Lest our children believe she is Mahatma Gandhi’s grand daughter

Lest our children believe she is Mahatma Gandhi’s grand daughter

By S. Gurumurthy  published in New Indian Express

Whois Indira Gandhi? This question was once addressed to candidates appearing forthe IAS examination. One of them answered: ‘Mahatma Gandhi’s daughter!’Newspapers had reported it partly in jest and partly as the measure ofignorance that even educated Indians suffered. But it wasn’t just ignorance. Itwas cultivated ignorance, carefully cultivated by default.

Confusionover surnames is not peculiar to public life in India.It exists everywhere. The media elsewhere clarifies whether a person withpopularly known surname is or is not the relative of the popular person. Ifsomeone with the surname Kennedy, but unrelated to John Kennedy, enteredpolitics in the US today, the media will immediately clarify that he is notrelated to John F Kennedy. If a young sibling from the Kennedy family doesenter politics, he will be identified as Kennedy junior.

Thisis precisely what the media here has failed to do in the past and continues tofail to do even now. Consequently, the mass confusion in the past in perceivingIndira Gandhi as some one related to Gandhi, the Mahatma. This has translatedinto mass deception in Indian politics. The Gandhi suffix would not have beenof great use to Indira had she been a scientist or an artist. Only because shewas in politics the people associated her with Mahatma Gandhi by the suffix‘Gandhi’.

WhetherIndira intended it so or not, that was the result. After Indira Gandhi, it wasRajiv Gandhi. Then Sonia Gandhi. Now Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. Not evenone in a thousand in this country would know that this ‘Gandhi’ suffix toSonia, Rahul and Priyanka comes from Pheroze Gandhi, Indira’s husband. Not manywould know that Pheroze Gandhi had nothing to do with Mahatma Gandhi.

Yetthey all legitimately use the surname ‘Gandhi’ which has brought them nearer tothe Mahatma than some virtually unknown Pheroze Gandhi. If this deceptivesuffixing led someone in the early 1980s to think that Indira Gandhi was thedaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, why would someone not think a decade later thatSonia is the grand daughter of the Mahatma and Priyanka is his great granddaughter? The surname Gandhi has a global appeal. Many in the world think thatthe Gandhis in politics today are really some kin of the globally well-knownMahatma Gandhi.

Undoubtedly,Gandhi is the most well-known and popular Indian name, more accurately, themost popular Indian brand, abroad. Today the owners of this Gandhi brand areonly the Italian-born Sonia and her siblings. Ironic, yes, but true. What is itlike?

Touse a light comparison, sometimes tasteless instant coffee is clubbed as coffeealong with the matchless South Indian filter coffee. Even though both instantcoffee and filter coffee are coffee in name there is no comparison between thetwo in quality. Instant coffee can hardly come anywhere near the filter coffeein taste or quality. The same is true of the two brands of Gandhis, the Mahatmaand Sonia. The media has to distinguish the real from the fake for the sake ofthe posterity. If it does not, the fake will pass off as the genuine in future.

If our children were not to think that Priyanka is thegreat grand daughter of the Mahatma and Sonia is his grand daughter, the mediahas to do here what the media elsewhere does. At least now begin referring toSonia Gandhi as not related to Mahatma Gandhi. Similarly mention PriyankaGandhi as not related to Gandhiji. Likewise rule out Rahul as a relative ofMohandas Gandhi. This is the minimum the media should do so that the posterityknows the neo-Gandhis as such and their distance from the Mahatma. If the mediadoes it here in Indiathe media elsewhere also will do so. If the Indian media does not distance theneo-Gandhis from the Mahatma, posterity will relate the neo-Gandhis to theMahatma. And, more dangerous, even understand him through them. Will the mediasee the danger and do something about this?