Mahatma Gandhi may have been one of the most influential persons in the Indian Independence struggle but that did not stop him from frolicking in the Sabarmati river with children.
And Narayan Desai — whose father Mahadev Desai was personal secretary to Gandhi — was one of those mischievous ones splashing water on Gandhi’s face.
“Till I was 11, he was neither a leader, a Mahatma or Bapu to us; we saw him first and foremost as a friend with whom we could play, debate and quarrel as well,” said Mr. Desai, who spent several years in the company of Gandhi.
He delivered a lecture on ‘Mahatma Gandhi and the Arts’ at Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai on Saturday. Speaking to The Hindu, the 88-year-old chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith reminisced upon the time spent with the Mahatma, elaborated on the relationship between Gandhi and Nehru shared, and shared his thoughts on the Anna Hazare movement explaining why Gandhi is relevant even today.
Determined that he would not step into a school until India got freedom, Mr. Desai accompanied Gandhi and travelled the length and breadth of the country. “It was an exhilarating experience. At an impressionable age, I met all the important people in the country at that time,” he said.
Gandhi was extremely committed and efficient, he said, adding that finding a person with both these qualities was a challenge today.
According to Mr. Desai, Gandhi and Nehru were like father and son. Vividly recollecting the relationship they shared, he said, “Although they had differences on several issues, they were affectionate towards each other.” In fact, whenever Nehru visited Sevagram to meet Gandhi, he would never turn his back on the Mahatma, instead preferring to walk backwards on his way out, he said.
Ask him what he feels about modern-day Gandhian Anna Hazare, and he admits the anti-corruption activist knows the pulse of the people. “But corruption is a two way process, both the giver and receiver of a bribe is at fault. But Anna never mentions that. This means he is only 50 per cent Gandhian,” he said.
So does that mean there is little place for Gandhi in today’s day and age? He instantly replies, “As long as there is violence in society and war on the international front, the country needs Gandhi’s values.”