Friday, September 08, 2006

Apun ka father, aur nation ka father

The most amazing thing about the Munnabhai series of movies is that after you have ROFLed your heart out (the ROFLing actually lasts a few days after you have watched it as the scenes run over and over in your head) you start thinking of the serious stuff. In the first movie, I started to think about doctors and how they treat people. I'm sure many doctors watched it and thought about whether they considered their patients mere 'sick bodies' or as people who needed love and care. I'm sure there is no one who did not have an increase in respect level for cleaners after watching the movie. Jaadu ki jhappi showed us the power of a hug when you need it most.

The second Munnabhai movie dealt with Gandhian principles, albeit in a non-preachy way. And at the end of all the ROFLing I did after watching the movie, the serious scenes started coming back to me. Gandhiji's words come to mind, "Remove my statues from public places, take off my pictures from your walls, burn the books that talk about me. If you wanna preserve me, preserve me in your heart."

It is true, isn't it? Though there are two schools of thoughts on Gandhian principles, even supporters seem to have made Gandhiji a mere posterboy and forgotten all about what he stood for.

The last time I myself used Gandhian principles was to win a school debate.

In one of the seven schools I studied in, there was one that had a debating competition on Gandhi Jayanti every year. And the topic too was the same every year - Are Gandhian principles relevant and applicable in modern times?

My teachers picked two students to represent our school in the competition. A draw of lots was done to decide who would argue for and who against. I ended up with the 'for' chit of paper.

Oh man. I was screwed.

So I rushed home breathless. To the man who had the solution to every problem of my life.


Me - "Dad, I'm taking part in the inter-school debating competition, and the topic is "Are Gandhian principles relevant and applicable in modern times?"

Dad - Hmmm... and?

Me - I need help. There was a draw of lots and I am supposed to defend the topic. And I don't know what to say.

Dad - Why not??

Me - Because I don't quite believe in it?

Dad - So you don't actually believe in Gandhian principles but you're supposed to talk about them in a positive light?

Me - Exactly.

Dad - So tell me, why don't you believe in Gandhian principles?

Me - Hmmm... I guess it's kinda uncool to be Gandhian these days. In fact, when someone is too goody-goody, we call him Gandhiji. It's not a compliment. I mean, now we gotta be more assertive and all that. If someone slaps you, you can't really offer the other cheek. You gotta kick his ass.

Dad - Hmmm... this is a real problem. How on earth are you going to prepare for the debate then?

Me - I dunno! That's why I need your help.

So Dad helped me come up with some very good points on what to say and how to counter my opponent's points.

Soon it was 2nd October - the day of the debate. My opponent - this guy called Abhi from the local boys' school -
went on stage first. He used loads of jokes in his arguments to make fun of Gandhian principles. He paced the stage floor and did some monkey-like antics too. Even I had to admit he was very very entertaining. The crowd loved him.

He got off the stage amidst insane applause, and I went on stage, quite nervous. Even my friends, who were still laughing at his anti-Gandhi jokes, were giving me the "Sayesha, you have no chance in hell!" look. Of course, the dhakkans all nursed secret crushes on him. :/

And then I started my speech. I said everything that Dad had asked me to say.

My favourite part was this:

"Fire was meant to cook food, not burn houses. A knife was meant to cut vegetables, not throats. It all depends on how we use them. If fire is being used to burn houses and knives to cut throats, do we abolish fire and knife saying they are not relevant and applicable in today's world?"

The applause was so thunderous that I actually had to pause for it to subside. I used the time to mentally thank Dad and wondered when I would grow up and make wise statements like he did.

By then, I was more confident and every now and then I confidently deviated from my script to rebutt his points. I even used words dripping with sarcasm, like "Mere kaabil dost ne abhi abhi kaha..." and all. Fultu filmi.

Finally I ended with Dad's exact words - "Though their interpretations may change, Gandhian principles will always be relevant and applicable in any age. It all depends on how one uses them."

I won the debate. They said it was no contest. The richest man in town - who was the chief guest - handed me my trophy. As my principal and teachers beamed proudly, Abhi came up to congratulate me.

This is how our conversation went.

