Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Gandhi is dead,
Who’s now Mahatmaji?

On the morning of January 31, 1948, a silent procession was planned in Thiruvananthapuram to mourn Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination the previous evening. It was to start from the Travancore State Congress office and wind up on the Shankummukham beach by evening.

As we were preparing to leave the hostel to join the procession, a friend suggested that we must go wearing black badges. Everybody agreed with the suggestion, but where do we get black badges? Let us try a tailor’s shop, said one. Since shops were unlikely to open we decided to go to the house of a tailor known to us. He came with us to his shop near Bakery Junction and gave us some black cut-pieces.

We assumed the procession might have started already and were virtually running towards Palayam when we saw a boy on the road, hawking a publication, shouting “Mahatma Gandhi Murder Song Book”.

We stopped him and took a look at the publication. It was a booklet. A poet had sat  , after learning about the assassination, and written an elegy, got it printed as a booklet during the night and engaged the boy to sell it.  The long poem began with these banal lines:

Gandhi is dead
Who’s now Mahatmaji?

The boy had been instructed to join the procession and sell the song book among the mourners. We did not want the solemnity of the occasion to be marred by its sale. We drove him away.

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