Posts Tagged ‘Gandhi’

Order some Gandhi today!

October 2, 2008

Scholars without borders offers help in getting some of Gandhi’s writings:

We list some titles in our Gandhi Studies section, Gandhiji’s autobiography and Pyarelal’s Biography, but here are some more that are available from the Navajivan Trust. Write in to us-

  • ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS, M. K. Gandhi Translated from Gujarati by Valji Govindji Desai
  • ASHRAM OBSERVANCE IN ACTION, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  • GANDHI WIELDS THE WEPON OF MORAL POWER, Gene Sharp with a Foreword by Albert Einstein
  • INDIA OF MY DREAMS, M. K. Gandhi
  • MY RELIGION, M. K. Gandhi
  • THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI, R. K. Prabhu & U. R. Rao,
    with forword by Acharya Vinoba Bhave & Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  • THE WAY TO COMMUNAL HARMONY, M. K. Gandhi, Foreword by Prof. Humayun Kabir, Introduction by Dr. Rajendra Prasad
  • VILLAGE SWARAJ, M. K. Gandhi
  • GANDHI [A biography for children and beginners], Ravindra Varma

We would be more than happy to get them for you. Good books to remember today… or any day.

I do have a word of caution, though; a couple of weeks back I was reading his Hind Swaraj and, at times, he was quite frustrating. When one reads Hind Swaraj, one can see why so many of his peers had such difficulties in agreeing with him on all issues, equivocally — be it Rajaji, Tagore, Bose, Nehru, or Bharathi.

Gandhi’s debt to Tagore

September 28, 2008

Guha in The Hindu on Gandhi-Tagore debates on nationalism (with a nice photo to boot):

Eighty years on, the Tagore-Gandhi debate still makes for compelling reading. The Mahatma insisted that a colonised nation had first to discover itself before discovering the world. The poet answered that there was a thin line between nationalism and xenophobia —besides, hatred of the foreigner could later turn into a hatred of Indians different from oneself (he was particularly sceptical of the claim that non-co-operation had or would dissolve Hindu-Muslim differences). Both men come out well; Tagore slightly better perhaps. He stood his ground, whereas Gandhi shifted his, somewhat. Pressed and challenged by Tagore, he broadened his nationalism to allow in winds from all parts of the world.

This, perhaps is not new to those who have heard Ram Guha on Tagore and Gandhi, or the readers of Ashish Nandy’s extraordinary book, The illegitimacy of nationalism. But, it still is a nice, short summary!

Rooted cosmopolitans (like Gandhi himself)

February 2, 2008

Ram Guha has a nice piece in The Telegraph about a soon to be published volume on Gandhi recounting the encounter of Oriyas with Gandhi, when he visited Orissa (seven times between 1921 and 1946, I understand). Guha has some nice things to say about the volume, and nicer things about the editor of the volume:

This book is published in the year that marks the 60th anniversary of Gandhi’s martyrdom. The editor offers it as a homage by the people of his state to the most remarkable Indian of modern times. That it certainly is, but let me end by offering my own homage to the editor. There is one kind of Indian scholar and writer, he (and sometimes she) who writes (and often thinks) in English, and who lives in or at least spends long stretches of the year overseas. There is another kind of Indian scholar, he (and sometime she) who is deeply engaged with the lived experience of the people of the state in which he is based. His knowledge of the culture and history of his province is encyclopaedic — he knows, it sometimes seems, not just every sect and every district in his state, but almost every individual and every stone too.

I suppose I fall firmly in the first category, but it has been my privilege (and good luck) to have known and been befriended by several scholars of the second. Among them are the Bengali Gautam Bhadra, the Pahadi Shekhar Pathak, the Tamil A. R. Venkatachalapathy, the Maharashtrian Sadanand More, and, not least, the Oriya Jatin Kumar Nayak. Whenever I meet or listen to one of these men I am simultaneously awed and humbled. The first sentiment comes from being exposed to the richness of their understanding and experience, the second from the painful awareness of my own inadequacies in this regard.

These scholars are based in their province, but by no means provincial. They are often fluent in English and keep abreast of the latest trends or fashions in global scholarship (although they refuse to be blown away by them). Like Gandhi himself, they are rooted cosmopolitans; like him they demonstrate that a love of one’s language or home state is perfectly consistent with an identification with the larger entity called India, and the still larger entity known as the human race.

The few things that Guha quotes from the book, like this one, for example,

A barber woman, asked to shave Gandhi, borrows fine jewellery so that she makes the proper impression on the divine being in human form.

or, this one,

In 1927, Gandhi was on a visit to Cuttack, when the sister of the great Bengali lawyer-patriot, C.R. Das, came down from Calcutta to help cook his meals. As she told a visitor: “I came here to meet and serve him. Other religious devotees go to Puri, to Benares, or to Rameswaram. Somewhere, at least once a year, I go to meet Mahatmaji; that is my annual pilgrimage!”

makes me want to read the volume immediately.

Take a look!

Two Gandhi volumes

February 1, 2008

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!

The ‘restless’ manager in Gandhi

September 29, 2007

His mother’s image, firmly etched in the lampblack of a widow’s piety, is that of an ascetic. I was, therefore, delighted to learn in Pyarelal’s work of Gandhi’s remark on being shown a 3000 years’ old pair of silver anklets by the museum curator at Taxila: “Just like what my mother used to wear!” I had not associated Putlibai with silver anklets. Of course she would have worn them as she, the Diwan’s wife, went in and out of the Rajkot palace. How good it felt to know of Putlibai’s ornaments! Putlibai combined a religiose nature with a restless particularism in household matters… There can be no doubt that something of the restless ‘manager’ in Gandhi came to him from his mother…

From this excerpt in the Hindu of an Introduction to a book compiled and edited by Gopalkrishna Gandhi that describes Gandhi’s story in his own words (with some nice photographs too).

Movie going habits of Indian nationalist leaders

September 28, 2007

From Ram Guha’s India after Gandhi:

While film directors and actors were influenced by the nationalist movement, that movement was supremely indifferent to them. The producer of Achhut Kanya was unable to get the lifelong crusader against untouchability, Mahatma Gandhi, to watch this film. (Apparently, the only film Gandhi saw–and that not till its end–was a mythological work, Ram Rajya.) Nor is there any record of other leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabbhai Patel visiting movie theatres.

I can understand Gandhi, and at some level Patel too; but Nehru? I expected him to be an ardent movie fan (and, needless to say, I am disappointed).

PS: Some internal contradictions in Guha’s writing: there is at least one recorded instance of Nehru visiting a theatre of watch a movie:

… Jawaharlal Nehru, who attended the premiere of Meera at Plaza Cinema in New Delhi …