It has been a very interesting summer, away from the heat outside, from the hurly burly of rehearsal-driven theatrical existence... full of reading, writing, introspection, watching movies, analysing books, movies, energising and stimulating discussions with friends who read the type of works I read! And... of Gandhi.
I discovered one Mr. Gandhi, also known as Mahathmaji and the Father of the Nation! How? Why?
How come, and now suddenly? would be a more appropriate question. I'll tell you how.
In recent times, my re-introduction to Gandhi came in the form of my working with Gowri Ramnarayan during the Rural Phantasy production, about which I had written elsewhere in about two posts, within this blogspace.
Re-introduction, because, at some point or other, all of us go through Gandhi either through English or History text syllabus. But then, how many of us really take Gandhi at that point of our lives except as someone who can get us 2 or 5 or 10 marks to some question we answer in some examination. Of course, forget the fact that we are on day to day finger (our) to face (his) terms with him through currency coins and notes!
I have been for a while now (if 5 months count as for a while!) working on this new and as yet unpublished playscript by Chennai playwright Mohan Narayanan. Among several other things the play deals with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Appropriately, this is the 150 year of India's First War of Independence (about which a lot of furore has been raised in the media), 100th year since Gandhi's acquaintance with Thoreau's Civil Disobediance (that great tract that changed the course of American struggle against the British, like ours), which was to forever change him from his UK-educated lawyership to the Ahimsavad that he later became, and the 60th year of our Independence.
As part of the on-going work, I have been doing quite a bit of research. First, I saw Attenborough's film Gandhi, with an open, first-time eye. It is quite a difficult task to see something again as if it were the first time. But this film this time was really different. I saw it three times again and again, not because I wanted to understand as part of the research. But the sheer magnetism of the script drew me again and again. I do not remember remembering through the watch that I was here to research, look for something, rewind, etc etc. And then, I listened to a lot of those Bhajans and songs of MS that Gandhi was supposed to have paid audience. Well, what can be said of MS. She is... MS! Of course, this doesn't deter me from my daily quota of MLV and MDR. Somehow, those are my favourites. Probably because of the very different type of voices they have (in spirit and tape, if not in real-time anymore). And... am currently reading R.K.Narayan's Waiting for Mahatma. It certainly is a different experience among all the other RKNs.
I have read a dozen RKNs or probably more. I always get carried away by the simple charm of those Malgudi descriptions and the realistic characters. Waiting for Mahatma is more. I have a few pages left and am going to face a huge void after am done with it. Alongside, there are other books I try and read on a few pages a day basis so that monotony doesn't set in or one book doesn't affect me totally. Some may argue that it may take away the totality of reading experience. It somehow doesn't and hasn't till now. Each book is a living thing of its own and brings a different encounter experience of its own as much as each person we meet. Anyway, the first two parts of the book have been very moving in their earthiness. Although the book is dominated by Sriram the protagonist, the on and off presence of Bharathi is so 'hitting'. She really brings about the Gandhian in one. The work begins with Gandhi's arrival in Malgudi and by the end of the first part, as he leaves we begin to wonder how will the book sustain, there are several more pages to go. Like Caesar's absence in Julius Caesar beyond almost the mid-way point of the book, so is Gandhi's. His phantom lingers. Let me tell you when I finish. It is a good read.
In the while, I do not know whether it is by pattern or accident or design, whatever material I seem to touch, it seems to involve Gandhi. Could anyone explain this phenomenon? I started doing a bit of reading upon the Boston Tea Party, for a little presentation coming up on the eve of July 4, lo and behold! I end up reading about the Salt March. Actually, there is a lot of similarity and difference between the Dandi March and the Boston Tea Party that's quite interesting to note. This is not the first time it has happened to me, this phenomenon. Still...
I can sense some little changes coming over me (no no... I don't and won't own a charka!) in the process. May be it is for good. I leave it to time to throw light.