Special Feature: Being Gandhi, Seeing Gandhi
January 29, 2016
On January 30, 1948, Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. In 2016, when some think Godse is a hero of sorts, can we see Gandhi again?
There’s a school teacher who has a quirky but profound answer. Not only does he see Gandhi; he also becomes Gandhi once a year.
Cop Shiva, a professional photographer and policeman from Bangalore, writes:
Bagedahalli Basavraj is a forty-six-year-old school teacher in Karnataka who was drawn to Gandhi’s principles early in life. Once a year he covers himself in silver paint, wears a pair of spectacles and a dhoti, and masquerades as Mahatma Gandhi to inspire children. He has done this for the last 14 years. Sometimes he will stand still as a statue for hours on end.
Cop Shiva notes Gandhi’s influence on Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., and his status as a “symbol of non-violence and civic resistance globally”, found in words left and right (ahimsa, satyagraha, swadesh, swaraj) and in endless images:
In India, there are countless public statues of Gandhi, he is the face on the currency, and many houses have calendars with his image. In some places, he is even worshipped as part of the Hindu pantheon of gods.
Cop Shiva’s images of Bagedahalli Basavraj surely play their part in this hall of mirrors. The policeman photographer writes that the schoolteacher, “impersonating Gandhi in rural Karnataka, has hauled himself out of anonymity and transformed into the shoes of a global symbol of non-violent resistance”.
The images, however—barefoot, monochrome, somewhere between rural Karnataka and the globe—suggest anything but impersonation or masquerade. Like Mandela’s, like King’s, “Basavraj’s act too is one of remembering and honouring Gandhi … He believes that it can make a small difference in this fragile world ridden with conflict.”
Cop Shiva, 36, is a Bangalore-based photographer and officer in the Karnataka Police Department. He has exhibited in several group and solo shows in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Switzerland.
All images © Cop Shiva
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