Friday, March 17, 2017

Gandhi Before India

This voluminous tome (nearly 700 pages), on the lives and times that Gandhi (MK) led between 1893-1914 in South Africa, brings forth fresh perspectives about his progressive development into the bare-footed, sometimes wily, ‘Mahatma’ he eventually became. Though principally an admirer’s account, Ramachandra Guha does not shy away from revealing the occasional dirt. However sometimes the efforts at appreciative approval are tediously detailed & repetitive and at times the dirt is glossed over in a hurry or in broad strokes. Gandhi was no friend of the black man in Africa, while he was in Africa. Patriarchy and baniya values, combined with extreme idiosyncrasies in the matters of food, sex and health, were the other demons he struggled with, along with an increasing understanding of the surprising power of moral persuasion. Was he right or wrong? Or perhaps his importance lies in the fact that he tried.

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