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The Ego in disguise – A Lesson from Indian history – Part 3 of 5

The forty-one year old British educated Jinnah got drawn to his friend’s daughter. Ruttie was seventeen and even as her millionaire Parsee father was livid at his friend’s romantic intrest in his teenage daughter, the couple eloped. Over the next ten years Ruttenbhai Jinnah grew to be a gorgeous woman and one of the most beautiful in the world. Her outspoken nature and flamboyance caused strain and embarrassment in their relationship. Eventually their wide age gaps- he was her father’s age- and different temparements, caused her to leave him in 1926. If this shattered Jinnah, her death a year later, due to an overdose of Morphine, made him a villian. People mocked him; his old visage, unmanliness and inability to keep his wife happy attracted liberal censure and mockery. He then drowned himself to realize the Pakistan dream – he had a point to prove about his manliness. So unreasonable was he that when Congress leaders appealed to him to withdraw his demand for partition, he obstinately declared: either I divide India or destroy it! He called for a ‘ Direct Action day’ in August 1946 that was pure blood bath of Hindus in Kolkatta and Nohakali where vultures fed on corpses galore. This sparked the most horrendous communal clashes in the history of subcontinent where the world watched helplessly; and especially the apostle of nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi cut a tragic figure of hopelessness and depression. 

Now let’s see Gandhi’s life. As a young man, he was so unattractive and diffident that many mistook him for an errand boy. He desperately sought approval by discarding his Indian clothes and adopting British dress. Mohandas Gandhi enrolled in a French class while in London; he joined a dance class also; he attempted to learn violin and did everything British but failed miserably. After his return to Bombay he struggled as a lawyer to get clients and couldn’t mutter few coherent sentences to impress a magistrate. Remember this is the same man who a few years later would inflame the hearts of 300 million Indians for independence from the same British. What caused this dramatic transformation?

After his frustrated relatives sent him to South Africa, hoping he will make a decent living, he slowly worked on his career as a lawyer. One day on a train ride from Durban, he was rudely asked to vacate his first class cabin. Gandhi protested. He had a legitimate first class ticket and he was called to bar in London. But at the next station he was disdainfully thrown off the train and he spent the night shivering in cold, on a lonely train platform, feeling deeply humiliated. This need for Self-respect- ostensibly for the Nation- of one battered Gandhi, who until this time didn’t care less if British ruled India, suddenly was a changed man, and this incident triggered a change in the course of history.

And what was his most powerful tool to get things he wanted? Fasting to death! Traditionally in India, men and women fasted as a part of prayer and spiritual emancipation. Individuals also fasted at the doorstep of their debtors or creditors, to attract their symapthy. But Gandhi branded this stricrly private practise as a national blackmail tool to bring British to their knees. Later, however, he used fasting to frustrate his own countrymen, and particularly his own congress leaders, who arrived at decisions in the best intrest of the nation- like for example, to withold payments to Pakistan for their attack on Kashmir. But Gandhi thought otherwise and so what did he do? Fast! And that was a direct attack on the leadership’s conscience; it was like saying, “I will end my life and you are responsible for it.”

He admitted though that if instead of British, India were ruled by Stalin or Hitler, his methods would have failed. In fact, he didn’t go on fast unto death when Jinnah held on obstinately to his demands of Pakistan. He knew he’d be left to die by the unsympathetic Muslim league.

To be continued…

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