Arun Kumar Sahu*
As I sat down with my children and a long-awaited Thai-green-curry-with-shrimp lunch at the food court of Saint Laurent Boulevard in Ottawa, my elbow brushed with a gentleman’s sitting with his son at an adjacent table.
It was Father’s Day. 19 June 2016. Sunday.
“Sorry,” I said, out of courtesy.
“Oh, never mind,” the gentleman replied, returning my smile with a grin.
I was just about to pick up a pair of chopsticks, when he asked, “Where are you from?”
“India.” I answered. It’s the commonest interjection that one faces outside one’s own country; but it has its own charm. It makes one realize the worth of an identity of a nation that is called motherland or fatherland. One can test the elasticity of this identity. Un-stretched, it is only a territory, a cartographic name; but stretched far, you get people like Mussolini, Hitler or Stalin in the name of nationalism.
“Oh! The land of Bapu!”,he said elated. And then continued, “India is so powerful today because of Bapu. What a vision he had! Non-violence! What a concept!”
“Do you recall his salt movement?” I asked, out of curiosity.
“I do.” Clearly, he wanted to express his feelings for Mahatma Gandhi to an Indian, who hails from the same land as Bapu. He wanted to convey that even if he was not born in that country, he was no less an admirer of extraordinary Mahatma Gandhi.
“Salt is such a trivial but essential necessity for human beings and Bapu turned it into a movement. What a leader! He has influenced many world leaders including Nelson Mandela” he praised.
“Are you from South Africa?” I asked.
“From Zimbabwe. Where Robert Mugabe is working hard to leave a legacy of his own”, he laughed. I remained silent, not wanting to get into any controversial discussion on President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
“Sorry! Please enjoy your food,” he said before turning to his son.
This conversation reminded me of what an anecdote a dignitary had said the other day at Carleton University during the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Carleton University. Looking at the Dandi march statue of Bapu outside the building that houses the Canada-India Centre of Excellence, she had said, “On a snowy wintery day, one of the students of Carleton thought the Mahatma was not clad enough to withstand the Ottawa winter and the statue with her scarf, remarking, ‘at least some respite’. Such was her love and care for Bapu.”
With Father’s Day 2016 already gone, I cannot help but wonder, what a universal father Mahatma Gandhi has become; cutting across time, race and geographical boundaries!
*The writer is the Deputy High Commissioner of India to Canada
The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of the government of India or www.odishasuntimes.com