As the sun was rising on the horizon this day in 1948, little did we know that the setting sun would elope with the greatest Son of India. As the clock struck 5.17 in the evening, the global icon of non-violence was also struck down by gun-triggered violence in Delhi. "The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere," cried Jawaharlal Nehru. Mahatma Gandhi was no more.
I can vividly recall how enthused I had felt when I was awarded some books on the Mahatma, including his autobiography, on having topped Panjab University. His bold confessions unwrapped in 'My Experiments with Truth' laid bare why he was called an embodiment of truth. I kept wondering whether there ever existed a man who was transparent to the skin.
That precisely was my first tryst with Bapu who had made a niche for himself in my heart. His charisma led me to the Sabarmati ashram where Mohandas Karamchand had graduated into becoming the Mahatma. It was from here that the epoch-making Dandi March was launched. As I entered the ashram, my Wordsworthian 'inward ears' were filled with 'Ramdhun'. The chirping of sparrows added to the serene beauty of the environs. The melody of waves emanating from the Sabarmati river and spilling into the ashram, where the 'deity of peace' resided for 12 years, drenched my spirit. It was perhaps the message these waves taught "to rise again after they fall" that kept Mohandas Karamchand inspired to never succumb before 'puran-swaraj' was achieved.
Though it is almost 65 years since the lighthouse of peace tripped, the Gandhian ethos still continues to ignite posterity. It was his sheer genius that cloned Vinoba Bhave, Abdul Gafoor Khan, Anna Hazare and Nelson Mandela, to name a few, and wrapped them with his characteristic DNA.
During my recent visit to South Africa, my daughter insisted on accompanying me to let her inhale the flavour of the land that nourished Gandhi and Mandela, both of whom subsequently rose to become the fathers of their respective nations.
Unsure of meeting 'Mandela the President' in his first home in Johannesburg, we decided to sail through the South Atlantic Ocean to meet 'Mandela the Prisoner' on Robben Island, often described as his second home. We could distinctly spot his footprints on the sands of time, the trailing of which led us to the solitary cell of the jail where the African Gandhi was lodged for 18 long years. It was this place which ultimately emerged as the epicentre of the freedom struggle for South Africa.
With the departure of Gandhi and members of his creed, the world has certainly become poorer to inherit. However, there are still some proactive persons left who keep splashing 'Gandhigiri' by resorting to various forms of protest such as hunger strike, satyagraha, candle march etc. for a public cause. The Mahatma continues to inspire each one of us to 'wipe every tear from every eye'. Gandhi is dead, long live 'Gandhigiri'!