I didn’t realise for a long time how much we, as an Indian community, use Gandhi’s name on everything. It’s become so common that from being a credibility-booster, it’s become a marketing ploy. Like some low ball technique we use to get our way in the world. Or as an excuse to take pride in our stupidities.
“In the land of Gandhi!” they say. Or proclaim, in fact. In the land of Gandhi, we did this, and that, and all other things we didn’t do.
Which is fine with me, except that we’ve exhausted the name now. In futile attempts to show how much we adore the man, we even named streets after him. And in more cases than one, M.G.Road is a city’s official shopping zone.
There was one in Darjeeling too.
It’s amazing how the name “Mahatma Gandhi Road” is a shoppers’ stop when the man himself advocated ultimate simplicity. Guess it’s just another of our inherent paradoxes.
As I walked along M.G.Road, I saw all the things Gandhi stood against, while he himself stood next to a fountain, as erect as a guard.
Watching him watch the tourists, I remembered studying in an old school book that he preached simple attire. Whereas in M.G.Road, people ogled at woollen sweaters, silken scarves, and sleeveless dresses studded with little stones that mirrored the chandeliers.
There were bakeries stuffed with all things self-raising, and salty, buttery goodness. And sweet shops showcasing the pride of West Bengal. While stacks of shops sold home-made foods, there were cafes and snack stalls too. Some places sold tea, some coffee, and some places just disgraced the emotions of tea and coffee.
And of course, countless liquor stores luring in the fancy folk who preferred things stronger than a simple cuppa. Oh, and tobacco too.
In the middle of all these, stood Gandhi’s figure, deep in observation. Not that he could do anything, of course.
And then — the flowers. So may flowers. So many colours, so many shades, so many tiny petals bearing tiny leftover droplets from the rain of just moments before.
It was a magnificent sight. Even for me who hated shopping in every sense of the traditional word. I loved walking through that street. And the best part of it all: The street is always closed to vehicles from late in the day to later on in the evening. That made it all the more welcoming. With the rain adding a dash of chilliness to the cold breeze, the smell of someone’s strong cigar wafting through the air, the steaming cup of tea in my hands, and the bunch of friends ready to laugh at a good joke — what more could I have asked for?