I decided to march with Gandhiji. It seemed like a fun thing to do, to march for days and days with no object but to make salt, the ramifications of that were immense, or so everybody thought.
I was the most qualified to undertake such an exercise, I could devote any amount of time to the most trivial activity. There was just a little problem though; I needed my alcohol at night. From my vast experience I could tell that there would be others like me.
So, we formed a little group and carried out a little act of disobedience within that act of disobedience. So some liquor was arranged and the three of us huddled up in a tent, it was Ram, Maqbool and me, and from my memory and jottings in my diary following is the conversation that ensued, and I capture it from a point where all of us were sufficiently drunk to make the conversation interesting-
Ram: So why are you called Anant?
I: It is because I have no end.
Ram: So why are you marching with us for?
I: No end, I do not die.
Maqbool: Who among us has any practice at dying anyway, ha ha ha …?
I: I have lived for thousands of years.
Ram: This guy is drunk now!
Maqbool: Maybe he means that in a metaphorical sense.
Ram: Anyway, I feel guilty about drinking, Gandhiji does not approve of that. I respect him, I respect his ideals, but there is little I can do about this. I can see wrong in our being ruled by other, I am willing to oppose it. I see wrong in the poor man spending his last penny on liquor, I wish to reform him. But I don’t see any wrong in my drinking, so I cannot not do something I believe is not wrong. And yet, something pinches me.
Maqbool: Did your parents approve of you marching to Dandi?
Ram: Not really, but they had little choice in letting me go.
Maqbool: So do you not respect your parents?
Ram: Of course I do.
Maqbool: So in the same way, you can have the utmost respect for Gandhiji and yet beg to differ from him on a certain issue.
I: And Ram, what is wrong with the poor man spending his last penny on liquor?
Ram: He should rather spend it on food!
I: And who are you to tell him that?
Ram: I know.
I: Why do you think you know?
Ram: Because tomorrow I know he will suffer when he gets no food.
I: And why do you think he should not make that choice.
Ram: Because … well because I think so … you are being unnecessarily difficult!
I: I am being difficult, yes, but it is not unnecessary.
Maqbool: How difficult are the choices? What is a man to do? To stop respecting one’s father because he supports the British Empire; to stop drinking because Gandhiji says so or because one’s faith says so?
Ram: Now you must stop drinking because I say so.
Maqbool: And who are you to so say so?
Ram: I am the keeper of the bottle which has now reached its end, and there is little even the one without end can do about it.
I: And we have to report tomorrow at 10 for lunch.
Maqbool: And that is something I dare not disobey. You must draw the line somewhere!
Ram: So let us crash.