IT WAS JANUARY THE THIRTIETH, 1948, when members of our clan had been invited to our apartment at Connaught Place, New Delhi (aerial view alongside.) They were to celebrate my father’s birthday. Then, out of the blue, the awful, terrible news came on All-India Radio that Mahatma Gandhi, pictured below, had been assassinated.
My parents had no other option but to cancel our dinner party for some 60 guests by whatever means possible: the telephone mainly, and by couriers dispatched by car or on bicycles to at least a dozen addresses in and around New and Old Delhi.
Not surprisingly, some of our A-list invitees had’nt any knowledge of the last-minute cancellation, and the dozen or so who turned up at our doorstep in the early evening were led into a darkened dining room lit only by candles mounted on the birthday cake.
In subdued after-dinner conversation, the elders discussed what Gandhiji had meant to them in their lives – the good, the bad and the ugly – during his lifetime. On balance, what stood out were the many benefits for the poor and middle classes that the Mahatma had carved out through sheer grit and determination: For the newly partitioned India, that had gained independence just a few months earlier on August 15, 1947, there were still a plethora of old British Raj legacies that would take months – if not years – for a new and resurgent India to shed and turn into a strong and vibrant democratic country. And that without the dominant figure of Mahatma Gandhi in the Capital presiding over the future of the nation after the awful, pivotal world-shattering event of the Thirtieth of January. It was indeed a Day of Joy and Sorrow for all of us
The following day was marked by a miles-long march in solidarity to Raj Ghat, Gandhi’s cremation site in Delhi.
People from all walks of life, the rich and the poor, converged on the old city to pay their respects to the Father of the Nation.
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