Ballad of Bapu
Excerpt / Literature

Dandi March, a Poetic Excerpt from Ballad of Bapu

As 12th March marks the anniversary of Dandi March, we reproduce a poetic resurrection of the great symbol of civil disobedience from Santosh Bakaya’s Ballad of Bapu.

Dandi March, also known as the Salt March is an adagio in the song of Indian Independence. Each step that Mahatma Gandhi took pounded like thousand thrusts at the gates of Troy. At the end of his journey, made salt. He made history.

Santosh Bakaya is the first of Gandhi’s innumerable biographers to envision his life as a poetic saga. In the Ballad of Bapu, she has produced a tour de force that spans his life, including many little-known episodes. The exuberant language of Ballad of Bapu brings Gandhi’s spirit vividly to life like never before and explores the varied potential of Indian English beautifully. We get the full flavor of how the ordinary human being, Gandhi, with his extraordinary nonviolent ways, helped to create a great India a shining example for the world to follow.

Here, we reproduce the portion of Ballad of Bapu that covers his historic Dandi March:

Now he started a March historic

Stirring peoples’ imagination in a move dramatic

Which left a mark

And ignited a spark

Becoming a wildfire in an event chaotic!

The salt tax was unjust was the Indian standpoint.

 On 2 March 1930, to the Viceroy he wrote, his viewpoint. 

 Notifying his intention

To break it, he did mention.

 The government failed to see the point.

By boiling water, no empire had been unseated

With scorn contemptuous, was his plan treated.

A project fantastic

By a man quixotic

What followed none could have anticipated!

Lord Irwin sent a curt four-line acknowledgment

Stating that his action would be an infringement.

‘On bended knees, I asked for bread

And I have received stone instead!’

Exclaimed Gandhi in absolute resentment.

The place selected for law-breaking was Dandi.

Filled with an enthusiasm rare was Gandhi.

From his ashram at Ahmadabad

On 12 March 1930, he started with a band

Of seventy-eight ashramites towards Dandi.

With a step firm and love for his land

Onward marched the warrior staff in hand.

Was he a maverick?

Or simply eccentric?

His tactics the English unable to understand.

The Indians with sheer excitement bubbled

The brow of the administrators was troubled.

Filled with dread

At the trouble ahead

With the burden of anxiety, their backs doubled.

To Dandi, a seaside village in Gujarat

Walked they with a flutter in many a heart.

They carried no gun

Trudging miles two hundred and forty-one

 On 5th April reaching this seaside village in Gujarat.

 First day’s march ended, 13 miles from Ahmedabad

Gandhi’s frailty, couldn’t the March retard.

 This man of sixty-one

Many a wrong   had undone

 In the past, I never yearning for any award.

 Putting the people under his spell hypnotic

By addressing many a meeting public

This man of great integrity

Appeared moving almost in surreality

Exhorting people to disloyalty, was he quixotic?

 They traversed dirt roads from village to village

 Headmen giving up their posts caused government rage.

Even Kasturba Gandhi

In a sari of Orange Khadi

Marched on with the warriors on this pilgrimage.

He thought that the youth was delicate

Some were tired, Gandhi a walker first rate.

No trouble had he in walking                                         

With the people gawking

With his strides the weaklings he did berate!

The Nehrus met him at Jambusar

 Walking a little distance with this star.

Exhorted by the little figure

Women picketed shops of liquor

He said that for them Dandi was Haridwar.

 Sacrifices were many, a war had to be won.

 Motilal Nehru gifted his house, Anand Bhavan.

The man unarmed walked

Rampant enthusiasm sparked

Was a new nation really about to be born?

The government guffawed in contemptuous amusement

 The man in the loin cloth, ignoring the government

Walked on towards his destination

Smiling at their derision

 Reflecting the glow of enhanced excitement.

At his fixation with salt, the cynics jeered.

The magician walked on, the onlookers cheered.

Followed by a human tide

Some watched from the roadside

As the pilgrims progressed, the destination neared.

 On 6th April, he walked to the beach

 Yearning with a zest to reach the beach.

To tackle the foe

The figure bent low

 Hailed by everyone converged on the beach.

The wizard, bent low only to soar high.

 Picking up a lump of salt, he gave the lie

To the skeptics’ view

That his fad new

Of choosing salt would be a vacuous cry.

Now, as one man, rose the entire country

To salute this   son in unrestrained glee

Who had performed a conjurer’s trick

A lump of salt when he bent down to pick

 He had rendered his countrymen free.

 The world gaped in incredulity

At these actions sheathed in morality.

People brazenly indolent

 No more somnolent

  Rejoicing in this new-found dignity!

In a direction new, his country he did gear

Free from manacled impotence and fear

Liberated from age-old shackles

Ignoring the contemptuous cackles

 Freedom from unjust servitude was now near.

A pinch of salt had thrown it off gear

The so-called powers now cowered in fear.

 How they did hate

 This upsurge great.

 Minds churning with new tactics of generating fear.

It found the ground slipping under its feet

Afraid it would soon lose its imperial seat.

This act of defiance symbolic

Had made the situation catastrophic

Now,  severe brutalities they started to mete.

They lost sleep over this arm-less insurrection

Where salt was made by people of every section.

Men and women, young and old

Both the meek and the bold

Made salt, filling them with frustration.

Contraband salt was now openly sold

Robust became their pitch, and they grew bold.

To the skies, their zest leapt

The government out of its depth.

The cheap salt having almost become like gold.

The high and mighty government was in a fix.

Jawaharlal Nehru was sentenced for months six

JM Sengupta, the Calcutta Mayor

At a meeting read seditious literature

 And earned sentence for months six!

Intellectuals, students, both male and female

The rich and the poor, the healthy and the frail

The motley crowd

In batches   proud

Were marched off to jail without fail.

Jolted out of slumber, the country felt rejuvenated

With reckless abandon, the women demonstrated.

Horrified by this agitation rare

The government wrung its hands in despair

When literature regarding salt production was distributed. 

The book, Ballad of Bapu can be accessed here.

Dr. Santosh Bakaya is an essayist, poet, novelist, editor, TEDx Speaker, and the Winner of many awards both national and international. Dr. Bakaya has been internationally acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu [Vitasta, Delhi, 2015].

Some of her books are: Where are the Lilacs? [Poetry, Authorspress 2016] 
Under the Apple Boughs[Poetry, Authors press, 2017 ]
Flights from my Terrace Essays, [Authorspress, 2017]    
Bring out the tall tales, [short stories with Avijit Sarkar, Authorspress, 2019]

Only in Darkness can you see the Stars [A Biography of Martin Luther King Jr.  Vitasta, 2019]
Songs of Belligerence [Poetry, Authorspress, 2020]


  • Santosh
    March 13, 2021 at 11:28 am

    Thanks a ton for sharing this excerpt from Ballad of Bapu .
    Honoured .

  • Santosh
    March 13, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Honoured and humbled 🙏


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