India’s King of Good Times: in service to the nation

Culture Minister, Ambika Soni, has corroborated Hardnews that liquor baron, Mallya, was deployed by Indian government to bid for prohibitionist father of nation's memorabilia
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi, Hardnews

That an agent of liquor baron, Vijay Mallya, stood up for the Government of India during the auction of Mahatma Gandhi's memorabilia in Los Angeles and won the bid, has been triumphantly corroborated by India's Cultural Minister, Ambika Soni.

She told a press conference in Delhi that the "priceless items were procured through the services of an Indian, Vijay Mallya, and his representative was in touch with us". By insisting that an "Indian" had procured the items smacks of crass brahmanical jingoism as it implies that being in the possession of a foreigner seemed to have defiled them. Mercifully, she did not announce that the memorabilia would be brought to India and dipped in the holy water of Ganges.

In an earlier post, Hardnews had hinted at how New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal and Vijay Mallya had been put up by the Indian government to rescue Father of the Nation's valuable belongings. This was, despite the fact that Gandhi, if his life and teachings are any indication, would have loathed such amoral exertions. Gandhi not only championed prohibition, but also strenuously highlighted the importance of means in achieving ends.

From this standpoint, what the government had done was ideologically repugnant. It seems bizarre that the Indian government got so worked up over the auction that it wanted to bring Gandhi's famous watch and spectacles at "any" cost back to the country. One wonders what it was doing when these small belongings of the great man left the shores of the country. Wouldn't an enquiry be the order of the day? Clearly, those who make a living from repeating Gandhi's name must have sold these items discreetly to the highest bidder. What also warrants an answer is the excessive jingoism displayed by Indian media and others over Gandhi, his name, watch, clothes etc. No one benefited from this more than the collector, Otis, and his auctioneer.

Gandhi has been embraced by the world for his beliefs and not for his belongings. The movie made by Richard Attenborough, that took Gandhi's life and teachings to all corners of the world is evidence, if any one wants it, of how the father of the nation transcends the borders of the country of his birth. From this standpoint, if Gandhi's memorabilia was going somewhere then that should have been allowed rather than being snapped up by the overzealous Indian government and its "new ambassadors".