CHAPTER 16: RENDEZVOUS WITH RAVANA
Cut to Birla House. Gandhiji is holding a talk with Premier Suhrawardy as the other Gandhians watch, suggestive of Gandhiji’s transparency in his affairs. Saket is watching too. Suddenly Gandhi turns back and calls the photographer who is behind him.
“What is going on behind my back? Don’t shoot me from behind… Be a man shoot my ugly face from front”
As Saket hears this, he gets a lump in his throat. He feels as if Gandhiji is addressing him. He not only realizes the absence of his masculinity in shooting a Gandhi from the ventilator at the back, but also feels guilty of conniving surreptitiously against a transparent man. After the meeting Gandhiji is accosted by a group of affected Hindus and is asked to not involve himself in the politics of the country. Gandhiji patiently, hears them out and says that the Muslims want him to stay whereas the Hindus want him to go away. He is confused as to whom to listen to and also adds that he will only listen to the voice of God. He asks the people to stay there till he finishes his work with the others gathered. As the crowd becomes restless, Gandhiji’s helper tries to send them away. Gandhiji stops the helper and says:
“If they have to vent their anger, it is better they vent it on me, rather than on some Muslim brothers. Tell them to wait.”
Saket is shaken once more. This is apparently what he has done. His anger on one person has caused the death of one hundred. He is surprised at Gandhiji’s dedication towards his goal and realizes that his true intention is peace and is not backed by secondary motives. As Gandhiji walks, his helpers ask the people gathered to respect him at least as their elder to which Gandhiji tells her:
“You are getting yourself off. How can we introduce them of kindness if we who keep advising them cannot control our own tempers?”
She says that she is not a Mahatma to hold her temper and be calm. Gandhiji notices Mr. Goyal ahead of him, greets him and tells him:
“This girl seems to be insinuating that I am a Mahatma. Yesterday I slipped and fell in the bathroom. If I had died there, the world would’ve known I’m not a Mahatma.”
Mr. Goyal introduces Uppili Iyengar to Gandhiji. He tells Uppili Iyengar that everyone is a Mahatma and if one is not, he is an animal. Mr. Goyal introduces Saket to Gandhiji and tells him how he saved the Muslims in the factory. Gandhiji calls him his “Rama from the South”. It becomes a strong statement in two senses. One that Saket is like Rama of Ramayana and also that people like him are rare since the south predominantly associates itself with Young Krishna. Mr. Goyal also introduces Amjad’s family to Gandhiji upon which Nafisa says that Amjad wanted to walk to Pakistan with Gandhiji. He also learns that she is Saket’s foster sister. Gandhiji asks Saket:
“Gandhiji: When did she become your sister?
Saket: Before my country was torn into two pieces.
Gandhiji: See, Mr. Uppili, even your son-in-law is also a Mahatma.
Saket: No, I am not.
Gandhiji: Most Mahatmas don’t admit they are one. Do you think I am one?
Saket: You will deny it if I say you are, so I shall deny you another denial, sir.
Gandhiji: Nafisa, I am already liking your brother.”
He consoles Amjad’s family. He turns to Saket and tells:
“You know Ram… I am willing to take all this communal hatred in the form of a bullet if I am promised that along with that bullet, they will also bury this communal hatred, and live together as one community.”
These words resonate in Saket’s ears. Tears rush into his eyes. He is not able to get words out of his mouth. He manages to tell Gandhiji that these were the exact words that Amjad had said before he was struck down. He realizes, now, the universality of feeling of brotherhood and want of peace. Gandhiji asks Saket and Nafisa to walk with him to Pakistan to fulfill Amjad’s promise. Saket develops a strange sense of respect for the man standing before him. He is amazed by his sense of commitment and true desire for peace.
Gandhiji asks Mr. Goyal to come the next day as he is tired because of the fasting. He walks away from the scene as he turns to Uppili Iyengar.
“Gandhiji: I speak little Tamil. ”Nettiku vaango”. ”Nettiku” is tomorrow, isn’t it?
Uppili Iyengar: No, Bapu, ”Nettiku” is yesterday. Tomorrow is ”Naalaiku”.
Gandhiji: So my critics are right. They say that this Gandhi is still stuck with yesterday.”
Saket watches Gandhiji go. Ironically, it is Gandhi, the Ravana who has asked the sans gun Saket, Rama to go today and return tomorrow in contrast to the epic hero who asked the weaponless Ravana to return the next day. We not only see the roles getting reversed here, but also the morality of the two people involved. We are gradually revealed the heroic nature of Gandhi (Ravana) and the cruel side of Saket (Rama). We also notice the slow respect that is built for Gandhi in Saket, a reversal of the image he has formed of Gandhi in his mind. Gandhiji is not a demon now. He realizes that it is because of people like Gandhiji that the country is surviving. He learns that his mission is a wrong one.
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