The passage of M.K. Gandhi’s spectacles from and to India has a telling irony on either end. The Mahatma gave the pair to a prince of Junagadh in search of inspiration who subsequently chose to flee to Pakistan. James Otis, the man who sold them in a New York auction last week, was ready to return the ‘national treasure’ if the Indian government spent more on the poor, a price the Indian government found too steep. It needed another nabob, this time the King of Good Times, to get them back. Pity, vision does not travel well with Bapu’s eyeglasses.
Giving away the glasses, Gandhi is understood to have said they were the ‘eyes’ that had given him the vision to free India. Offering them back to the government, Mr Otis asked India to ‘substantially’ raise the funding for poverty eradication over the next decade. Well, the World Bank can tell us that, so can the UN. But Bapu’s message from a
Mr James Otis? A man who shared a name with someone who fought the American War of Independence against Britain with the slogan, “No taxation without representation?”
India has a fine tradition of exporting its genius. And an equally fine tradition of rejecting the very same ideas when they travel back home. (For evidence, look no further than Buddhism.) In our view, let’s return the glasses to Mr Otis.