Over the past few days there has been a big hullabaloo raised over the sales of some of the items belonging to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, more popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi or just Bapu. It so happens that an ingenious American (the Americans are very ingenious in things like this) named James Otis over the years put together a rather impressive collection of Gandhian memorabilia that has things like Bapu’s specs, sandals, bowl and plate, watches, blood report and other such mundane stuff.
No one knows for sure as to how Mr. Otis got hold of such stuff and how much did he spend. Considering the way, we Indians treat our heritage, it should not have been difficult or costly either. Check any Christie or Sotheby catalog and you are sure to spot hundred of temple idols and paintings that have been sourced from some obscure part of India for some few USD and sold for millions abroad. Mr. Otis, simply put, has done the same with Bapu. And though, he might paint his motive with a shade of nobility, the fact is that he intends to make a few easy millions through the sale. Simple business, what Americans are best at.
But, here in India, everyone is going berserk on the sale. All hell is being raised at such a blatant sale of our nation’s heritage, news channels are running scores of programs with all these experts and high-profile people talking about what Indian government needs to do. There are these grand daughters and the great grandsons of Gandhi coming on TV making an emotional plea for the items to be brought back. Then, newspapers are full of stories on how Bapu saw a vision of modern India through those specs.
In between officials from the ministry of culture, MEA, PMO, all are running helter-skelter to either stop the auction or negotiate with Mr. Otis. I am sure, at this very moment, there must be a team of high profile Babus out there in the US, trying to work out an amenable solution. Even stinking rich NRIs are being courted and asked to buy the items and gift them to India. And finally, no less the PM of India has raised the bar by sending out a poignant plea ‘do everything to get hold of Bapu’s stuff’. Unnecessary emotions, what Indians are best at.
In all this theatrics of the absurd, one small point is being missed, by all this dramatics and stuff, we are really walking into Mr. Otis’s trap. He must be so much gleefully rubbing his hands at the moment. Over the past few days, the reserve price for the stuff has gone up by a few hundred thousand Dolllars, and it all goes into his account. So why the hell are we going crazy over it?