. They wanted to do something. So kick up the dust, and find out what is lying under the thick carpet. But when William Radice translated the poetry of Tagore, with finesse, there was silence all around. After all, a British, and that too a Professor of Bengali, in London did it. But Tagore's personal life was not spared, how much difference he had with Gandhi and vice versa were seemingly stressed upon.
Why am I saying all this? Because even now on Gandhi's birthday, articles like why he was called the Father of The Nation, his indignities heaped on Ambedkar are published, to prove the point that India's great men and women are actually pygmy sized. And of course magazines will continue to vote for the fifty greatest Indians, and among these names you will find some Bollywood stars! And for once, let us forget cartoons. They have done enough damage to our already troubled psyches!
Twinkle twinkle little star...
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Ananya S Guha
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