Abhi's speech bubble - Great job, Sayesha. *fake smile*
Sayesha's speech bubble - You too, Abhi. *faker smile*
Abhi's thought bubble - Kill you next year then.
Sayesha's thought bubble - Not before I kill you first.

So I went home to give the good news to Dad.

"Dad, I killed him. I destroyed him! Maar dala!" I bellowed.

"Interesting choice of words... from someone who just won a pro-Gandhi debate." Dad smiled.

And that was that. I forgot the whole thing and went on with my life. But for some reason, I preserved the script that Dad had helped me with.

The next year, I found out the reason.

What was unbelievable was that next year, the whole thing replayed itself. I could not believe it and neither could he. The topic was the same of course. He was arguing against the topic, and I, for it. Because I had saved my super-script, and I did not need Dad's help this time. Abhi used the same arguments and so did I. It was a mockery, but both of us played along.

And I won again.

The customary conversation happened again too.

Sayesha's speech bubble - Great job, Abhi. *fake smile*
Abhi's speech bubble - You too, Sayesha. *faker smile*
Sayesha's thought bubble - Kill you next year then.
Abhi's thought bubble - Uhh... May you leave this city forever.

We stared at each other with utter hatred, and parted ways.

If this was a Bollywood movie, we'd fall in love and live happily ever after. But it wasn't. It was life, and in life, some evil wishes come true.

I left the city.

In fact, I left the country.

And I left Abhi behind to win all the Gandhi debates in subsequent years.

For two years, I had spoken words that were not mine, but Dad's. But the most amazing realisation I had had was that as I said those words, I really wanted to believe in them. I wanted to think about them, I wanted to analyse them, I wanted to stop dismissing them just because everyone around me said they were 'uncool'. I admired Dad for being able to make and pull off such statements. I admired him for having the guts to believe in them, even though they were not considered 'cool' anymore.

But that was the last encounter I had with Gandhiji in my life. Perhaps I'd forgotten all about him.

But after watching Munnabhai, somehow this incident came back. I have started to think again. Not the whole debate on whether it was Gandhiji who got us freedom from the British or not (I agree that is highly debatable) but his way of thinking, some of which (not all) sound really appealing to me. One of the things Gandhi said in the movie has stayed in my head "To slap someone is very easy. But to ask for forgiveness needs courage." Apun ke dimaag mein bhi chemical locha ho rela hai. Even though there's a lot of thinking I need to do before I really figure out what I believe in, but it's a start.

What Gandhiji said in the last frame of the movie echoed exactly what Dad had written as the final statement of my debate.

"Though their interpretations may change, Gandhian principles will always be relevant and applicable in any age. It all depends on how one uses them."


IndianArchie said...



IndianArchie said...

Hmmm...This was a well written article. So do you now believe in Gandhigiri now?


dharmu said...

*bronze* scream

dharmu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
virdi said...


aye mamu tu bhi edhi hai... seedha jaa ke bolne ka... boss gandhi aapun ka aur sab log ka baap hai... uska principle ekdum fultu follow karne ka... basss kaam khalaas... aur sala lecture khalaas...

kya sahi bola na aapun???

aacha do people call the restaurant staff like this in Singapore>>> "Tchhhhhh Tchhhhhh Tchhhhhh"

kya mamu ekdum mast pikchar dekha apun ne... zindagi jeene ka maza aa gaya...


Princesse said...

Ek dum mast post likhdaala aapne bhai.. apun second time yeh pikchar dekhne ku gayaa.. akhaa theatre abhi bhi full tha haala ke itna time se chalreyla hai idhar.. leykin phir bhi, baar baar yeh vinamrata se jeene ka mei-sage aur nahin jiye toh kaise apun ki dhurgati nikal paddeygi, ye-ich sochne ku aayaa :)

Ek dum khush hokar, halka phulka hokar aaya apun pikchar se bhai, bole toh murli prasad ji jai ho.. aur sarkeshwar ka jawaab nahin... lekin mein full topic ke center par aajaata hai... gandhigiri zindabaad!

The Smiling Girl said...

Hmm... I also like those principles, but I do maintain that they are not exactly Gandhi's. He just followed what was written somewhere else and got the credit all to himself.. :)
Hain na ek dum intelligent aadmi woh? :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

and wondered when I would grow up and make wise statements like he did.

fight hai..

