October 2, 2010

today is Gandhi's and Shashtri's birthday: so what?

Today, the 2nd October, happens to be the birthday of two of the most selfless, modest and gentlemanly political figures of modern India. As a journalist, I have been taught not to use adjectives, but this is what I feel about them with whatever little knowledge of India's political history and their personal lives that I have.

Today's papers are full of advertisements on Gandhiji, and a very few on Shashtriji too. Gandhiji will keep appearing in souvenirs, diaries etc etc for some months as the state sponsored advertisements are doled out to them by agencies like DAVP and State Information Directorates. Gandhiji is totally irrelevant to politicians and bureaucrats and yet he is relevant. Departments dealing with information, social justice, poverty etc have one more occasion to issue advertisements and favour papers. Those government functionaries who are not in the chain that benefits from advertisements too have no option; they just have to issue it as an annual ritual. What goes with the advt is nobody's business: neither the composer, nor the reader. Shashtriji is not a favoured 2nd October icon as he neither has 'Gandhi' attached to his name nor does he belong to the Nehru clan but some lip service is done to him too.

President, VP and PM have to 'lead the nation' [in Doordarshan's lingo] in paying homage to Gandhiji and Shashtriji. Sonia, Rahul, Advani et al have also to visit Raj Ghat and Vijay Ghat 'to pay homage to the great leaders' whatever that means.

The nation truly follows President etc in paying homage. Nobody is bothered about them and about their philosophies, except a bunch of hardcore Gandhians. Some oldies might still respect them [like I do] as we had been taught about their virtues and told that we should try to emulate them. Now no teacher, school book or student cares for them.

I am not advocating that the birthdays of these great souls should be celebrated in a big way or that people should follow them. I don't have anger or anguish that people are fast forgetting them. I am only trying to prove a point: they were good human beings, and such humans become irrelevant sooner than others. If some of them look relevant, it is only because their image can be milked for personal benefit.

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