Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Porbander, October 2, 1869 – New Delhi, January 30, 1948) may qualify as the most visible invisible Indian in India. His journey was an eclectic one, from founding father, to icon on the currency notes, to a figure relegated to the dusty bookshelves. He is remembered officially a few times a year, his portrait adorns government buildings, and his face is on the bills surreptitiously exchanged in payola daily.
Other than that, Bapu's three principles of satyagraha, ahimsa and tapasiya are lost in the maze of hazy fog of an undisturbed past.
Rama Luxmi wrote about the "frail, half-naked ascetic" who is the main attraction at an interactive multi-media museum in New Delhi. This is the same exhibition about which Desicritic Kim explored in a photo essay on May 27, 2006.
Sacred World Foundation, the creators of this interactive museum, have this to say about the exhibits:
A language… derived from classical symbols of the spinning wheel, turning of the prayer wheels, touching symbolic pillars, the act of hands touching sacred objects… the touching and rotating of prayer beads. These tradition-based interactions inspire a rich panorama… that allow people to access the multimedia imagery and multidimensional mind of Gandhiji.
Gandhi's statues adorn London, Toronto, Winnipeg, San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Washington, DC, Pietermaritzburg, Moscow, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, Canberra, Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Port of Spain and San Fernando.
"Gandhiji's image has definitely changed since when I was growing up. Then he was a symbol of all that was good and pure, reflected in the oft-heard plaintive wail, Bapu kya ho gayaa tere desh ka (roughly translated — what have they done to your country, oh father?). No doubt, this holier-than-thou image was attributable to decades of Congress rule and the accompanying whitewashing of history books.
But some things endure — his commitment to the truth at all costs, his brutal honesty, his devotion to his principles, and his undoubted contribution in securing the nation's independence. At the end of the day, despite the barbs and the derision heaped on him by no end of detractors, he remains a real man, the greatest to emerge from India and one of the world's most influential people. That, along with his face on every currency note printed in India, is his enduring legacy," wrote a writer friend from Banglore.