4 October 2009

Re-thinking Gandhi Jayanti

A non-Indian friend L asked me what we did on Gandhi Jayanti. Beyond singing along to raghupati raghav that would stream on the radio, I could think of nothing else that we as a country or as citizens do. We were discussing this over lunch and one of my colleagues recalled that in her village they would celebrate the entire week by working on projects - civic activities like cleaning the neighbourhood were undertaken and communal meals were cooked at school (this is pre mid-day) with ingredients supplied by the parents. I remember doing squat in school. Sure, we enjoyed the holiday and used the extra time to create mischief at home but in memory of the father of the nation we remembered nothing. Isn't it ironic?

This was enforced further by this lovely article by Madhu Kishwar in India Together.
She bluntly states what L, with her simple question, brought home: we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti in the worst possible way. We indulge in sloth, watch movies in Malls and let urban wonders sweep us away in activities that neither add value to our soul or enrich the lives of others. Surely, there must be a better way to remember Bapu? Ms Kishwar suggests that Govt officials should use this day to clean their offices and dust their files. She herself keeps her office open, in defiance of the enforced holiday; a rule she thinks would be something Gandhiji himself would have satyagraha-ed over.

The government seems to have celebrated by changing the name of NREGA to MGREGA. I wonder how much stationery we, the tax payer, are going to foot in this foolhardiness. I can almost see how this must have happened: a few old political strategists sitting around on white bedsheets, flaunting their Gandhi caps and rotund bellies, scratching theirs heads wondering what to do to commemorate his birthday. Getting the NREGA to work was obviously too long term and a publicity poor plan so instead a nice headline catching attempt to pay their respects to Gandhiji surfaced. The hypocrisy is nauseating.

And me: how did I celebrate? Not to well, I think. I woke up late, fixed my bicycle so I could run my errands faster than on foot and finished a long overdue Asha site visit report. Lame, I admit; but to be honest, I'm not sure how I could have celebrated better? Next year, if nothing else, I will follow Ms Kishwar's example and at least get some office work done!

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