While I have nothing against celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday today and celebrating it enthusiastically, let us not forget another great man who was born today. And we must especially remember him now because of our problems with China. They are repeat of what was happening in the early 60s.
I was very, very young, but I remember those days because my father, being in the army, was on the border with China (we called it NEFA then). There was a lot of tension at home, because we didn’t know how he was – all we knew was that he was in the midst of the war. It was 1965 and we didn’t have the kind of communication we have now. Once every two weeks or so, we would get an “inland letter”, and when that blue piece of paper with his neat handwriting arrived, we were happy for a while.
My uncle’s family had a tougher time. Even after the war ended, he was missing for months. We learned later that he and his men had gotten lost and had wandered behind enemy lines. They survived by tossing grenades into frozen ponds and eating the raw fish that floated up to the surface. But I’ll perhaps save that story for another time…
More importantly it was in this mood of tension and waiting that our Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri went to Tashkent (then part of the USSR) to negotiate a peace with Pakistan (and unbeknownst to the world, also the Chinese). It was after the successful conclusion of the negotiations that he suffered a heart attack, and on a cold January morning in what is now the capital of Uzbekistan, surrounded by strangers, he passed on.
Today is the anniversary of his birth too. Let us also pay our respects to him along with Gandhiji.