Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Homage and Heritage - 2

They came from distant lands and from across the seven seas. They came from all parts of the earth. And he taught them all and made them good men and women. Even like one of his great predecessors, - The Guru Gobind - he would make the sparrow hunt down the hawk, but with a different weapon. With patient labours of a lifetime extending over half a century and spread over the entire land, he worked on his people to forge his weapon and to temper it.

Out of dross he made precious metal; out of earth-clods he made material to challenge and defy the might of an insolent empire; to whose people he bore the greatest friendship, and yet whose end he ordained, even as Krishna had ordained the end of the arrogant Jadavas. He called upon the foreigner to quit the land which he had bled white and in which he had worked much inequity.

And behold! For the first time in human history the world witnessed an epic struggle of a whole nation locked for three decades in non-violent combat with the alien rulers so that her chains should break. A saga of peaceful peasantries challenging the might of established authority, armed to the teeth, by refusing to submit to its unjust levies, inviting upon themselves untold sufferings and living under conditions of a siege till the privations turn them and their cattle white; of millions throughout the length and breadth of the country defying salt laws in the face of lathis, tear-gas, horse-hoofs; women refusing to part with their pinch of salt till their bones dislodge; men tying their own hands with iron wires to prevent slackening of their grip on raided salt; of gallant men who would be counted among the very peak of any army, offering to be beaten or pounded to death, by official myrmidons, without so much as raising their eyelids in protest; of statesmen, savants, tribunes of their own people - objects of world adoration, leaders of men and of an age, who would adorn the halls of any international assembly -- accepting cheerfully to surrender long indefinite years of their great lives to be wasted in cold, dark, solitary dungeons on a par with felons; of the nation's Bards pouring forth the agony of an age before sobbing magistrates in crowded court-rooms; of apostles who walked the land bare-foot, broadcasting the New Gospel carrying neither purse nor shoes nor yet staves, pleading guilty against their accusers and urging the courts to inflict on them maximum penalties; of wandering monks offering to starve themselves to death in protest against outraged whomanhood through long agonizing fasts without a trace of ill-will towards the guilty; of frail little men offering to lay down their lives denying themselves in their prison cells all food and water till death do deliver them, and in the meanwhile coasxing their captors to administer 'without blame' 'some suitable poison' when their sufferings did annoy them; of street urchins proudly mounting the gallows after being court-martialled for bold pranks; of village peasants naively facing military reprisals, with no better armour than plywood planks hung in front of their chests; of whole masses of unarmed, undrilled men and women flinging themselves in blind abandon against bayonets, bullets, guns and bombs.

Righteousness the world over wailed in oblivion. Untruth was in excelsis. Naked Fascism masquerading in the garb of aggrieved innocence stalked the land. It maligned virtue with impunity. Truth was lynched. The stars in high heavens wept over the inequities and the vileness of man.

And against it all, in his indiganation, the Father of the Nation lay crouched and twisted on his Bed of Fire for the tenth time, challenging his accusers from behind the prison. And his protest rang through the world pentrating the Iron Curtain. His Great Disciple, who was to him more than his own son, and 'with whom my Father is well pleased', lay in a handful of ashes at the prison corner. And the gentle Mother of the Nation was to meet her millions no more. Outside the prison raged Revolution. The Empire shook, and his mighty accusers trembled. They fell flat. Their chagrin knew no bounds.

And behold! The Titan collapsed under the weight of his own inequities.

And he quitted; but not without upholding the disruptionist who clamoured for rending his own Mother's garments. Freedom came, but Her face was ghastly. Brother flew at the throat of brother, and women wept. Millions were uprooted and flung on the roadside. Men lost all their sense and shame, and they burned and killed and perpetrated unmentionable abominations. Cities swelled with fleeing men and wailing women. They cursed and called aloud for retribution.

(More to follow)

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