Farewell to Arms

December 17, 2014

While we rightly denounce the perpetrators of Peshawar crime as inhuman and intoxicated with religion, let us not forget that school killings are not confined to Pakistan.

It doesn’t take such high levels of misguided religious indoctrination to do this unthinkable and unjustifiable act.

In the last 5 years alone, 111 students/staff have been shot dead and 123 injured, in various school shootings in USA. (From wikipedia)

Without brainbreaking analysis, one can see what is common to the random shooters in US and the organized Taliban : GUNS.

Unless the developed and large countries, including India, stop indulging in the arms race, arms manufacturing and arms marketing, we will continue to grieve over such ghastly deeds.

It is not as if there was no violence before sophisticated arms, but if being inhuman is also in the nature of humans, why should our elected governments facilitate such brutality?

We have been hearing many well-meaning but patronizing comments in India, since yesterday. If India can take the lead in this, and announce, unilaterally, a massive cut in its defense budget and divert that money towards education of children in India (and Pakistan, if we can be generous and strategic), India can rediscover its lost moral leadership. Pakistan will reciprocate, and maybe, the world will, in due course. Lack of arms may have hurt us in the past. But arms cannot save us.

A Bridge to the times of Gandhi – An interview with Narayan Desai

December 11, 2014

This is an account of my interview with Narayan Desai in September, 2012. The Tamil version of the interview was posted in GandhiToday.in – the links can be found here. Sarvodaya Ilakkiya Pannai, Madurai has published this interview in print form, both in English and Tamil.


“I am Gandhi’s friend. He used to swim with me.” This was how Narayan Desai, who was on his way from Madurai to Vedchchi, introduced himself to my 4-year old daughter when we met him at Chennai, last year.

The previous week, the moment I heard that Narayan Desai was delivering his Gandhi Katha at Madurai, I decided to go there from Chennai. I had been wishing to meet him for a couple of years and had enquired a Gandhian friend about his whereabouts only a few days earlier. Narayan Desai is one of the few amongst us, who have interacted closely with Gandhi.

Narayan Desai has captured and presented a historical hero through the eyes of a child. He is Mahadev Desai’s son. He grew up in Gandhi’s ashrams. Later, he was an active co-worker with Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan. He played a leading role in the Sarvodaya movements like Bhoomidhan and Shanti Sena. Now he runs the Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya. He is the Chancellor for Gujarat Vidyapeeth, started by Gandhi during non-cooperation movement. He has written the biographies of Gandhi and Mahadev Desai. Along with Kanti Shah, he has also edited an important work on JP, in Gujarati, ‘Jayaprakash’.

After the first day of Gandhi Katha, I met Narayan Desai.  “Have you come from Chennai only for this?”, he looked elated. He introduced me to a colleague, ‘He has come from Chennai to hear us.” I requested for a personal meeting with him. He agreed immediately.

The next day morning, at 10 o’clock, I visited him at the guest house in Gandhi Museum. He was a tall man, thinly built. He wore a Khadi dress. His eyes were glowing with grace. For an 88-year old, he was quite fit. He sat upright on the bed, without resting his back, for the next 2.5 hours. He spoke slowly and deliberately. His speech was very clear, despite a mild shiver in the voice. Though he delivered Gandhi Katha in Hindi, he spoke impeccable English. Every word spurted out with energy. He was speaking continuously if I didn’t interrupt him. Sometimes, he continued to speak without noticing my interruptions. He completely ignored and remained unhampered by his occasional coughs. I was the one who worried that he would have to speak again for 3 hours in the evening. Since his Gandhi Katha speech was being translated sentence by sentence, he said, he got sufficient breaks in-between.

I told him that though I can’t speak Hindi fluently, I could understand his Hindi clearly during the Gandhi Katha. There is a lot that is lost during translation. He, too, was upset that the translator could not comprehend immediately, who ‘Jayaprakash’ was.

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