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His experiments with truth

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Tushar Gandhi
Tushar Gandhi

K. Santhosh

Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s great grandson, eats meat, wears jeans and flays government subsidies for khadi. He attributes all these to the honesty Gandhism has taught him.

Thrissur: The legacy sits heavily on him.

Tushar Gandhi maintains that being the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi is just not easy. “It places you under constant scrutiny. Every deed of yours is watched, weighed and probed through the prism of your great grandfather’s ideals. At times, it is nerve-wracking. But, unlike many of my cousins, I have learnt to live with it. Not that I take the legacy for granted. I am proud of it. At the same time, I live life on my own terms,” he told The Hindu.

He was here on Friday to attend the Fourth Thrissur International Film Festival (TIFF-2009). The Hindi film, ‘Road to Sangam,’ in which he played a small part, opened the festival.

Controversy’s favourite child, he has grabbed headlines off and on. In December 2001, he negotiated with the U.S. marketing firm, CMG Worldwide, to use the Mahatma’s image in an advertisement for a credit card company. He withdrew from the deal following a public outcry.

“I was misunderstood. There was no vested interest behind the deal. I withdrew from it because I did not want my children to suffer. The company had given me a cheque for $60,000 as goodwill payment even before the deal was formulated. I sent the cheque back saying I do not want to be part of it,” he says.

In his book, ‘Let’s Kill Gandhi,’ he blamed Brahmins for assassinating the Mahatma. When his remarks stirred up a hornet’s nest, he clarified that he referred to “a certain group of Brahmins from Pune who were continuously attempting on the life of my great grandfather,” and not to Brahmins in general.

“I have been reviled for wrong reasons. My critics saw the controversies as my smart choices to offset failures in life, as a printer and as a politician, moving from the Samajwadi Party to the Congress. True, at one time, I was desperately looking for a toe-hold in politics, only to realise soon that I was not cut out for pretension, lying and nurturing the false hope I could change the system. Gandhism has taught me one thing: being honest. Being truthful to myself. After leaving active politics, I am peaceful. I write and lecture to make a living. A banker, my wife keeps the hearth warm,” he said.

Ask him about the contradictions in his life, he would shrug it off saying they are natural. “I eat non-vegetarian food because it is the way I am. I lecture animatedly about Gandhism, but I wear jeans. I do not think my cloth has anything to do with my grey matter. Pity that khadi, a symbol of our national pride, has not undergone requisite modernisation to churn out a denim-like fabric.”

Khadi, he observed, was one of the most misunderstood items of Gandhian legacy. “Gandhiji saw khadi-making as a model for rural development and Grama Swaraj. It is a model to be adopted in other spheres. If you see it as a mere fabric, you will miss the wood for the trees. The government does just that. Hence, khadi survives on government subsidies. If Gandhiji were alive, he would have conducted a satyagraha at the Khadi and Village Industries Commission against khadi’s parasitic existence.”

Gandhian ideals, he noted, were being shamelessly trampled upon. “Nathuram Godse shot him dead on January 30, 1948. Countless others morally ‘assassinate’ Gandhi every day,” he lamented.

To come to terms with his legacy, he follows what his grandmother told him 40 years ago, “Consider yourself a sapling under a banyan tree.”

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