Gandhi’s eyeglasses now more popular than Palin’s

Last year everyone was talking about Sarah Palin’s eyeglasses. This year I predict Gandhi-type glasses will be the hot trend among the urban elite. After days of protest by the Indian government and it’s private citizens, Gandhi’s glasses and a few additional personal effects went on the auction block in NYC. In the end, after drama throughout the day, an Indian citizen got the goods:

No wonder he wanted new glasses. Those are pretty fugly.

After intense protests from India’s government and the Indian press, Mohandas K. Gandhi’s eyeglasses and some of his other belongings were sold on Thursday afternoon for $1.8 million at an auction in Manhattan, after last-minute attempts to halt the sale.

The buyer was identified as Vijay Mallya, an Indian liquor and airline executive who owns the company that makes Kingfisher beer. A representative for Mr. Mallya, Tony Bedi, did the bidding and later announced that the belongings would be returned to India for public display, but it was not clear whether they would be turned over to the government, as some officials have demanded.

Indian officials had maintained that the auction — scheduled to be completed on Thursday afternoon in Manhattan — was illegal, but also that they were continuing to negotiate with the owner, James Otis, over a possible resolution. Ultimately, the government and Mr. Otis were not successful in halting the auction. [Link]

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p>At one point in negotiations with the Indian government, Otis asked for the following:

James Otis said he was ready to halt the sale and donate Gandhi’s personal items, including his trademark round eyeglasses, in exchange for India’s commitment to a substantial rise in its funding for poverty. [Link]

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p>Ummm, yeah. Good starting negotiation position. Next time I negotiate with anyone I will start by asking for world peace.

This is actually the second time in a week that a rising power has had its cultural history on auction in the U.S.

The journey by which the Chinese rabbit and rat heads made their way to Europe and by which Gandhi’s antiques reached the US bear some parallels. China’s bronzes disappeared when French and British colonial armies looted the imperial Summer Palace in Beijing at the end of the second Opium War in 1860. Like so many other trophies and treasures seized from the colonies, they were brought to France and displayed in an art gallery as memorabilia from the age of glorious European empires.

They “legally” changed hands to become the personal property of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, a bon vivant who was among the top connoisseurs of the art world. [Link]

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The rat and the rabbit were sold along with a vast collection of art by Pierre Berge, Yves St Laurent’s former lover and business partner. He particularly outraged China by saying he would give the heads back for nothing if it “gave Tibet its freedom”. [Link]

People have been trying to free Tibet for a long time, and even after the organizers of the Lalapalooza tour (which I attended way back in 1993) made that demand via grunge rock, China still didn’t listen. How is holding a rat and rabbit hostage going to convince them if that didn’t work? Both these owners look pretty foolish and sanctimonious trying to levy their morality on China and India while they themselves represent the legacy of colonial looting.

Gandhi’s items were not forcibly grabbed by the British in the same way as the Chinese bronzes, but they too passed into colonial hands and mythology…
Gandhi’s glasses were similarly given as a present to a colonel in the British Indian Army who had asked for a keepsake in order to be inspired. They were held within the colonel’s family for a long time before passing into a private collector’s trove. The other auction items from Gandhi were gifted by the Mahatma to his grandniece and remained with his descendants until collectors netted it and brought it to the Antiquorum show. [Link]

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Within the last hour several news organizations are reporting that Mallya will now send his new glasses to the government of India for display. He hasn’t used the word “donate,” however. If he doesn’t, I think people might be pouring out his Kingfisher in the streets of India soon.

29 thoughts on “Gandhi’s eyeglasses now more popular than Palin’s

  1. Gandhi’s eyeglasses now more popular than Palin’s

    But how does his updo compare?

    The irony of Mr. Live-it-large yacht-booze-girls Vijay Mallya being the only Indian able to step into the breach to rescue Gandhi’s belongings for India is rich!

  2. The irony of Mr. Live-it-large yacht-booze-girls Vijay Mallya being the only Indian able to step into the breach to rescue Gandhi’s belongings for India is rich!

    not kvite. i rather enjoyed the salmon’s essay on the fiftieth anniversary of india’s independence where he proclaimed that indians do not suffer overly from anniversaritis, though the idea did have legitimate feet that a statue of mk gandhi [in loincloth and with soti] should be raised in antarctica as a recognition of the fifty past.

  3. Well, a lot of people wanted to rescue those things and send them back ‘home.’ Notably, a group led by hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal was bidding for the items, ‘money being no object.’ In one day, the reserve price went from $30,000 to $300,000, I believe. It must feel so good to rescue the spectacles and chappals in distress. I think Otis said that he would give the items to Government of India, provided it spend “increase GDP spending on the poor.” (from 1% to 5%)

    The irony of Mr. Live-it-large yacht-booze-girls Vijay Mallya being the only Indian able to step into the breach to rescue Gandhi’s belongings for India is rich!

