The Freedom Fighter

The photograph on the left occupies pride of place in my parents' neighbor's home. The fellow wearing the white cap is, of course, Jawaharlal Nehru (India's first prime minister).

I asked who the fellow receiving the award from Nehru was.

"My father," replied our 70-year old neighbor proudly, "he was a great freedom fighter in his young days and the first thyagi (someone who sacrificed a lot) in Devakottai." So this must have been in the 1920s around the time that Gandhi was taking over India's freedom movement and orienting it towards a non-violent struggle.

"What did your father do to get jailed?," I asked.

"He burned down a theater," I was told, "he was quite the radical."

So not non-violent then.

The name of our septuagenarian neighbor is Mohan. I'd never made the connection between his name and Gandhi's first name (Mohandas). The young man in the photo was one of those whose radicalism had been channeled by Gandhi into more peaceful means. He'd even named his son after Gandhi.

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