Hari said...

I am surprised a movie other than "Mein Gandhi ko nahi mara" (forgive me if my hindi is wrong!) has inspired you to write about Gandhian principles. I brought home this DVD with the hope that I would be able to understand the story with the help of the english subtitles that came, but as luck would have it the DVD din't have any subtitles. More worse was the fact that none of my "Hindi knowing" roomies were home that day. But still I watched the movie for sometime but after a point I couldnt follow what Anupam kher and Urmila were saying. (Till then I assumed things based on the situation that was being projected) and ended up switching off the PC.

Coming to the topic, I bet that following Gandhian principles are definetly on the decline. I am only trying to be optimistic by not saying that they are dead. He was a man who said that India would attain real freedom when a girl is able to walk alone in the night. Is this possible today?

A girl who dares so might end up being raped,robbed, get her throat slit and dumped behind the bushes.

"All popular things are not always right..
All right things are not always popular"

That explains why people dismiss certain principles as "uncool"

Pradyot said...

Hypocrisy - that is one word for Gandhi's principles. Under the name of "experiments with truth" he drank and had a merry time in London. Came back and preached.

On top of that we give him credit for getting India free? What a load of crap! Next time someone trespasses your house, go on hunger strike - the person will fell guilty and leave. Ya right!

Plus I blame him for partition. I am just glad that a fellow Indian shot him. It would have been too sad if he died a natural death. Or ironic if he died of liver cirrhosis.

Pradyot said...

Just a quick question - if he was so awesome and his principles were so good, why do his kids hate him?

Anonymous said...

I have a question:

Why do you Indians write english in Archie comic style? Wanna, gotta, shawna? Ok, I made that last one up.

But do you people not realize its not proper written english or is it supposed to be cool and hip trying to imitate writing the way us Americans talk? Please advise.

Venky said...

Hmmm sash is in a reflective mood

I read, I thought, I commented
on the lines of Veni, Vidi, Vici

Sayesha said...

// So do you now believe in Gandhigiri now?

Not yet, but I have been thinking about it a lot more... I think I need to get my hands on a few books and understand it all first :)

Kaiku delete kiya re?

Apun tere ko dil se ek baat bolta hai... jab apun woh picture dekh rela tha aur Munnabhai and Circuit ka woh senti wala scene aaya na, apun ko bilkul apun dono ki dosti yaad gayi re... fultu sentimental ho gaya apun bhi do din tak :'(

//aacha do people call the restaurant staff like this in Singapore>>> "Tchhhhhh Tchhhhhh Tchhhhhh"

Hahaa! I'm glad they don't. :)

Lagta hai tumhare dimaag mein apun ke dimaag ki tarah chemical locha ho rela hai :)

#Smiling Girl,
//He just followed what was written somewhere else and got the credit all to himself.. :)

Arre credit mein bhi kanjoosi karti hai tu? Apun log dher dher kitaab se principles ghotkar teen ghante ke exam mein apply nahin kar pata, is aadmi mein life mein apply kar dala. Thoda credit toh dena mangta na? :)

#Ipanema Girl,
Yeah... still gotta grow up :)

Yeah... I see your point... but movies like Munnabhai that cater to popular culture are sneaking in values and cleverly too, I think that's a good sign :)

//he drank and had a merry time in London. Came back and preached.

Now that's dismissive. So you would only idolise someone if he was flawless from the time he was born till he died? I think that's asking for too much :)

//On top of that we give him credit for getting India free?

A lot of factors went into making India free. Some credit only Gandhi, some credit only Bose, some credit everyone, and others say the British just got homesick. I don't think we can pinpoint any particular guy or movement and credit only that for giving us freedom. In the same way, I believe we can't just say Gandhi had no part in getting us freedom.

//if he was so awesome and his principles were so good, why do his kids hate him?

How can you judge a man based on what his kids say? If Pol Pot's kids say they loved him, you'd love him too?

What's with the "we Americans" and "you Indians" talk? I didn't know you claim rights to the English language now. And if that's how we are GONNA talk, I have a few questions for you too - why do "you Americans" do "our Indian yoga"? Why do "you Americans" eat "our Indian food"?