    Oh, he likes things which are hard to get (or which a lot of money can buy).

  4. “Legacy of colonial looting” my ass. I’m reminded of this Onion story a few years back. A couple of years ago I recall an NPR program on “India’s Miracle” where an Indian businessman was excitedly going on about how “vhen I vuz a boy ve used to all look up to Gandhi but now all of de children are looking op to Bill Gates and Varren Buffet!”

    Yeah, great news.

    It’s definitely better to have BILLIONAIRE Vijay Mallya spend $1.8 million on Gandhi’s sandals and eating bowl than to spend more money on the poorest of India’s citizens.

    I hope I’m not touching a sore subject here when I accuse India’s Government of cynically promoting idol worship at the expense of every single thing that Gandhi would have wanted – and LITERALLY GAVE HIS LIFE FOR!

  5. Vijay is making a killing since the economy is down and people are depressed, liquor sales are through the roof.

  6. It’s definitely better to have BILLIONAIRE Vijay Mallya spend $1.8 million on Gandhi’s sandals and eating bowl than to spend more money on the poorest of India’s citizens. I hope I’m not touching a sore subject here when I accuse India’s Government of cynically promoting idol worship at the expense of every single thing that Gandhi would have wanted – and LITERALLY GAVE HIS LIFE FOR!

    The problem isn’t how much money is being spent. The issue is how much of the money allocated to the poor ends up in the pockets of idiot netas and their political cronies. You can spend as much money as you want but when that money doesn’t actually translate into new schools or the teachers you hire don’t actually show up to teach then what’s the point? Would we not be better off by refraining from wasting the country’s tax revenue on feel-good projects that don’t do anything and focus on hiring honest and efficient administrators instead?

  7. 8 · Yoga Fire said

    It’s definitely better to have BILLIONAIRE Vijay Mallya spend $1.8 million on Gandhi’s sandals and eating bowl than to spend more money on the poorest of India’s citizens. I hope I’m not touching a sore subject here when I accuse India’s Government of cynically promoting idol worship at the expense of every single thing that Gandhi would have wanted – and LITERALLY GAVE HIS LIFE FOR!
    The problem isn’t how much money is being spent. The issue is how much of the money allocated to the poor ends up in the pockets of idiot netas and their political cronies. You can spend as much money as you want but when that money doesn’t actually translate into new schools or the teachers you hire don’t actually show up to teach then what’s the point? Would we not be better off by refraining from wasting the country’s tax revenue on feel-good projects that don’t do anything and focus on hiring honest and efficient administrators instead?

    Nice fake left.

    As an aside, the methods are irrelevant because your goals aren’t the ones that Gandhi was interested in anyway. Riding rail third class, wearing only home-spun underwear and abjuring all honors, material goods and hedonistic pleasures is NOT the same goal as ensuring that all Indian schoolchildren get a quality education so that they can get on the same rat-race treadmill that Western people have been dying on for so long. “Hating poverty” is only the equivalent of “loving riches” to someone who believes that money can buy happiness. Gandhi was not such a believer.

    Cut-throat Capitalism = Social Darwinism and as the problem it is not alleviated by learning how to perform it more effectively.

    mnuez

  8. In my previous comment the formatting didn’t quite come through right.

    The first two sentence-paragraphs were from my aboriginal comment that Yoga Fire was quoting. The following two sentence-paragraphs were Yoga Fire’s and my response was the following:

    Nice fake left.

    As an aside, the methods are irrelevant because your goals aren’t the ones that Gandhi was interested in anyway. Riding rail third class, wearing only home-spun underwear and abjuring all honors, material goods and hedonistic pleasures is NOT the same goal as ensuring that all Indian schoolchildren get a quality education so that they can get on the same rat-race treadmill that Western people have been dying on for so long. “Hating poverty” is only the equivalent of “loving riches” to someone who believes that money can buy happiness. Gandhi was not such a believer.

    Cut-throat Capitalism = Social Darwinism and as the problem it is not alleviated by learning how to perform it more effectively.

    mnuez

  9. It’s an interesting article. My son just returned from a 3 month visit to India. Too bad the author had to invoke Sarah Palin in order to attract more readers.

  10. I’m sorry, but can anyone explain what mneuz is going on about? ["aboriginal comments" indeed;)]

  11. for mallya this is like an advertising campaign. last week i was trying to buy tickets on kingfisher but their website repeatedly rejected my non-indian credit cards. in the end i went with jet airways. now if this story had come up last week, i would have tried harder with kingfisher.

  12. Irony? Gandhiji’s home state, Gujarat has an alcohol sell ban, i.e. is the only dry state of India and his items were bought in an auction by the liquor king Vijay Mallaya.

