Friday, March 6, 2009

The wire-rimmed glasses

It’s off. It’s on. It’s off. It’s on. That was the war on Times Now and CNN-IBN on Thursday night about whether Mahatma Gandhi’s personal effects were going under the hammer or not. It was odd to see two different channels breaking opposite versions of the same story. Don’t they have a corner in their office with rival channels running all the time?

‘Oh! They’re saying it’s on… Go verify your story! Are you really, really, sure it’s off?’

‘They’re saying it’s off… are you sleeping? Go check with your source!’

After 30 minutes of comedy central on prime news, I abandoned the interest only to wake up the next morning and catch the latest news of the auction. It did go on after all in spite of Otis saying that he was going to abandon it and all. The auction was closed in seven minutes flat and lo and behold… who did the bidding?? Vijay Mallya! What an irony – Gandhi all his life fought for the prohibition of liquor in the country and Mallya every year loses sales on “dry day”. And this very man had to bring Gandhiji’s things back to India.

Amidst all the jubilation of having got those things back to India, there’s one thing that fails to dawn on me. It was two Indians who remained in the auction process towards the end, the price was $1 million and the two successfully managed to put another $0.8 million into Otis’ pocket. Now if they were fighting to get the items back to India as we all like to believe, why didn’t they just stop when they knew that the other bidder was Indian too?

I like to believe that this was like any other auction. The highest bidder got the prize. Nothing to do with India, with our sentiments, culture, etc… I’m still surprised at why it turned out to be such a big deal. We can’t forever expect that these items have to belong to India alone. Tomorrow Otis and his professor friend will auction Gandhiji’s blood sample and ashes. Are we going to dole out another few millions in the name of our past? Would the Father of Our Nation have approved us going behind items that he had no significance for rather than follow the values he sought to spread?