//But do you people not realize its not proper written english or is it supposed to be cool and hip trying to imitate writing the way us Americans talk?

First of all, this is a blog and not an online English lesson. Second of all, you're telling me about proper written English?? I think you need to read the above sentence of yours again.

//Please advise.

Since you asked for it, I have two:

1. Try doing "your American Math" without using "our Indian zero".
2. We live in a global world, buddy. Drop the "we Americans" and "you Indians" attitude.


Anonymous said...

Whoa "you indians" lose it real easily, just like those call center workers. Just kidding!
Take it easy! It was a simple, harmless question.

Let me clarify a few things for you since your knowledge of American culture/lifestyle seems very limited, probably from watching American TV shows and movies.

We do eat Indian food, although its very rare, because it is Indian.
Yoga is ok because its relaxing, again because it is also Indian.

The vocabulary "you people" use is neither American nor Indian. So I guess you write "those words" because you guys think we write how we speak and that is not true.

1. I thought zero was invented by the Arabs, maybe I am wrong.
2. How come we only hear third world countries talking/praising globalization? Globalization maybe a good thing for poor countries but it has nothing to do with this context.

And again, take is easy! It was just a question...

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous! You are such a kid. Go back to school. Person who doesn't know who invented zero doesn't have any rights to talk about anything else.

Sayesha, this person is posting comments just for the heck of it.
A typical spoil sport.

- Lakshmi(Proud Indian)

The Smiling Girl said...

Lol at what I read just above.. Zero by Arabs???
That was way tooo funny!!!

Janefield said...

Who is the zero in here? :D

Loved Princesse's comment and Sash's reply to Anon Amreekan (there I wrote how I say it, in fultu Indian accent and also way of taaking) Howzzat, anon? khi khi khi khi. (don't miss the howzzat, jus' sayin' ;))

Sumana said...

I guess Lage Raho Munnabhai has made Gandhi cool again!

Gandhi's principles are going to stay forever. We made him the father of nation but conveniently forgot everything he stood for?
Personally speaking I do not agree with everything he said. There are lots of questions/allegations/controversies regading his political ambitions, his role in the partition etc.
But he is important because he taught the world a whole new way to fight their battles! but again the relevance of his principles in todays world could be debated forever!
Like you wisely say it all depends on how we interpret it.

calling the too goody goody kids at school Gandhiji was something we did too and really we never meant that as a complement ;-)

Bhaarat said...

There is nothing special about Gandhi principles. The principles always exist whether attributed to Gandhi or Hitler. One cannot use them blindly. The best principle in life is to keep things simple and use your discretion. Life is not maths to be lived with formula/principles. One should use his/her head over and above anything.

Following some particular principle is like "ONE SIZE FITS ALL". Why not create new principles.

Iday said...

ye kya - bhai log sab dada giri chodkar gandhiji ke bandhe banne ka season hai kya?!? :P
kaun hai woh RJ?!?! singapore station me aatha hai kya?!!?

Anonymous said...

Are you aware of any "against" speaker winning the debate in the previous or subsequent years?

It is hard to see how you could not have won the "debate", given that you were arguing "for" the topic. It would take tremendous courage (and stupidity!) for your school to award the debate to your opponent, considering the message that it would send out to the impressionable minds (the audience of school kids) - "Gandhian principles are NOT relevant and applicable in modern times". It doesn't take long for that to spin into "Gandhi is not relevant and can be forgotten".

Sayesha said...

I bow to thee, o superior American. :)

Been here, seen this. Just ignore :)


Hey you cannot say "sayin'" and all... copyrighted phrase hain Amreekan logan ka... hum jaisan teesri duniya wale naahin use kar sakat hain, hum log sirf call centres mein baithkar Indian accent mein baat kar sakte hain. :D

I agree with you. Even I do not agree with everything he said, but there are some things which can be integrated into our lives to make them much better... e.g. the whole vinamrata thing - if not taken out of context - is such a great way to bring on smiles.

The best thing about principles is that they are not copyrighted. My point is that all of us form our own principles, but we do not just create them out of the air, we observe things around us, pick what we like and then put them together to make "our principles". Same thing with Gandhian principles. If there are certain things I like about his principles, what's wrong in incorporating them into mine?

Nahin re... aisa kuchh nahin hai... I can never become a total Gandhiwadi... I'm just thinking about things :)

Your point is a valid one. But when we used to draw lots for that debate, we dreaded getting the 'for' chit because we did not know what to say in defence of Gandhi's principles. It was easier to speak against them. More than celebrating my victory in the debate, I was celebrating the fact that I had managed to talk on the more difficult topics, won a price and had been compelled to think.

Anonymous said...

"who invented zero" caught my attention.

Random thoughts..

Though the terminology may have been invented in India, I think it is a misconception.
From what little I know, Romans used a dot/blank space to represent a NIL/ VOID long time before "Zero" as we know it tdy came about.

Inder said...

gandhi was an incredible guy. he understood the right ways to solve a lot of social problems. the amazing thing about gandhi is that he stood by and practiced his beliefs all his life.

well, like gandhi, quite a lot of us understand what is correct. but we rarely practice them. we blame the society for that. we say that the society is corrupt and we need to be street smart to survive in the corrupt society. we don't want to believe that if we all live in the correct way, the society will by itself get cleansed.

ask anyone if gandhian principles are correct. the answer will be an unanimous 'yes'. ask them if the gandhian principles are applicable. the answer will range from a few 'yes' to a sizable 'may be' to a majority 'never'.

the problem is not with the gandhian principles. the problem is with us.

by the way, i think that in public debates, particularly in schools, one speaking 'for' gandhian principles is supposed to win. it is an unwritten rule :P

Rebellion said...

Fultoo mast post hai Sash bhai...
Need to go & watch this movie in the weekend first things first!! Lovely debate, awesome words.. well deserved trophy :)

Take care,

Sudeep said...

aila kya coincidence hain.. i was working on a similar post now .. not debate lekin coz i never participated in any

very nice thoughts frm ur dad's side.. i liked the first part more .. 'bout fire n knives :)

Anonymous said...

"Dad, I killed him. I destroyed him! Maar dala!" I bellowed."

"And I left Abhi behind to win all the Gandhi debates in subsequent years"

juxatapose this with your response now :

"More than celebrating my victory in the debate, I was celebrating the fact that I had managed to talk on the more difficult topics, won a price and had been compelled to think."

REALLY?! Is the moon also made of blue cheese?

Sudeep said...

bhai apne magaj mein idea aayela hain..

agar tu abhi bhi ek gaal ke upar maarne pe dusra gaal aage karegi na toh mere haathon ko khujli ho rahi hain :P

The Lonely Traveller said...

hey sash..
This post was too good yaar...
I thouroughly enjoyed reading it!!!

Sash's speech bubble: "Gandhian principles will always be relevant and applicable in any age!!"

My Speech Bubble: " Bahut sahi yaar!!"

My thought bubble : "Gandhian principles abhi bhi applicable hai..ha ha.... Bilkul Pagal hai re tu...naadan chori..

Mr Black's thought bubble: "Ek rapckik sa bajata hoon donon ke kaan ke neeche...Dekhte hain doosra gaal kaise aage karte hai."


Anjaan Ladka said...

My God Sayesha...You writings are so touching and so emotional that for once when a person is reading your posts, he/she completely disconnects himself/herself from the worldly matters and concentrate on what you have written.

I am truly appalled!!

- Anjaan Ladka

Sayesha said...

Will google it up later, feeling too lazy now :P

//the problem is not with the gandhian principles. the problem is with us.

Well said :)

//by the way, i think that in public debates, particularly in schools, one speaking 'for' gandhian principles is supposed to win. it is an unwritten rule :P

Sheesh! :)

Watch it ASAP! :)

Haan yaar, mere Dad agar banker nahin hote toh fultu writer hote! :)

Awwwww! You just luuurve this blog, don't you? You read every single thing and analyse every single thing and try and find mismatches in my statements to show me later. Awwwww... now that's a real fan. :)

Yaad hai Circuit ne dono gaal dikhane ke baad kya kiya tha? ;) Teri durgati ho jayegi! :D

#Lonely Traveller,
Read my reply to Sudeep! :)

#Anjaan Ladka,
Thanks :)

vikram said...

