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Gandhi Kanakku

March 28, 2016

In colloquial Tamil we say, ‘Gandhi Kanakku’ which means ‘Gandhi’s Account(ing)’ literally.

None of us knew of the origin of the dubious phrase. We use(d) it wherever accounts would not tally proper or when there would be something fishy or inexplicable or unaccountable preventing closure (of matters). A loss that could not be made good or the ‘write-off cases’ also came under the head. Why Gandhi. This has always been playing at the back of my mind. None could supply a satisfactory answer and make a connection. How could one attribute ‘Gandhi Kanakku’ to the Father of our nation who led us through the independence struggle with his non-violent Satyagraha methods.

Recently someone uploaded this in Facebook which cleared the air. Is this true. Will any Gandhian clarify.

V O Chidambaram Pillai was the first Indian to float a Swadeshi shipping corporation contesting the British. A lawyer by profession from Tuticorin (Thoothu Kudi, Tamil Nad), he was sentenced to hard labour in prison for 40 years. He was with Indian National Congress but was influenced by Bala Gangadhar Tilak and others (who Gandhi could have called extremist) and fell away with the party on his release (granted early in 1912 before Gandhi’s return to India for good from South Africa).

When Pillai was behind the bars, his law practice licence was suspended by the government. He was put to grind oil seeds in the place of a pair of oxen which made the Tamil poet-patriot Subramanya Bharathi sing,

‘Thanneer vitto valarthom sarvesa! Ippayirai kanneeral kaathom, karuga tiruvulamo?’

(Did we raise this crop with water? No, Oh Lord, we nurtured it with tears! Can you let it wither?)

His health suffered, and family with it, which could have made him enter a plea bargain with the British (guess). Pillai’s legal licence was restored but he was barred from practising in Tuticorin. The shipping company had been liquidated in his absence from the scene, incurring huge losses.

Gandhi could not have made (personal) use of the donations given by South African Tamils meant for VOC’s family who were direly in need of help (amounting to some 5,000 INR, a fortune in 1914), but it is possible he could have held the funds and used the same for Congress after Chidambaram Pillai withdrew from the party. A chief reason could have been that Pillai was a Swadeshi like Tilak, Bharathi and Bhagat Singh.

Thus the account that must have been settled by Gandhi on his return to India from South Africa with V O Chidambaram Pillai was allegedly never settled. Hence the colloquial phrase that audaciously persists from the 1910s to 2010s – for over a century.

For instance, what about Vijay Mallya? We can say it is, Gandhi Kanakku. What say Gandhi-bhakts? ‘Gandhi Kanakku’ is like a local legend in Tamil Nad.

If indeed Gandhi had denied the legitimate and timely help to Pillai, it must be a crime of first order. Pillai braved what no other Indian could even imagine in his dreams in the year 1908. He spearheaded a bold and trendsetting Swadeshi movement in the south, sailing the first ever Indian merchant vessel, challenging the British. But Gandhi’s supposed treatment of Pillai hardly now surprises me anymore. It hurts a lot that Gandhi called even Bhagat Singh a terrorist.

So I would like to know, did Gandhi dare to call the British ‘terrorists’ after the Jallianwalah Bagh? I bet, he wouldn’t have. This is the flipside of Gandhi just like he never bothered about the African natives in South Africa who remained ‘kafirs’ to him for a very long period of time.

Having just finished reading about his South African jaunt (‘Gandhi before India’ by Ramachandra Guha) I still hold Gandhi largely responsible for the state of affairs India is in today. Doubtlessly Gandhi was a Mahatma – none can render self-sacrifice the way he did and led the nation from forefront. His endless patience, his non-violent methods all this have more relevance in today’s world. But at the same time, it is highly arrogant on his part to discount others’ ways and means as ‘terrorist’ or ‘extremist’ overestimating his own false and fake ‘decorum’ with the British that was neither necessary nor helpful. An uprising could have easily dislodged the British from India, a lot before 1947.

I am one of the strongest believers that Gandhi bet Subhas Chandra Bose to gaining independence for India on legal papers. He legitimized the British occupation thus. He gave the British a face-saving exit that Bose would not have. Win-win for both Gandhi and British.

Meanwhile we continue to refer to unaccounted money as ‘Gandhi kanakku’ in Tamil Nadu. Lately the 2G scam (starting with Bofors ) and others have joined the list. Remarkably all the involved parties are Gandhis!

And if Gandhi’s philosophy could be applicable today, then the Indian state must disband our armed forces and surrender without terms to Pakistan and China and wait for them to relent in their own sweet time.  In other words, Gandhi’s ideology should make us ‘sitting ducks’ direct in the line of fire. This is the ground reality Mr. Guha.




From → Dilli Durbar

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