Mon, 13 Mar 2000

Gandhi confusion

Someone following my letters to The Jakarta Post for several years, might wonder whether my first name, Gandhi, is related to the great Indian leader.

Following President Abdurrahman Wahid's recent visit to India, during which he paid homage to its great leader and founder of India, Mahatma Gandhi, there has been considerable confusion "among Indonesians including intellectuals and journalists" about who is Gandhi's grandson or daughter and who is not.

The letter of clarification from the Indian embassy in Jakarta shows the "seriousness" of the problem. It could have developed into a diplomatic row had Mahatma Gandhi started his career as a lawyer in Kashmir (even for just a few days) instead in South Africa. But we know, hopefully, that Sonya Gandhi is not related to Mahatma Gandhi, as the state television TVRI proudly, but incorrectly reported. She is related to another great leader of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose daughter was named Indira. Indira married a Persian named Gandhi and had two sons from this marriage, one was named Rajiv Gandhi, the late husband of Sonya, who is Italian.

And for those wondering about my name, my father wanted me to be a nationalist leader and fighter for the freedom of the oppressed colonized people of Indonesia. He, himself, was a nationalist party leader and member of Indonesia's first People's Consultative Assembly.

As a mediocre journalist, I have failed to realize my father's aspirations. But I have kept my given name, "Gandhi", with a sense of pride. I believe there are hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Indonesians bearing the name of Gandhi. They all must have their own fancies about the myth of Gandhi.