After he met the King of England, a reporter asked our man whether he had enough clothes on for the meeting. “The King,” he quipped, “had enough on for both of us.”
Mondy Thapar in Hindustan Times
It’s a pity that the country of funny guy Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is seen as a nation of grave gumdrops. See? You’re already a bit upset that the Mahatma’s been described as a funny guy. But hey, regardless of whether he would have approved of the tag or not — and he would have — Gandhi was a witty man, the kind of who had a riposte up his non-sleeve and would take a crack at others, sometimes facing blank faces.
Take that famous dig directed at a Western journo asking him a question. “What do I think of Western civilisation? I think it would be a very good idea.” That’s half-Chairman Mao, half-Groucho Marx. Wonder how many of our ‘India Emerging’ pundits could have shot that one across in a flash. Then there’s the other famous Gandhi quip.
After he met the King of England, a reporter asked our man whether he had enough clothes on for the meeting. “The King,” he quipped, “had enough on for both of us.” P.G. Wodehouse and G.K. Chesterton eat your heart out.
The tag that the Mahatma has been stuck with — as a deeply political, religious, grave, mystical, good, god-like man — has eclipsed the fact that he had a devilish sense of humour and was armed with a lightness of being that is almost totally absent among today’s public figures in India.
So it’s doubly ironic that a country known for its public displays of totalitarian reverence — what happens inside homes and street corners among friends and colleagues is another matter — has Mohandas Gandhi as the father of this nation. The fact that no one will smile in the archetypal seminar when someone asks who, then, is the mother of the nation, is disappointing.
What could cure this misunderstanding is to hear the man cackle his famous cackle more often. Doordarshan, some help here? read