Bapu in 2020

Mitali Chakravarty
The sun streaked an orange-gold across the Himalayan range in Dehradun. There was a chill in the air. Bapu wrapped the shawl closer to his body and looked out sadly. He was dressed in his traditional dhoti and a light wrap. It felt too cold in mid-September to be dressed like that and yet, it was too warm to don a warm shawl. Global warming had truly set in as God had said.
He adjusted his glasses — though they were more cosmetic now. His body was different too — not his own but borrowed from a stripling of twenty-four! 
If you are wondering what was happening, here is the flashback. 
It was 2020. Delhi riots in March had shattered Bapu's dream of a united India — where all religions co-existed. The mishandling of the Citizenship Amendment Act had been a bad blow. But the riots in New Delhi around Holi where there were Hindu- Muslim clashes had Bapu in Heaven weeping and beating his chest. What had happened to his India? 
In Heaven, there is but one rule that is compulsory for all the souls. They need to be happy. If they expressed unhappiness, they were sent back to Earth to serve another lifetime to find peace and happiness. And if it was something that needed emergency handling, God exchanged souls — kept the other in limbo anaesthetised. 
So, when God caught Gandhi weeping, he asked him, "What has happened to you?" Kasturba, Gandhi's wife, was stroking his back with concern written all over her face.
Gandhi, between broken sobs, expressed what had happened, God said, "Fine, you need to fix it now. You had said hate the sin, but not the sinner, and were a friend to the underprivileged. And now, worldwide, there is a spree of envy, hatred — more for the sinners than the sin, widespread violence, intolerance, and no peace anywhere. The world as you knew it is no more. Nature has also unleashed COVID 19 to discipline mankind — so that the planet continues habitable and man ceases to be rapacious in his greed and outlook. You need to get back there al pronto. Let me check with the human resource to see what can be done to have you there."
Kasturba said, "Can I go too...?"
God interrupted, "No Kasturba. Don't complicate matters. Hopefully, this can be fixed fast and Gandhi can return in a few days."

God returned after half-an-hour. "Gandhi, we have found a perfect spot. One 24-year-old boy is in a coma as he has had a motorbike accident. Only his head was injured because he rode without a helmet. So, his soul is already in limbo. You might as well go into his body — do your hunger fast or whatever and get back soon. Then we will awaken his soul and send it back!"

Gandhi had no choice, but to accede to God. He came down on Earth and twenty-four-year-old Abhishek woke up calling himself Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi! 

He was instantly put under psychiatric care. Meanwhile, as lockdown had emptied hospitals off patients, Abhishek or Gandhi was considered safe and non-violent enough to be sent home. He came home. To his mother's distress, he turned vegetarian and took to dressing in a loincloth and wrap! 

When he tried to go on a hunger strike, no one listened. He was back in the hospital with a glucose drip! And force-fed. He did not have the media attention or following that made hunger strikes effective in the twentieth century. The COVID19 lockdown had imposed restrictions on gatherings. He would be in jail if he tried to use Gandhian tools as a lunatic lawbreaker! He had already broken it once speeding on his bike and riding without a helmet.

Gandhi felt distressed. He could do nothing. The hatred raged. The economy was in the doldrums. And the China border skirmish was an ongoing discomfort. No one listened to Abhishek — for that is what the world regarded him as. 
On top of that, there was something called television that raved about the suicide of a Sushant, as if poverty had ceased to be an issue or the collapsing economy or the China conflict... Bollywood, a strange name for talkies makers, hogged all the news! And the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS, organisations to which his killer Godse had belonged, seemed to be in ascendancy along with something called the BJP... it was chaos. 
He felt unvalued. His teachings were ignored despite his title — Father of the Nation. Congress had fallen into weaker hands of those who had distanced themselves from the pain of the poverty-stricken. 

He could see it all from a distance so clearly. Why could not his countrymen?

Social media was a major player — he found it difficult to master the mobile. There was something called Facebook where people put pictures of themselves, eating, breathing, partying, and merrymaking — under Abhishek's name, there were pictures of his bare body. Abhishek's body was young and sturdy with six-pack muscles. He had taken pride in building muscles. He had at a point talked of a career in modeling, whereas Gandhi looked for modeling of character. A huge difference between the two!

Gandhi had tears rolling down his eyes. He should not have come. He could do nothing. He would rather be with Kasturba celebrating his former birthdate. As soon as he thought this, he was back in heaven. 

God had recalled him. Abhishek's soul had returned to the body unblemished! 

God put his hand on Gandhi's shoulder and said, "Gandhi, no shortcuts, I think. You need to be reborn and attune yourself to the modern world to make the changes. Your soul will have the imprint of your last birth and you will be able to find systems that will cure the world of its ills. You will start your journey after your birthday bash in heaven and we will let Kasturba go with you as a bonus! Go invent an out-of-the-box solution!"
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Bio: Mitali Chakravarty is a writer and the founding editor of Borderless Journal. She likes to ride on light beams and waft among clouds in quest of a world filled with ideas mooted by her idol, the eighteenth century poet Lalon. She seeks a world sealed with love, tolerance, kindness and harmony.

5 comments :

  1. Brilliant and imaginative. Perhaps Gandhi too has no solution to the mess, when he reincarnates himself in the body of Abhishek. A layered story that makes us wonder if he too would be able to find 'out-of-the-box solution! There's hope, no matter how slender...

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  2. Enjoyed your take on the present situation immensely! If only there could be divine intervention! Thank you!

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  3. Thank you. Gandhi’s ideology was beyond his times by what little bit I have understood and also beyond ours.

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  4. Hilarious… great to read this piece about Bapu. Nicely you have brought back Gandhi to the present time and made up a story about him and his helplessness in the current situation prevailing in India.
    Yup, the time and the situations have changed a lot. We definitely need many Gandhis again to prepare this world into a beautiful place to live in. Thanks

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  5. Thank you. Many Gandhis who can convince the politicians. Not any of his ideas were adopted in the fragment they called India. They celebrate his birth anniversary and sing his bhajans. But, someone needs to initiate toilet cleaning like him. In more than seventy years, there has been only a handful who, like Bunker Roy, have created village communities that can adapt to modern day needs. If they instituted this as part of training for every IAS officer, we might have had a lesser problem with migrant labour issues and there would have been smaller gaps in education.

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