A Pinch of Salt

a poem by Murty N S

I was watching “Gandhi”
Of Sir Richard Attenborough on TV.
That was Dandi march.
I wondered at the command
Gandhi got over his fellow citizens
In directing all their attention
To make a pinch of salt on the sea shore.
For once it seemed to me, a trivial gimmick
And I thought he was fighting
His war with nine-pins.

The other day I was traveling
From Raipur to Nagpur by a deluxe night express.
Sitting by the window, beside me, was
A Young man in full bloom of his youth.
Rather casually I asked him: What are you?
In came the reply like a bolt:
‘I am the Regional Manager of an MNC
Which produces medicines for heart troubles.’
There was a touch of arrogance
As he spelt out the name of the MNC.
I enquired him what their prime product was.
He went into a lecture of sorts
Telling me, in essence, that they had many.
He was euphoric about their efficacy,
The network of his organisation, and its net worth
In billions of dollars,
The companies they had acquired in India,
And the green revolution brought about
By them in the villages they adopted.
He conveyed in unequivocal terms
That he was not he
And inviting MNCs into all spheres
Is the panacea for all evils that plague this country.

As night progressed, he expanded in his seat
And true to the spirit of his company,
Started slowly encroaching upon mine
Leaning heavily and disturbing my sleep.
My civilized waking-him-ups
Met with ‘sorry’s first,
Irritation next,
And nonchalance ultimately.
Less-than-halving myself in my seat
And waking up through the night
I brooded over
What might be going on
In that youth’s mind.
Fatly paid, no doubt,
He had his loyalties bought by his company
And slowly it became clear
Why salt had become synonymous with loyalty.
Now I understood
What Gandhi tried at Dandi
Was only to break this bond-
By producing a pinch of salt on the beach.

Mr. Gandhi! I am sorry.
You had won the battle but lost the war.
Decades after your Dandi
There are more loyalists than ever
Who prostrate before anything that smacks foreign.