Letters invoke Bapu ideals
The rotunda of the General Post Office resembled an examination hall on Tuesday with rows of heads bent over benches, hands busy writing letters. All the letters were addressed to Mahatma Gandhi. “Dear Bapu, you are immortal…” is how they started.
The letter-writing contest was organised by the department of post to mark Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary.
Some looked at Gandhiji in his recent avatar as the Centre’s cleanliness ambassador in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Some brought in the Munnabhai films — Bollywood’s contribution to mass marketing of Gandhiji and his ideas under the catchword “Gandhigiri”.
But many chose to look at today’s India through the prism of the Mahatma’s ideals. “In your view patriotism and humanity are synonymous. This is why you never indulged in rabid nationalism or narrow communalism…,” wrote Barun Basak, a first-year student of Maulana Azad College.
“The independent India of Gandhiji’s dream is falling to pieces with the poison of communalism being injected into minds. I had heard of students being active in our freedom struggle. Now, we are playing the same role,” he told Metro later, explaining what he had in mind when he wrote the letter.
Railway employee Kased Ali was on his way to Fairlie Place when he spotted the contest. “You are no Hindu, no Muslim, no Buddhist, no Christian — you are a human being, Bapu,” the 59-year-old from Murshidabad wrote. “All that leaders today are doing is create rifts among people,” he said later, referring to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens.
Bhaskar Pal in his letter rued the “rudderless situation” he finds the country in. “So long I had only heard about riots from my mother, in the 70s. The last four years we are revisiting those times in my hometown Basirhat. NRC and CAA are being used to deflect our attention from the real issues,” he said.
“Nathuram Godse did not kill just a preacher of peace. He killed the ideals of peace and non-violence,” wrote Sreemoyee Dey, 18. The Birati girl, who shares her birthday with Gandhiji, said she was shocked to hear some leaders praising Godse these days. “There are no jobs, the education system is flawed; on top of that we have NRC thrust on us as the country’s biggest problem. We need peace,” she said.
A total of 61 letters were written at the GPO that day. Another 600-odd have reaching the organisers by mail from across Bengal. After a state-level screening, the best entries will be sent to Delhi for the national-level round.
“We are organising this contest for three years now to encourage the habit of writing letters. Personal letters are not being written as much as they used to be,” said Gautam Bhattacharya, chief post master general, West Bengal circle.
There were two age groups (18 or below and above 18) and categories — inland letters of 500 words and envelopes of 1,000 words, said Amitabh Singh, post master general, Calcutta.