Thursday, March 23, 2023

Dear Bapu, you are immortal …

Abili T Wotsa, Dimapur

(This letter won the first prize at the National Dhai Akhar Letter Writing Campaign, envelope category (1000 words) North-east level,2019-2020)

“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” ~ Bruce Lee.

Dear Bapu, you inspire me, I am spell-bound. You spoke the Universal language of love. You are a beautiful star that never stops twinkling. Generations have come and gone, still your name echoes in the hearts of all. Your magnificent story is shared in the fire-hearth of every home, whispered into the ears of children. Young and old, we adore you, oh! Bapuji.

Tell me, how can a man of mere flesh and blood remain immortal? Man is mortal, isn’t he? Bapu, your graceful mother gave you birth you as a normal baby boy, not one with super-natural powers. You walked the earth an ordinary human being, didn’t you? And yet, a legend you have become. Perhaps you were destined by God to carry the ‘Torch of freedom’ for your people. The light of an ordinary torch blinks away in due time but the Light of Freedom shines eternally.

“And yet this generation that had seen him and touched him and knew him somewhat, will pass away. Indeed it is passing already. He will be remembered then by records and writings and by tradition which plays an important part in the history of a race. He belongs not only to history but to the myth and legend of India.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru, September 1, 1952.

In a world of change, certain things change not. Bapuji, who knew then, that ‘Ahimsa’ (Non-violence) would be regarded priceless today? The philosophy you dearly held on to with all your being, yes, you walked the talk. You were one of the greatest and humblest leaders of our country. The values you taught diligently, timeless values like kindness, patience, forgiveness and persistence never fail to gain victory against all odds. We salute you!

You believed in Non-violence in an era of violence, hatred and suspicion. You saw a light at the end of the tunnel when all else saw darkness. In such turbulent times, you held your head high when all hung in shame and confusion. Bapu, you used the weapon of Ahimsa to free India from the British rule. You firmly stood upon this principle while resisting the British tyranny during the Indian Independence movement. Civil disobedience was founded upon Ahimsa.

“That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material.” ~ Swami Vivekananda. Bapu, you sought not fame nor wealth when you, along with all patriots, leaders and commoners, gently revolted to save the soil and children of our Motherland, whose heart hath bled profusely, not in blood but in agony to the suffering and injustice meted out to her offspring. In a weary and feigned period, you stood unperturbed. India today is happy, free and proudly distinct amongst other nations because of you. The world admires your nobility and courage. Your ideology was adopted by Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela for their own struggles. You once quoted, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Yes, you did.

You bravely advocated for the civil rights of Indians, against racial discrimination in South Africa. What was meant to weaken, you strengthened you instead. Had you not stood your ground adamantly, all goodness would have been buried deep into the earth, and our people bound in chains. From the wealthiest to the lowliest, all call you ‘Bapuji’, ‘Great Mahatma’, ‘Father of the Nation’. You believed that at the core of every religion was truth: truthfulness in speech and thought. Your heart grieved with others in their sorrow and rejoiced with them in their happiness. You gave hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak, wisdom to the illiterate and love to the unprivileged.

A decade ago, I visited the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad. As I stepped into your old home, I was flooded with joy and pride; I was tremendously inspired by your once personal belongings and the large pictures of your life which were immaculately displayed. My eyes welled with tears, Bapu, you were indeed a great man. Your trademark ~ a simple dhoti and shawl, spectacles and a walking stick, however humble, you became our knight in shining armour. You refrained from worldly pleasures, rather chose to contribute your intelligence, faith and vision for the country. I loved your autobiography, My experiments with truth. I deeply understood your life and vision, the sacrifices for a great cause. Gandhian Peace studies have been included in the curriculum of schools and universities. Who better to learn from? Of peace, unity and patriotism.

You once said, “Where there is life, there is love.” You were the epitome of strength and goodness. A political leader, a renowned freedom activist, yet a kind fatherly figure. Bapu, your spinning cloth on the Charkha, the historic Satyagraha movement and Dandi March inspire me, also your desire to identify with the poor masses through your humble dress code. You were a true son of the Indian soil; tales of your greatness will live. The cord of peace and unity of this world has been cruelly treaded upon but Bapu you taught us well, we will gently fight with love.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, your first lesson in non-violence was taught within the walls of your home by your father. Bapu, in order to help one brother, you stole a hit of gold of the other brother. But your guilt led you in writing a letter to your ailing father asking for forgiveness and promising that you would never steal again. You expected to be punished but your father tearfully forgave you from his sickbed. This lesson changed your life and the course of India’s history.

“It is right that our children and our children’s children should know something of this story which has a certain epic quality about it. Even though they may miss the living presence.” ~  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (Foreword on Begum Qudsia Zaidi’s  book on Bapu)

Bapu, you fulfilled your life’s mission in excellence. In your untimely death, the world mourned like never before. Decades have passed but you continue to live in our hearts. Mother India celebrates her annual glorious Independence Day on 15th August, Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated on 2nd October. The Government of India annually awards the International Gandhi Peace Prize. ‘One of great soul’…you remain a noble son of India, an iconic leader to the world. Bapu, truly, you are immortal…

Writer’s note: I am profoundly grateful to my family members, friends, all well-wishers and the media team for the magnanimous love and support I have received on winning the Dhai Akhar Letter Writing Campaign. I would like to thank the Department of Posts, Nagaland Division, and especially mention Mr. Imti Imsong for efficiently co-ordinating the events. I am grateful to the family of New Life Bible College and the Ghokimi community for their constant love and prayers. I thank the Wordsmithereens, the Nagaland Chapter of the North East Writers’ Forum, a team of fine writers who inspire me every day.

The road to Dhai Akhar victory has been an incredible journey, I’m truly humbled, God bless.

(Aboli T Wotsa has won the Dhai Akhar Letter Writing Campaignfor the third time in a row)