Madiba, Ghandi, gossip in heaven


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Category: Reflections 15 Dec 13

Oh, how I wish Madiba, that great, great soul, could have witnessed his own memorial service. I’d like to think of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi having a rip-roaring time in heaven. It might go like this:

(Start of skit)

Mandela: They say I like to bring people together. I do. The best was how that brilliant boy Obama got himself in a pickle with what they call a “selfie” with that young blonde leader, Denmark’s Helle Thorning Schmid. In seconds the world knew about it. You know, I think women like Obama a bit too much. 

Gandhi: But yes, Obama’s wife must have a spine of steel to put up with the adulation he gets from women. Obama was practically leaning into the blonde. Michelle didn’t look amused.  You know I struggled with my love for women in my lifetime. Unlike Obama I was not blessed with a fantastic physique made for those painted-on suits highflyer women like these days. You know, once I started wearing a loincloth, my days of a debonair professional were over. I had no time for fittings of suits.

Mandela: I respect you, Gandhi, but I don’t think even in a suit you had the features to make women swoon like my young protégé Obama. Another woman wearing a spectacular copper and gold traditional outfit with a high headdress caught my eye because she was not African.

Gandhi: Yes, I saw her. She is Kamla Persad-Bissessar, of East Indian descent, from a West Indian twinisland state.

Mandela: Well, Bapu, I didn’t think I was seeing right this far from earth. She looked good. I feel honoured, but I got the feeling that once she got there, she felt a little out of place. I like to see people’s authentic selves, and I worried that she might have wasted precious moments of bilateral bonding with world leaders explaining who she represented.  I understand that T&T is a cosmopolitan state. She might have even worried Michelle Obama, who, in her plain black dress, looked well. You know how women stress over these things.

Gandhi: Ah Madiba, Kamla is a good name. She looks like a good Hindu woman who loves many cultures.  I wish I had visited her islands in the Caribbean. I have always loved the sea. I could have made salt on her island too.  I have been looking at Rajiv’s widow, the Italian Sonia Gandhi, for years. She has become a master at tying saris. She wears only khadi—locally woven saris. She never wears western clothes in public. She is even more austere than the staunchest Indian freedom fighter I remember. She’s a foreigner to India but no one can fault her taste. She is elegant, understated, wears no jewelry when she faces our Indian masses, comes across as serious. She wants us to forget she is Italian but Indians remember every day.  I can’t believe this, Madiba, we are gossiping like women.

Mandela: It’s okay, we were in jail for many years doing many serious things. We took blows and stood up to oppression. We worked on a large human canvas. India and Africa, and the whole world can build on that.

Gandhi: Back to the selfie. The White House is saying Michelle was happy her man was taking photos with a blonde and released photos to prove it. They call this “first world problems,” Madiba. In our time we were too busy fighting for fundamental rights for our people

Mandela: Yes. It’s harmless fun.  Obama is part of this new age of technology that you and I missed, Bapu. Millions of young people need to relate to their leaders. They relate to Obama’s selfie. I hope Obama has learned from Clinton not to succumb to that hubris of adulation from women. So he looks and flirts a bit.  That makes him even more human, more appealing.

Gandhi: As I was saying, the priceless  moment, even better than Mastercard, was when Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv’s widow, the juggernaut behind the ruling Congress party, in her sari met Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of T&T dressed in full African regalia. The two met! The Italian in a crisp Indian sari, and the Indian West Indian in an African robe.

Mandela: Ha ha. I saw that. Did you see how puzzled they were, looking at one another?

Gandhi: That photograph was worth a thousand words. Each was thinking “Who are you?”; then, “What are you?”

Mandela: Then they were thinking “But what am I?” A funeral is now a fashion parade. I am glad. I am glad. Race is now a costume. Not the serious thing it was when I was in jail. This lady Kamla has taught us something. To go beyond tribalism. We are too tribal in India and Africa.

Gandhi: Let the young people enjoy themselves.

Mandela: Yes, it’s wonderful. Pretoria is a mosaic of the world. I am, like you, a simple man, a humble man with Spartan tastes. But I understand the East Indian West Indian lady’s country has a wonderful spectacle called Carnival. We in Africa, and you in India, love a spectacle, a parade.

Gandhi: But in the costuming, Madiba, let us not become people of straw. Let us know who we are.

Mandela: You and I know who we are, Bapu, but we will never figure out women.

Gandhi: Ah, but Mandela, you know about women’s nature better than most.

Mandela: So do you, Gandhi, so do you. They will be bringing out all kinds of diaries about you. But that’s good because that’s a way of keeping your legacy alive.  By the way, they call you Bapu in India, the father of the nation. They call me father too, Madiba.  So from now on, I will call you Father.

Gandhi: I will call you “Father Father.” Come let me show you heaven.  Although the more interesting people are in hell, I hear.

(The two float along companionably.)

The end.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur