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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 43 New Delhi October 12, 2019

Gandhi 150

Sunday 13 October 2019, by Badri Raina


Beloved Bapu, you abide

In my heart as a ray

In a dark interior,

Or a syllable of daring

In a breast-full of fear.

But empty eulogies no longer

Ring true. The cruel fact is

That you have been set aside,

Like a piece of bone China,

To be polished and brought out

When an honoured guest is about.

Those that murdered you

Feel no shame in propitiating your

Example when need be,

Even as they pursue the teachings

Of your murder as policy.

I know this is not a fate unique

To you, Bapu.

Yet, living as we do in our own moment

Of reckoning, the hurt and the loss

Are shattering.

A blight is now upon the manifold

Humanity you lived and died to make;

Multifoliate gardens that would be

Resplendent in diverse hue

Are now infested with

Many a vengeful snake.

Nothing is ever the same, Bapu,

And, like the Christs of old,

Your life and work is also

Destined to be something merely told.

What is done may be that which

Is fatally inimical to the conviction

That inspirited your skeletal frame

With a strength that only a mountain

May claim.

At the hour of our most gruesome

Blood-letting seven decades ago,

The only ray of hope you saw

Was in Kashmir. How she is now

Paying for that virtue, and how much

She needs you.

Were you among us still, I have no

Doubt you would be headed for

Lal Chowk, the barricades and concertina

Notwithstanding, freeing the innocent

From jail, making justice prevail.

As I write this to you, Bapu, they

Are off to pay that ritual homage

At Rajghat. Within minutes the odd

Petal from Authority’s costume

Will be shaken free to fall by the

Wayside, and the life of cruel command

Will resume from hate-filled hide.

But happy birthday to you, Bapu,

Nevertheless, from a very lost child.

Badri Raina

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