The film covers the violent rioting in which Muslim and Hindu mobs are forming -- attacking and killing each other all over India. At one point Gandhi makes plans to meet with Jinnah, a Muslim leader, to try to bring peace. One of Gandhi’s followers, a Hindu, cries out to Gandhi out of deep distrust of the Muslims, “don’t do it."
“What do you want me not to do? Not to meet with Mr. Jinnah? I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian, and a Jew, and so are all of you. When you wave those flags and shout, you send fear into the hearts of your brothers. That is not the India I want! Stop it! For God's sake stop it!”But it doesn’t stop. Gandhi goes on a hunger strike – refusing to eat until the violence stops.
At last, the fighting does stop. In the film, we see Gandhi weak and in bed from fasting. Leaders of the fighting factions come in, throw down their swords and promise they will fight no more. One man then pushes through and flings bread on Gandhi.
“Eat!” he says. “I'm going to Hell! But not with your death on my soul.”
Gandhi says, “Only God decides who goes to hell.”
“I killed a child! I smashed his head against a wall.”
Gandhi closes his eye in grief at this confession and asks, “Why?”
The man says, “They killed my son. My boy. The Muslims killed my son!” The man holds out a hand to indicate the height of a six- or seven-year-old boy.
Gandhi says, “I know a way out of Hell. Find a child, a child whose mother and father have been killed – a little boy about this high -- and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.”
The man is astounded. He’s just been asked to do the hardest thing he could be asked to do. He’s been shown a path to restore right relations with his world, with himself. Doing so will require turning upside-down the hate and division and the loyalties that have come to define his life.
As all of this sinks in, the man’s stunned expression seems to turn from disbelief to wonder. That’s a subtle thing, the shift from incredulity to wonder. It’s the shift of glimpsing a way out, when you thought there was no way out of the hell of your life. The man turns to go. Stops. Turns back to Gandhi. Gets on his knees and bows to the ground.
The man has, we hope, committed to a very long process: a dozen years, at least, of raising a child – and adjusting to raising that child in a faith that, for now, he hates. For this man, his path to redemption will be long, and gradually unfolding.
It’s a rather different thing from the casual way that we speak of, say, an athlete redeeming herself by having a good performance following a disappointing one.
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This is part 2 of 4 of "Diremption Redemption"
Next: Part 3.
Beginnning: Part 1.