I don’t think many of us would have heard about James Otis before..! For the uninitiated, James Otis is the person who auctioned MK Gandhi’s memorabilia earlier this month. The Indian Government wanted it back and the Indian High Court passed a stay order on the auction. The New York’s auction house didn’t read too much into the order and proceeded with the auction. The new channels across India were wailing that we have lost Gandhi’s belongings forever.
And in true filmy manner, liquor baron Vijay Mallaya stepped in and saved the day. What an irony it was! A liquor baron spending $1.8 Million to bring back the belongings of the Great Prohibitionist of India. Vijay Mallaya did not do it for the first time. He brought the Sword of Tipu Sultan back to India. And he intended to gift Gandhi’s belongings to the Government of India. Millions across India rejoiced. Bapu’s belongings were back to the place where it belonged.
Now, ‘Who is this James Otis?’ was the question on everybody’s mind. Well, apparently James Otis is a self proclaimed peace keeper. He said that he was an ardent follower of Gandhian principles and that he was auctioning Gandhi's belongings because he wanted to use the money raised through the auction for noble causes.
I saw James Otis’ interview on TV the other day. Apparently, he wanted that the auctioned items to be returned to him. James Otis, with his lawyer Ravi Batra were giving an interview to an Indian News channel.
The News reporter asked Otis, “Mr. Otis, isn’t it appropriate that Gandhi’s items should be back in the country where he belonged?”
Otis said, “Yes, I’d love to do that. It is my earnest wish that the items should be back in India.”
“Then why are you objecting now that the items are back in India?”
Otis replied that he was unhappy with the way things were turning out to be and that it had become “too political” and that it “doesn’t seem very Gandhian.”
“Still, now that the items are back to the place where it originally belonged to, why don’t you just let it go?” The News reporter asked.
Otis replied, “I am feeling very unhappy about this whole thing... I would have been able to raise a million dollars for non-violent causes…” He also went to add that he had offered to withdraw just hours before the auction but the auction house did not agree.
He added that he was following the Gandhian principles in auctioning off the memorabilia.
The reporter, visibly embarrassed by her lack of knowledge asked him to explain the Gandhian principle behind the auction.
“Gandhi believed in auctioning off his belongings and use the money generated for good causes.”
The reporter nodded intelligently. All through the interview, Otis’ lawyer was smiling into the camera like a a 10yr old.
Well, it is true that Gandhi used to auction his autographs, letters and belongings to raise funds for good causes. In fact, as a shrewd marketing technique, Gandhi had learned to sign his name in many Indian languages so that it could appeal en masse.
What Indians forgot was that Gandhi himself never attached himself to materialistic things and that if he were alive today, he would have chided Vijay Mallaya like no one else. Alas, he isn’t and would be squirming in his grave...