The Gujarat YatraCNN-IBN Senior Editor Anubha Bhonsle travels through Gujarat to feel the pulse of the 'aam admi' ahead of the all-important state election.
Porbandar's hero, perhaps its only claim to fame, the birth place of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. If one was to walk on the streets of Porbandar, the Mahatma would be inconspicous. Yes, there is the ubiquitous Khadi Gram Udyog, even the odd Soda Shop has his picture on the hoardings. A statue on the road leading to Kirti Mandir is trying to keep the Mahatma alive.
Its early in the morning, a few flower sellers are out, traffic is just picking up. Most who have gathered will first make their way to the temple of Srinathji. The shops in the vicinity all cater to the temple, small paper garlands, incense sticks. Some after their prayers will probably venture into Kirti Mandir. The statue on the arterial road that leads to the temple and Kirti Mandir is indication enough. Every morning a man comes, gives the statue a thorough wipe, places a garland of flowers around its neck, enough to keep the memory of Mahatma alive.
At Kirtimandir, there is more than the usual crowd. The CRPF jawans, four of them and one senior on election duty have decided to take a few hours to see Kirti Mandir before beginning their duty. Their car decided to take prime place outside the structure, blocking the entrance for many others. As one enters there are life size paintings of Gandhi and Kasturba hanging side by side. There is a small donation box, its locked. Am not sure why. Gandhi wanted that he should not be made a God and so, keeping his wishes, garlands are not used.
The foundation stone of the Kirti Mandir was laid in 1947 during the lifetime of Gandhi. The memorial was completed in 1950, by which time Gandhi was no more.
I go in, climb the narrow, steep staircase with the help of a rope hanging from the ceiling. I walk around the small rooms, imagining the person who grew up here. The locals react to Gandhi with pride, but more amusement. They have lived around Kirti Mandir, just a few kilometres away the Port, another famous landmark, a picture of decadence and chaos, Flags, broken boats, good boats, tired workers, fish, ice, gutters, wood all intermingle. Ask anyone about Gandhi here and they laugh at you, pointing you to the other side. Here there is no time to talk about Gandhi or his ideals. They must quickly tank up, collect fuel and food for about 15 days. This will hold them when they are out on the sea. They'll also stock up on liquor. You cant be at the sea and not drunk, one man tells me. If the boat owner is a nice man, he may hand over a few good bottles, else they will manage with the local stuff. I again think of Gandhi, where is he ? Well, he is round the corner, standing with a garland around his neck. Gandhi is a statue here, just a memory in the land of his birth.
More about Anubha Bhonsle
Anubha Bhonsle is an anchor and Senior Editor of CNN-IBN. She has been a journalist for over 15 years, starting her career with The Indian Express, then moving to be part of Miditech, the Zee Group, subsequently joining New Delhi Television where she was part of the political bureau and an anchor. Anubha joined CNN-IBN at inception, as prime-time anchor and Senior Editor. She is a graduate in Journalism and a post-graduate in social communication. As a Jefferson fellow she researched on America’s political history and the role of gender and race. Anubha and her team have been part of many award-winning projects. Her documentaries on Irom Sharmila and Children of Conflict won appreciation internationally, at the New York Film Festival and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. Anubha is a cleanliness freak, loves collecting kettles and admires Pearl Buck. She lives in Delhi with her family.