From Flora Fountain, when it stacked second hand books, picked up Gandhi, A Memoir by William L. Shirer, a Chicago Tribune correspondent. Am unaware of memoirs by Indian journalists with Gandhi as their beat. Shirer does not side step Gandhi foibles; yet sensitive and relevant in 2018 when lynching and shut downs of debates is the norm in India. Am not sure if politicians and journalists bother to take time out for the Memoir. Gandhi is relevant today if India is to be 70 to 80 per cent decent and civilised. Today, India is brutal and Gandhi does offer a many way street for all to stroll. In Gandhian times, the sub continent perhaps was as cruel with communal riots more a habit, a past time. Gandhi is a failure. Yet, more than Ramayana and Gita, Gandhi is the finest intro to India and suspect Shirer memoir is fair and square imbibing a Gandhian kindness. Gandhi is Indian, in the best and worst manner, like the Ganges, polluted and holy. Perhaps, the finest measure of Gandhi is a 'granite integrity' as Shirer puts it. Gandhi owned up everything, including sex life in old age. Gandhi does not need a blanket. Preferred to shiver with bald facts. Gandhi sets the norms. Shirer is not hassled by British unfairness, perhaps because he is an American. Still wonder at the professional and human links between a Gandhi and journalist Shirer. Gandhi took him as another human when he first met Shirer. Shirer wanted Gandhi to file reports. Scoops, analysis et al, a journalist is troubled by. The two beat a fine rhapsody, something hard to think of. Perhaps Gandhi did not mind a slap on the head. Sex, God, politics, the two dwelt on. They were friends even after Shirer left India to cover the Second World War from Europe. 'I am grateful that fate took me to him,' ends Shirer the 245 pages Memoir. A fine piece of reporting.
At the Shiva temple, the priest intones, softly Hanuman Chalisa and Rama goes along. No strain at the notes, a flow of pleasantness in the morning. Old Man takes in white fronted flycatcher, laburnum, yellow copper pods starring the floor, peepal, banyan .... After the prayers, the priest cups grains, scatters them for waiting pigeons and squirrels. The practice is banned by the committee running the temple but the priest breaks the rule ...'Janwar hain, bhooke hain. Are bhai, ek bhook ke liye main puja path kartha hoon... hai na hui baath,' says the priest. He is a green. A quiet green. An unshrill green. Also an Adivaitist. Sankara in Bhaja Govindam talks of Udara Nimittam bhaukrita veshah. For Sankara, life is maya to be rejected; Tuka, Kabir agree. Life is absurd. Its so for Albert Camus with the absurdity being minus god, going by many readings of The Outsider. Today finished with yet another reading. A 2018 Gita. Take out God from the equation and Sankara is equal to Camus, a poet equals a lyrical novelist. Cyril Connolly in an intro to The Outsider, dwells on Camus attitude to death: 'What does eternity matter to me? To lose the touch of flowers and womens' hands is the supreme separation.' 1970s in Bombay was that: a touch of flowers and womens' hands. Bombay 1970 was a celebration. Friend Murali Gopalan always asks me about 70s Bombay. Yes, women, wine, no mine or thine. Cant undress the soul of 70s. It is so at 72 in 2018. Thanks, priest for setting the compass right.