PISSING ON GANDHI’S GRAVE

18 Oct

Yeah yeah yeah, I know Gandhi was not buried. Whad’ya think I am, schtoopid, or somethin’?

On October 2, 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Matatma Gandhi, I thought I would be celebrating the launch of my first book published by someone other than myself, THE RIFF n RAFF REBELLIONS VOLUME 1. The book, a trilogy of silly-serious novellas, stars fifteen year old best friends, Riff n Raff, who repeatedly save the world. They prevent a nuclear war, solve global warming, and end hatred. They never resort to violence, choosing, instead, to employ their one superpower, the one superpower we all have, which is LOVE.

Setting October 2 as the launch date was not by accident. Given that I am living in India, for the moment, and the publisher is Indian, we thought it would be fitting to send the tales of hope and love out into the world on Gandhi’s birthday.

We were not the only ones who sought to capitalize on the Mahatma’s birthday as a unique opportunity to launch an artistic project.

The producers of a Bollywood film also caveat emptored.

The launch of my book was halted on September 27 because the cover featured DJ Gandhi laying down some fat beats, while Riff n Raff, and the other heroes of the Utopian yarn dance to his grooving grooves, while the villains look on scowling.

People inside my publisher’s team were afraid that this would lead to mobs of irate Gandhians turning violent.

The film that launched on the same day is titled WAR.

I will say, for the record, that I admire the cheek of the film’s producers. More so than their craft, but never mind that.

Unless I missed something, irate mobs of Gandhians did not storm the theatres across India where the film made its debut. Not so much as a single protest was mounted against the film, unless, perhaps, a few dismayed Gandhians threw popcorn at the screen, but I doubt that. Quite the opposite, in fact, if the film’s Wikipedia page is to be believed: “War set the record for the highest-opening day collection for a Bollywood film in India. With a worldwide gross of over 400 crore ($4 million, give or take a couple shekels), it emerged as the highest-grossing Bollywood film of 2019.”

I was one of the million or so people who coughed up to see the shoot-em-up. I couldn’t help myself. The irony of it all was just too great to resist.

I started writing my book while the Arab Spring was kicking off, in December 2010. Yes, the uprising was my inspiration to pick up the project that I had abandoned a decade earlier. To say that my struggle to get the book published has been frustrating would be a massive understatement. Time and again, I was told that there simply is no market for an anti-war book in this age of perpetual war.

One of the reasons I came to Inidia is that I had seen an interesting interview with Aamir Khan, one of the giants of Bollywood.

The interviewer says that Bollywood films are always about hope, whereas Western films are about despair. Khan nods his head in agreement. My book is all about hope.

A friend sent me the 2011? interview when I told him I was striking out, yet again, this time in Istanbul, and thinking the land of Gandhi might be my next stop.

 Although her song is about a personal romance, I can apply Pink’s beautiful plea for hope to my hope for humanity at large (and my book’s possible contribution to that hope).

Just give me a reason
just a little bit’s enough
just a second, we’re not broken
just bent
and we can learn to love again

 So I packed my bag and flew off to Calcutta.

The thousand seater theatre was packed. Easily 99% of attendees were males under the age of 30. Young and dumb and full of rum, they hooted and hollered the moment the blood started to spill on the screen. Hell, they could barely contain themselves when the Indian national anthem played prior to projection.

I’m not gonna give you my opinion of the film, for I was not there to do a review. I was there because, well you know why I was there.

But I will say this much about the flick: although I loved the dance scenes, I was a little disappointed by them. I knew there would be dance scenes, of course, but I was hoping that the combatants would call a cease fire in the middle of a gun battle to bust some moves with some busty Bollywood babe-atollahs (and I’d love it even more if the next Rambo film would do it, too!). Ah, but that would be too discordant, wouldn’t it? Maybe even sacrilegious, huh?  

The young and dumb and full of rum boys are not monsters. A dozen or so of them even asked to take selfies with me during the intermission, just after taking sellfies while standing and simpering  next to the film poster in the lobby (I am very much a visual anomaly here).

I watched about 10 minutes of the second reel before handing my half eaten box of two day old popcorn to the ten year old muncnkin making monkey noises in the seat next to me, and taking my leave. They’d gotten my money, they weren’t gonna get anymore of my time. I’d seen enough.

The young and dumb and full of rum boys are not monsters, I repeated to myself on my way home. But they can be turned into monsters. Alas, has ever been thus.

But where the fuck is the hope in the land of Gandhi today? I contemplated that for an hour, oh so, while staring into the void from my rooftop. I suppose, I said to myself, it is in Gandhi and his message.

So, I made my way to my computer and watched Gandhi for the first time since it came out in 1982. That was the year this rebel found his cause. Along with If You Love This Planet, Gandhi made me an activist, instead of just a complainer.

On the bizarre night of October 2, 2019, I really needed some of Gandhi’s wisdom to give me a reason, just a little bit’s enough. I am happy to report that I found it while watching the three hour masterpiece.

And I laughed, as I realized that it was a Hollywood film that glorified Gandhi, not a Bollywood production. The irony did not stop on that day; it just kept rolling in front of my eyes.

So, what is it that Gandhi said that gives me hope? The quote is used in the film, of course. Twice, as a matter of fact. The second time comes right after his assassination at the film’s end, before the credits roll.

“All through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Think of it: always.”

Here’s hoping, little big man. Here’s hoping.

One Response to “PISSING ON GANDHI’S GRAVE”

  1. craigparx at 11:03 am #

    Nice! You bring India to life with your reminiscences. I look forward to more.

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