Mahatma Gandhi and Lindsay Lohan

Mahatma Gandhi is an all-purpose sales guy. Mont Blanc pens know that and decided to have an imprint of his image on their limited edition fountain pen in 18-carat solid gold. This story was reported two months ago and has resurfaced because a PIL has been filed in India against the retailers.

I would not want it for the simple reason that it is cheesy and I can’t afford it. But the arguments against it are rather amusing.

$23,000, they say, is the lifetime income of the poor in India.

Rich Indians buy Swarovski crystals and Gucci bags. They do not calculate how much the poor are worth.

One of those spokesperson types said, “This pen is really funny. Gandhi would say it should be tossed in the trash or, better, sold off to pay for water and power for the poor. Gandhi would have been ashamed.”

Nope. Gandhi lived with industrialists and he knew they manufactured expensive goods. And we also knew that people commemorate heroes after they are dead. He did not ask the rich when he was alive to give up anything for the poor.

His great-grandson, who got a neat cut, it is said, had a different take: “I consider the Mont blanc pen their acknowledgment of the greatness of Gandhi. They are doing it the only way they know how. His writing implement was his greatest tool.”

I thought non-violence and swadeshi (self-reliance and abjurance of foreign goods) was. He delivered lectures and spoke a lot. He did write but that is hardly any justification for this pricey little thing. And it is limited edition, accessible to very few.

This business of an India on the move is getting on my nerves. We were always a materialistic society; some sold products, some services and some spirituality. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line (about $1.25 a day). They don’t care about Mont Blanc or any pen because most are illiterate. And they pretty much do not care about Gandhi.

We want to purr about some big cats making it big, then fine. Let them flash that pen around too.

It is aesthetically quite unappealing and would require great gumption to expose bad taste. It won’t transform them into Gandhi clones. Or Gandhi abusers. Or people who like quoting Gandhi because it sounds like such an awesome thing to do.

So, here is one: “Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.”

- - -

Now, we come to the other great marketing delight. Lindsay Lohan is in India to make a documentary on human trafficking. She tweeted: “Over 40 children saved so far... Within one day's work... This is what life is about... Doing THIS is a life worth living!!!”

Sure. I am sure it will keep her clean for a while. But did she have to sound like she is at some game keeping track of the goals scored? Is it all in a day’s work? Do we blame Twitter, the medium, for making everything seem so simplistic and easy? And why Lindsay? What was the BBC thinking? Role model?

Oh, and here’s a quote from her repertoire, too: “How can you not like Britney Spears?”


  1. Some things are best said in teh medium of thought .....in this case ...hamare mulk ke chehere pe kya likha hai ...begerat ....whoever has no consequence in their own world ..chala aata hai india kee chinta karne ...I wish we had some people with guts in external affairs ....should have shot a quick note to Ms Lohan...she should sort mess in her own life and leave to us our gods ...we have enough of them ....84 crores and counting ..
    Begani shaadi mein abdullah diwana ...problem hamari chinta ms Lohan ko pata nahin kyun hai

  2. Manish,
    very funny, tweet it back to Lohan ,with the translation of course. Last phrase masterpiece.

  3. Farzana,
    Since this post did dwelve on Gandhi, a short comment on him in social and philosophical context we poerate in our contemporary times. Everything aside, Gandhi's philosophical focus had always been rooted in idealism that sort of undermined or negated the evolutionary and historical forces - read this as "socio-economic" history that shaped societies - that shaped individual's behavior as a representative of particular section of the society. Dialectical materialism - negating mechanical materialism as other extreme of idealism - posed a serious political philosophical challenge to idealism. Failure of Socialist soverign states - that based their political philosophy on Dialectical materialism - world over indicted and discredited the philosophy of Dialectical materialism, mostly unfairly. What we see now is a triumphant market fundamentalism using convenient icons . Gandhi - an idealist - happens to be one such icon. Historically, capitalism has always found a natural ally in idealist philosophy. Does this undermine the legacy of Mahatma ? I would be damned if I say so. But then, OTOH, Mahatma's tragedy is his having become a idealist icon for a nihilist media which hardly ever highlights the philosophical underpinnings.
    And BTW, did you notice how "Lage Raho Munnabhai" appears far more honest than Mont Blanc ? Though, at the same time both use the same icon to make money.


  4. Manish:

    True. The point is, by showing our unappealing face we manage to become even more attractive. Lohan is silly and carrying around this trophy because we let it happen. Don’t forget Gere and Jolie got there first, not to speak of those Dalai lama chelas. I wonder if they’d be as enthusiastic if he were not in India.

    Waise, shaadi mein baraati hi mazaa aur lete hai, dulha/dulhan tau bas badaam ke doodh ke bare mein sochte hai…


    Interesting points. Gandhian idealism worked effectively in a limbo that was unrelated to causative factors but wanted to effect change. The ‘socio-economic’ history you speak about was negated partly because the individual was not considered of primary importance. One might think it to be almost a Marxian idea, but Gandhian philosophy was not a spectrum of individual ‘collectivism’, but a figment of not-rationalism.

    You are right in that dialectical materialism was never quite understood for it to be accepted. As you point out so perceptively, “Historically, capitalism has always found a natural ally in idealist philosophy. Does this undermine the legacy of Mahatma ? I would be damned if I say so.”

    I find the concept of swadeshi as a marketable commodity part of this syndrome. A bit of what I have said here and some other thoughts are in the following piece, if you are interested:


    Re. ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’, I have my reservations because it was not merely a money-driven enterprise like Mont Blanc but a blatant display of feel-goodism that obfuscated the real issues. In that, I found it too manipulative.

  5. KulBhushan,
    Chief ..Thanks for the note ...I was earlier going to write in Punjabi for Ms Lohan "Apni Manji thale daang phero" Look in your own closet :)

    Saw your blog , one more Nice place to go ...


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