The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Storm in a … metal bowl !!!

Over the past many days, I have tried to figure it out, but been unable to fathom what the fuss was all about.


The recent auction of some of Mahatma Gandhi’s belongings created a storm in India.


I am not sure the great man would have been pleased.


And, what was on auction?


A pair of battered brown sandals, a simple metal bowl on a plate, and a pair of his round wire-frame spectacles, and a watch, accompanied, needless to say, by letters of authenticity, and owned by a documentary film-maker James Otis, were to be auctioned in New York.


Millions of Indians were outraged. The Delhi High Court issued an injunction to stop the sale, the Indian Government passed news of the injunction to Antiquorum Auctioneers in Manhattan, which, in turn, decided to ignore the injunction and go ahead.


From an initial reserve price of US$ 20,000 – 30,000, the items were finally bought by Vijay Mallya for 1.8 million dollars!!!


Indians celebrated, politicians crowed about how a part of India’s heritage was coming back home, and Gandhiji’s grandson, Tushar Gandhi. who called the auction a “grave insult” declared his “relief that it’s been secured for India and delight that it will come back to India and be available for generations of Indians to see.”




Mahatma Gandhi, it is believed, gave the bowl and watch went to his favourite great niece, the sandals to a British army officer in return for photographs taken in Aden before the Indian independence talks, and the spectacles to an Indian army officer who asked about his inspiration (the great man reportedly said that the spectacles “the eyes” which gave him the vision to free India”).


I have the greatest respect for the man who said “My life is my message”, a man who eschewed violence and drove India on to the road to independence from the yoke of British rule though non-violent means.


And, I doubt if the Mahatma would have approved of all the fuss that has been created about a few of his meager possessions.


If these objects were so important and constitute a part of the country’s heritage, why was no effort made all these years to buy them back and bring them to India? Why did the country suddenly wake up only when the objects were to go under the auctioneer’s hammer?


Mahatma Gandhi’s message was that of of upliftment of the poor, creation of religious tolerance, economic development of villages, elimination of the caste system etc.


Politicians who climbed on-board the heritage bandwagon have chosen to conveniently forget the Mahatma’s message, one that is never put into practice. And, in an election year, whipping up nationalistic sentiment is a convenient way of garnering votes.


There are museums, and ashrams dedicated to promoting the Mahatma’s message, and many of these institutions have some of his possessions.


Did we need any more of his spectacles, etc? Could the 1.8 million dollars have been better used to provide, say, clean drinking water or good schools to some poor villages in the country?


But, those worthies at the forefront do not seem to think so. They are opportunists, and never pass up a chance to drum up hysteria whenever it suits them.


The great man would have shaken his head in frustration …. and, perhaps, disbelief!!!!


March 8, 2009 - Posted by | About this and that | , , ,

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