January 30, 2006

Pappu meets a brother (reprise)

In sometimes different versions, this has been published and been in this space a few times before. But it's something I think about most years on this day; plus Uma writing here reminded me of it. So here it is.


Not long ago, Pappu Sinha, cook from Patna who wants to be a film star, dropped in on a man who died 58 years ago today. Here's Pappu's recording of their conversation.

Pappu: Pleased to meet you, saheb! May I call you Mohan-bhai?

Mohan-bhai: Certainly Pappu! And what brings you here today?

Pappu: Mohan-bhai, something's been bothering me. My school books described you as a brave man. But you know what? Lots of my friends say you were a meek coward. They say that non-violence stuff brought India to its knees. I find it hard to argue, Mohan-bhai. So why did they call you brave anyway?

Mohan-bhai: Well, Pappu, maybe courage isn't what it used to be! Those were different days. I did things because I thought they were right, and would have a certain effect. I did them because I had to do them. I didn't do them because they would show how brave I was. And I would have done them even if I had known your friends would call me a coward one day. Can you see that, my brother?

Pappu: Yes, but what's this about being meek?

Mohan-bhai: You see, Pappu, I chose non-violence as a political tool. What's more, against an enemy armed with every possible modern weapon, non-violence was the most powerful weapon available to me. I like to think it became more powerful than anything they had, more effective above all.

Possibly people have forgotten just how powerful, how effective it was. So they think ahimsa meant just taking the abuse the British threw at us. Well, that must be cowardice then!

But I know: the men and women who stood up to British lathis -- my friend Lala Lajpat Rai even died from them in Lahore -- were the bravest souls in the world. I don't need to broadcast their courage: it's there for all to see. So if today they're called meek, who am I to argue? Maybe the time for their kind of courage is over.

Pappu: A weapon! I never thought of that. But look Mohan-bhai, the British you fought? They committed atrocities. They killed us, put us in jail for flimsy reasons. They stole our wealth, divided us. All true?

Mohan-bhai: Right, my brother. Go on.

Pappu: Well, today too we can get jailed for no reason. Our leaders make us hate each other, they goad us to kill each other. They are corrupt. In your time, it was the British and you drove them out. Now, they are Indian. But what's the difference? How do we fight injustice when it's Indian? Where will we drive these people to?

Mohan-bhai: You have a point, Pappu. But what do you want from me, a plan to get rid of the oppressors?

Pappu: Oh yes, Mohan-bhai! Tell me!

Mohan-bhai: Sorry, I can't give you that, Pappu! I can only say, you have to find your political tool. Your weapon. It may not be non-violence -- I trust it won't be bombs! -- but you have to find it yourself. ahimsa worked for us because we chose it as a deliberate strategy. And we believed in it. You have to do the same.

Pappu: But that's hardly an answer!

Mohan-bhai: But it's all I have, and actually it is an answer. Look, what's one major issue in India that worries you?

Pappu: Well, there's this friction between Hindus and Muslims. OK, there was that trouble at Partition. But it does not affect me today, I know that, and I was born long after Partition anyway. Yet why do I hate Muslims? Why do I feel they are hostile towards me? Why do our leaders keep this hostility alive?

Mohan-bhai: I think you should start by looking at yourself, Pappu. Leaders can keep hatred going as long as you keep it in your mind. Of course they will fan it, that's what politicians do. But if you question the hatred, they will fail. Ask yourself why you hate Muslims, little brother. I think you are already doing that. There need not be love between you and your Muslim neighbour, but you can learn to live together.

Pappu: I think I understand, Mohan-bhai. But where's the political tool?

Mohan-bhai: But that's the political tool! When you ask questions of yourself, you will automatically ask them of your leaders. When you question the hatred, you automatically weaken them. That was the reason for ahimsa, that was the lesson from it. It undermined the British, and that destroyed their rule.

Pappu: Hmmm. You've got something there, Mohan-bhai. You mean to say that if I set a standard for myself, that becomes my weapon?

Mohan-bhai: Exactly, Pappu!

Pappu: Very good, Mohan-bhai! Well, I've got to go. See you when I'm next in the neighbourhood. But just what is this nice place called, anyway?

Mohan-bhai: Oh, we call it "The Looking Glass." Go well, my brother.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Responding to an earlier request about what constitutes the mainstream. My point was to Anand's earlier post on Golwalkar and his vision and how he managed to prove that the 2 nation theory was proposed by the Hindu Mahasabha.
I have never read Golwalkar or those passages. My point about what constitutes the mainstream are Hindus who respect other religions.
It is true that we had terrible incidents such as the shameful massacre of sikhs of 1984, the exodus of Kashmiri pandits, and Gujarat riots. There are even other riots, but if you look at the figures you find it is not that one community has been regularly persecuted. All of us Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs etc have borne the brunt of this madness - in short Indian citizens who the state has not protected.
An example here - Much as I believe that if the Muslim leadership had shown flexibility on the Babri Masjid issue, I simply cannot accept a vandal destruction of the masjid. This was a despicable act. Many devout Hindus who I spoke to after this incident thought likewise.
After independence and partiton we had 3 options before us.
a)Complete partition with an exchange of population which was what the Muslim league had wanted.Even Dr Ambedkar seemed to have felt this was the right formula.
b)Allow the Muslims to remain in India but ensure that they are fully integrated both culturally, politically and socially into our national fabric.- envisioned by Sardar Patel (courtesy Dr Rafiq Zakaria)even as they retain their distinct identities - ideal though not impossible.
c)Keep them distinct, prevent integration at every step, play votebank politics and even suggest that they are closer to Arabs and issues concerning Irans nuclear programs etc are closer to them than local issues - in brief the Khilafat blunder redux.
No prizes for guessing which path we have chosen. No mainstream hindu
should have any problem with (b). It is only a fringe that has insisted on (a).
The mess as a result of (c) is there for us to see.
Regards partition and Jinnahs role etc, I agree that Jinnah was secular to begin with and in MC Chagla's words was at one time even considered the architect of Hindu Muslim unity. But ultimately do we look at incidents by themselves or at a mans legacy as a whole. If you put a few incidents and a few speeches together, even LK Advani will appear secular. But for Suhail, he will always be associated as one of the persons who was responsible for the Babri Masjid destruction. I can empathise with Suhail on this matter. Can this not be applied to Jinnah. If Suhail feels this way about Advani, is it wrong for a Hindu to feel the same way against Jinnah - the person whose legacy is the bloodiest strife in the Indian sub-continent and a bitterness that is the root cause for any hatred.
I too agree it is time to move on, but whitewashing Jinnahs role is not the way. Please read what Dr Rafiq Zakaria has written about Advani's comment.
Look at the track record of the other partitioned self- Pakistan and Bangladesh, they seem to have fully translated into action all of such fringe rhetoric that Anand has mentioned with the only difference that it is not for a Hindu rashtra.
P.S : Is the Pope calling for all Hindus to be converted on his visit here any different from the fringe/non-mainstream?