Lakshmi Subramanian’s “Singing Gandhi’s India: Music and Sonic Nationalism”

This is a small but engaging book, which talks about many different aspects of Gandhi and music. I enjoyed reading it and strongly recommend it!

Here are a few thoughts about the book! Inevitably, the book also talks about other aspects of Gandhian politics. For example,

What was important though, was that religion could not be divorced from politics, for then, it was like a corpse ‘only fit to be buried’.

There is even a specific discussion towards the end if Gandhian politics can be differentiated from that of Paluskar’s strident Hindu nationalism (and, the annswer is Yes, in case you are wondering!). I also liked the discussion on the need for poverty in Gandhian politics:

As Anthony Parel has correctly observed, the virtue of poverty was indispensable for the practice of Gandhian politics. By poverty, Parel reminds us Gandhi did not mean monastic poverty but rather the moral will to think of the larger good, to align wealth to the general welfare of the community.

There are also comments on Gandhi’s attempts being clumsy, his attitude being like that of a strict headmaster, how he sometimes brought his puritanical distaste to the discourse, and how he sounded like an exasperating busybody — with examples and anecdotes at times — all of which gives a different picture of Gandhi which is not often discussed. Having said that, Gandhi always seem to surprise us with his sensibilities and the way in which he puts it across. Here is an example:

We have a moving description for instance, of the passing away of Tilak, whose relatives, as Gandhi put it,

“…may have been stricken with grief and their eyelids may have dropped pearls, but the villagers from the ghats who went out with their musical instruments did by no means go weeping and lamenting. They had gathered to celebrate a festival. Their musical instruments and their bhajans reminded the people that Tilak Maharaj was not dead”

Finally, I will leave you with another quote from the book — which I found very layered and strangely moving!

Quoting from Meerabai, the mystic poet and saint, he wrote `God has tied me with a cotton thread,’ in a letter to Purushottam K, Jerajani, a khadi worker in Bombay, dated 1 August 1945; ‘… whichever way he pulls me, I am pierced by the dagger of love. Swaraj hangs by that thread; it does not snap because the weight is that of love.’


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