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]