Coming of Age Historical Fiction Inspirational

The crowd looked on as the man gingerly walked towards the main square.

As the man, frail and old, bamboo staff in left hand, turned towards them, the group nearest to him peered even more closely.

Who is this man? Do they know him? Has anyone seen him around?

In this village, this man was a stranger. The villagers looked at one another, the unsaid question that sat on their lips begged for answer.

As the feeble old man ambled by, he turned to his right, towards the motley group that was boring its eyes towards him, whispering, mumbling half syllabic mumbo jumbo queries, wondering whether this quite obviously very, very old man was from another planet.

As the old man inched towards them, the villagers let out a collective sigh.

Oh my gaawd! Is he? I mean just look at him! Doesn’t he look like the Mahatma?

A spasmodic wave of sheer incredulity swept through the stunned visages of the village men.

One of them, a silver haired salt and pepper bearded man who hadn’t for even one nano second separated his gaze from the strange man cleared his throat before asking, “Who are you, my dear fellow?” You look familiar as well as strange.”

Hearing the words of their village pradhan, more men and even a few women with young ones in tow slithered out of their small huts and out of narrow alleyways. All by now had made a semi circle around the stranger.

The old man opened his mouth to say but a voice from behind beat him to it.

“He is Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, he is Gandhi, our Father of the Nation”.

A stunned silence prevailed thereafter.

A minute later it was broken by an equally stunned roar.

“Unbelievable! Look the Mahatma is here. Gandhi is in our midst. Can anyone believe this!”

The last was more rhetorical for one to all- men women, and even children hustled and jostled, huffed and puffed and pulled and pushed and shoved in a bid to come even nearer and watch, up close and personal, the man regarded as instrumental in achieving independence for the country.

As all eyes looked on, the stranger, the frail old man who was wearing perfectly round glasses, was bare chested, a mere stick and bones specimen who held a bamboo staff in his left hand decided to allay all their fears, rest all speculation.

“Yes”, he replied, “I am Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi if you may.”

The instant the words were rendered, utter chaos and pandemonium prevailed.

The air was heavy with utterly bousterous ear splitting shrieks, frenzied cries and shout outs.

The village pradhan, quick on the uptake, immediately ran to the pulpit of the nearby giant penpal tree and announced, albeit grandiosely: “Look, the Mahatma, the great man is here. He’s come back from the dead. Come all ye, come fast and watch our dear son, come and have a look at the man who drove the British out of India, come all you youngsters, and all you middle aged men and women, you who were not even born when the Mahatma wrested Independence and liberated us from the yolk of British imperialism. See, we are lucky that we are seeing Gandhi in flesh and blood, an honour reserved to only a blessed few, our grandfathers and great grandfathers, possibly.”

The village headman’s words were greeted with thunderous applause, and all rushed in to see and watch and hear the man for whom the great philosopher scientist and polymath had gushongly stated, ‘generations to come will scarcely believe that such a man, a flesh and bones, ever walked this earth”.

“Yes, I am Gandhi. The one who you believe I am. But pray, tell me what year is this? I was supposed to have long back died, a few months after Independence if I recall correctly”, the stranger averred.

“Venerable Mahatma, our dear Bapu, this is year 2021. You died on January 30, 1948. I was born two years later. That makes me a little over 70 years of age. But what about you, Mahatma. How come you are here in this world? If you were to live, you would have to be over 150 year old. No man nor woman, in living history has ever lived that long. How come you are here, dear Mahatma?”

Gandhi turned towards the village pradhan, and then gazed around at the throng of people  who had gathered around him.

He said, “I don’t know. I just woke up and found that I was I this village, and little did I realise that I was supposed to dead and gone. But having found myself alive and in my sense, I decided to make my stay, however temporary in this beautiful earth worthwhile. So, here I am in your midst, and all I see are very very happy faces. It gladden my heart to know that my dear countrymen are living so very happily and as I can see from the condition of the roads, the well built houses, and the innumerable schools and playgrounds all around me, Indians are going very well and are extremely happy.”

As villagers smiled and nodded their heads, several young boys and girls and tiny tots began to touch and come closer to the man whose great inspirational stories of tolerance and love and humility and world brotherhood they had heard in their schools and colleges, from the lips of their principals and teachers and parents and grandparents.

The Mahatma seemed to love the attention of the young men and women for he began to smile and laugh, his eyes turning even watery for a moment.

“How is Pakistan doing, my folks?”

The words had a stunning effect on the villagers.

A moment’s pregnant silence followed.

The tension in the air suddenly seemed to have thickened.

The village headman cleared his throat yet again before he replied, “Dear Mahatma, there is no Pakistan.”


It was Gandhi’s turn to feel shocked.

“What do you mean there is no Pakistan? What happened to that country? And what about it’s people, all the Pakistanis?”

The village headman volleyed, without batting an eyelid, “Dear Mahatma, the Pakistanis are now Indians. They have realised that blood is thicker than water, and they have dismissed and rejected all the the corrupt, radical, extremist and propagandist agendas of their vested bigoted so called blood sucking leaders. They have voted out the concept of a separate Muslim state and voluntarily methed their erstwhile Pakistan into India. So now, we are back to where we were earlier, our very own Akhand Bharat, the land of all religions, the place where there is no concept of a single religion, where men and women are known and respected for their good deeds and humanitarian gestures.”

The moment Mahatma Gandhi heard these words tears of joy trickled down his cheeks.

He sighed and whispered, “Now I can once again die, but this time in peace when I have known that my ideals and principles of universal brotherhood and neighborliness are being put into practice.”


September 17, 2021 19:02

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