Two Gandhi volumes

Rudrangshu Mukherjee reviews for The Telegraph two volumes of Gandhi’s writings, edited by his grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi:

These two volumes reveal another remarkable facet of Gopal Gandhi: he is a meticulous editor and annotator. His research is detailed and his notes always informative and never prolix. The Mahatma, who always wrote with care and precision, would have specially blessed this grandson of his for the care he has taken in producing these books. They are indispensable to all who are interested in Gandhi.

The two books are very different in terms of what they want to convey. A Frank Friendship is explicitly a chronicle of a rather tortured relationship. The editor makes no claims to provide an analysis. He lets what he calls a “descriptive chronology’’ and the rare photographs that he has selected for this volume do the talking. The editor enters the chronicle only to introduce the personalities when they enter the story. The editorial restraint is enviable.

Apart from the Mahatma himself, the two obvious figures of importance in this book are Rabindranath Tagore and Subhas Chandra Bose. Both were close to Gandhi, and both were at various points strong critics of Gandhi, his views and his methods. While Tagore’s differences with Gandhi remained at the level of arguments, those between Gandhi and Bose were very stormy and resulted in a complete political break. This break contributed to many Bengalis disliking Gandhi, since Bose remains, somewhat inexplicably, the ultimate Bengali icon.

Whatever dislike some Bengalis felt about Gandhi, or may continue to harbour, Bengal provided the backdrop for the “passion’’ of his life. During the communal riots of 1946-47, he rushed to Bengal, shunning the negotiations concerning the transfer of power, to restore Hindu-Muslim amity. Those months in Bengal gave even to his life a poignant dimension and significance. On August 15, 1947, Gandhi chose to stay in Calcutta, praying in a ramshackle house in east Calcutta. Bengal and Bengalis cannot — and should not — forget these months of Gandhi’s life since they created a unique and unbreakable relationship that went far beyond a frank friendship.

The other book presents a selection from Gandhi’s writings. Most existing compilations of this kind — the most important of these is perhaps the three volumes edited by Raghavan Iyer and published by OUP in 1993 — present Gandhi’s ideas thematically. Gopal Gandhi, however, takes the chronological route. The volume has such an excellent index that it is easy to plot Gandhi’s thinking on various themes.

Both the books sound intersting. Take a look!

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