Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gandhi items sold to airline and beer magnate

"More than a decade ago, a Los Angeles filmmaker and peace activist named James Otis began collecting items that represented the ascetic lifestyle of Mohandas Gandhi. They were the simple belongings of a man who did not care for possessions: his steel-framed spectacles, a pair of sandals, a bowl, a plate and a pocket watch.

"Those modest possessions of the leader of the nonviolent struggle for Indian independence touched off an international struggle as they went on sale Thursday at Antiquorum Auctioneers in New York.

"The tiny auction room was thick with finely dressed bidders, a throng of journalists and a lawyer for Otis, who was trying to stop the auction after having second thoughts.

"In the end, after days of controversy that roiled India, the lot sold for $1.8 million to Vijay Mallya, an Indian liquor and airline magnate who owns the company that makes Kingfisher beer.

"For the Indian government - which faces general elections next month - the sale was of questionable legality and threatened to deny the country part of the cultural legacy of its founder. For Gandhi's descendants, the sale seemed to contradict his aversion to materialism. Gandhi himself had given away several of the items. For Otis, the sale was to be a means to promote pacifist causes, although the uproar later proved to be upsetting ..."
International Herald Tribune

The irony is deafening. Mahatma Gandi taught and practised the ways of voluntary simplicity, and, like the other avatars Buddha and Jesus before him, rejected a life of comfort and wealth for one of relative poverty, encouraging others to do likewise. Read about him in the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days.

I found this item at Chris Keeley's Daily Dreamtime, with thanks.

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Blogger Rama Karthikeyan said...


9:34 AM  
Blogger Pip said...

What an excellent piece of writing. I hope it gets spread far and wide.

9:39 AM  

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