  13. As an aside, the methods are irrelevant because your goals aren’t the ones that Gandhi was interested in anyway. Riding rail third class, wearing only home-spun underwear and abjuring all honors, material goods and hedonistic pleasures is NOT the same goal as ensuring that all Indian schoolchildren get a quality education so that they can get on the same rat-race treadmill that Western people have been dying on for so long. “Hating poverty” is only the equivalent of “loving riches” to someone who believes that money can buy happiness. Gandhi was not such a believer.

    I fail to see how “not spending money that’s just going to line the pockets of corrupt officials instead of proving healthcare or education” equates to “loving riches.” In all the talk of increasing the money spent on civil service why doesn’t any talk about just making the civil service more professional? It’s cheaper and it actually gets the job done in a way that dumping ever increasing sums of money into a black hole will never accomplish.

  14. On a lighter note, CNN had the following on its news ticker all of last Sunday – “India wants Gandhi’s glasses back”. Ooh Poindexter wants his glasses back…

  15. I am appalled, outraged, and angry with the Indian government for trying to appropriate Gandhi’s legacy, and that too by laying claim to the few things he claimed his own. This was a man who thought much of human endeavor, the monuments, voyages of conquest, and other grand acts were simply expressions of vanity and little else. He did not hold himself to be a paragon or at least tried not to make much of what he said or did, or did he try ot develop some theory or borrow from something else, instead letting his conclusions emerged from dialogue at large without ever fearing that he would be considered a fool or knave. Gandhi treasured his experiences, people at large, and his principls. Nothing else mattered to him. And for Gandhi the struggle for swaraj was not a nationalistic or patriotic duty, it was a mere application of the principles he held to. Swaraj was not an end in itself, so his message although inspired by his Indian heritage was never meant to be exclusively Indian. National boundaries and identity meant nothing to him. The best way to live as a Gandhian is not to lust after his chattel or paint him in Indian colours or even follow his principles or mores. It is by being very honest with ourselves and confronting ourselves at every turn, forging ourselves on the anvil of satyagraha that we rise to Gandhi’s standards. The life of Gandhi is first a human story before it is an Indian story.

  16. Maybe he plans to use these in a MADD (Mallya against Drunk Dialing) campaign? I mean it would be a masterstroke – the chastity obsessed Gandhi’s glasses as an antidote to Kingfisher beer goggles.

  17. 21 · Rahul said

    I hear Muthalik is buying Gandhi’s chaddis…

    i believe there was only one situation in which gandhi deemed commando-style appropriate.

  18. why is everybody so worried about Gandhi’s possessions….James Otis was the only one who had something to say about Gandhism!!!! Read: http://thetrajectory.com/blogs/?p=254 Can the government imbibe some features of Gandhian philosophy rather than treasure hunting?

    Why is everyone so worried about Gandhi’s possessions…??? James Otis was the only one who had something to say about Gandhism! Read: http://thetrajectory.com/blogs/?p=254

  19. at least the items are in india now.

    will someone please repossess some of the stolen objects the fat lady in buckingham palace is holding on to? before it gets on the thieves market?

  20. Apart from yelling at anything India, Indians, brown people (esp if they are Hindus) do, does this site do anything else? Typical of their brain power, many contributors spend energy crit rather than doing anything constructive. Presumably this bashing/detraction is considered humorous. If no Indian had bought the goods, you would said Oh, what a shame, what do u expect of these stupid/ rich/poor/ ugly/ basically terrible folk. Either way an Indian person’s place is in the wrong as your parents undoubtedly know.

    Also one half white, well off Obama becoming Prez means little to a nation which has produced PLENTY of well educated Dalits who are doing well and are in high positions. Show me black/native Americans who were expected and encouraged to write the US constitution or become Defence Minister or get any no. of really high positions in the railways, army or universities, etc.

    As to Gandhi meaning nothing, surely even you all know that was the debate after the Pakistani attack on Mumbai: that no, war is certainly not the answer. Most people said these youngsters could be ours, where did they go so terribly wrong? The second effort was to immediately protect India’s innocent Muslims. Both were successful unlike what happened in the US after Sep 11.

    Yes, overpopulation, lack of cleanliness, these are legit concerns. But crit anything and everything is rather silly. As for corruption, a bigger bunch of thugs than in the US senate would be hard to find. My well meaning wish for all of u is vitiligo!

  21. It is my pleasure to see that the items(Chhappal,Eyeglasses) of Mahatma Gandhi is back and it is owned by liquor king Vijay Mallya.But What happens in india,every matter have to grow through political debate which i don’t like.But every Indian will be happy by the move of Mr. Mallya to bring Gandhi’s items back in India.

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