I don't know if you have watched Fight Club but Brad Pitt asks Edward Newton - "If you were to fight a historical figure, who would it be?", Edward Netwon replies "Gandhi". There is a long pause and Brad Pitt says "Good answer". I hope you know what it means. It has nothing to do with fighting Gandhian principles.

And who cares who invented "zero", what matters is what you put infront of "zero". You can't earn $0/hr, can you?

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but I didn't go through all the comments.. just Sayesha's answer to my comment and this is what I have got to say -

He might (<-- please note the word very very carefully) have been a factor in freedom. But why do people make all the fuss about this guy? I mean wasting good real estate in rajghat (i don't know and couldn't care less what ghat it is), putting him on currency and idolizing his principles. As you rightly pointed out there were many more people and many more principle and it is because of this guy that others don't get credit (which is long over due).

As for the kid's opinion... I think it is important that your family loves you. Yup, if Pol Pot's kids say they love him I will respect him more than Gandhi. In my opinion it is important that you be a good father to your biological kids before you adopt a nation. (<-- This sentence was said in the most sarcastic tone imaginable)

I am not saying one should/can be flawless. Having said that, I hate hypocrites and Gandhi is on the top of the list. Heck! I am not even sorry I said that.

And what do you have to say about his "role" in partition?


Anonymous said...

After writing the above comment I decided to write one more, may be because it is Friday late night and I don't have anything else to do or may be it is the alcohol talking. Kidding about the latter.

Dear Mr. Anonymous,
Please do not talk about written English. Not to me. I work with an American consultancy. The way Americans butcher Queen's English on daily basis with your FYI, WTH and globali'z'ation. And please do not claim to be "original". English was a language loaned to you, I don't think the natives spoke English with 'z' instead of 's'. And since you are such a super genius at history, a quick questions why were the natives called Indian and not American? You had to borrow the name from us, didn't you?

Ah forget it! I have too many American friends within company and outside who are not an ass like you. So, unlike you, I will not generali'z'e. But I do know a lot of "Anonymous" and thus I ask, why are you such a big pansy? (Pansy as per UK English means 'a timid man or boy considered childish or unassertive.' Not the American slang abuse.) Ok genius can you tell how much is 5 ? Yup, zero was a necessity. Otherwise how would your Maths teach grade you? I am going to donate Rs. 3.. towards a free clinic which will operate on all you Anonymous to get your foot out of your mouth.


Anonymous said...

Pradyot. Yea, you are a real winner sitting at home alone on a friday night posting comments. Way to go!

If you don't like the way we write or talk then simply stop imitating our culture, go back to your country and stop stealing our jobs.

I did't want to say anything and let it go, but you made me say it.

Sudeep said...

haan yaad hain na.. sorry bolke phirse pehla gaal aage kiya tha :P

Shreyansh said...

If you haven't read it already you might be interested...

mysorean said...

Amazing post! True to the last word! Lage Raho munnabhai did put me on the thinking mode, I must admit!

Bhaarat said...

What u said is perfectly fine. In fact there is no point in reinventing the wheel. If we are assured of someone's wisdom then it would make better to adapt and fast track ourselves in making our principles.

GuNs said...

I've had a debate with many friends about Gandhi. Most of my friends seem to think that he gave Pakistan money and so he was responsible for all the hatred. I say that if it wasn't for Gandhi, we would be polishing shoes of some western imperialist.

Even if no one agrees to that, one has no option but to agree that in the history of our country, there hasnt been any man who singlehandedly gathered so many people under one motto and one aim. Nobody could influence so many people and make them tread the path to achieve one large and common goal. No one has been able to inspire so many people to be ready to die for a cause. If there ever was a man who was a better people's man than MK. Gandhi, we don't know of him.

I do keep visiting your blog every now and then and I absolutely love the fact that you are so regular with the updates.

Keep up the good work.


Shekhar said...

Sayeshaji..hamne aapke is post ka link hamaare aajke post mein kiya hai. Isse pehle bhi hamaare blog pe aapke karaamati blog ka naam bade aadar purvak liya gaya hai.. Kripa karke hamaare blog par aaye aur hamaare blog ki shobha badhaaye. Namaste. :D