Remembering the Mahatma

The Gandhi Statue at the Chennai Marina seashore looked somewhat different.

Every year, on October 2nd – Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti – finds this statue at the center of attention. The statue, inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959, is erected on a high pedestal, out of reach from terra-firma. Usually, on the Jayanti day, the authorities construct makeshift wooden steps leading to a large wooden platform that is around chest-height of the statue. There is usually a constant stream of people, walking up to pay their respects…The platform would be strewn with flowers that have fallen off the innumerable garlands that people bring along. School kids would line up for pictures. You could chance to see some old Gandhians as well, conspicuous by their Khadi dress and radiant, ascetic bearing. You may chance to hear someone walk up there and sing “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram”…Oh yes, there would be the usual posse of press and TV cameramen as well. Overall, it would make for a very nice ambience…

No steps or platform this year.   

Perhaps it was because of the bandh-that-was-not-a-bandh yesterday at Chennai. Or maybe not. Whatever it is, the statue had no scaffolding or steps. It was quite as usual, with some nice floral decorations around the pedestal and a large garland stretching from the neck to the feet of the statue.

Lots of flag bearing workers of different political parties had gathered in front of the statue. Lots of cameramen, of course. Imperial looking, flag-bearing, big-cars horned non-stop as they pulverized their right of way to the venue. Lots of cars and auto-rickshaws with posters of different political parties and politicians.

Someone garlanded the Sivaji Ganesan statue that has been erected just across in the middle of the road, about forty five degrees to the left of Gandhi statue.

The weather was perfect. It had rained a bit last night and the sky was cloudy and the breeze was nice and refreshing…

Here’s a picture from the venue…


As one stood around, mouthing a silent prayer to the Mahatma, the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite hymn – Vaishnava Jana to – rang in one’s mind.

Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je
PeeD paraayi jaaNe re
Par-dukhkhe upkaar kare toye
Man abhimaan na aaNe re

Here is a free translation of the hymn…

Him, one should call as a Vaishnava,
A true devotee of God,
Who feels the pain of others
Who helps those in distress
Who allows not pride to enter his mind.

Bowing humbly to all, speaking ill of none,
Pure his speech, deeds, thoughts,
Blessed, O Blessed, is his mother…

Looking at all with equal eye
Having renounced all sensual desires
Considers para-stree as his mother
His tongue may tire but will utter no lie
He touches not others’ wealth…

Delusion-moh-maya binds him not
His mind is rooted in firm renunciation
He is ever tasting the elixir of the name of Rama
His body and mind, are the whole lot of holy places…

He has no greed, no deceit,
Has renounced all lust and anger,
For whose sight, thirsts Narsi (the poet)
Whose virtue liberates one’s whole lineage!


As one leaves  the venue,  one remembers Delhi as well, and the last words of the Mahatma…

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