Guha sets out to provide a much complete picture of Gandhi He succeeds Guha utilized a wider range of sources with greater depth than previous Gandhi biographies Not only does he consult primary sources, he examines the people surrounding Gandhi, those who met or wrote about him In the end we have a much complete picture The author at several points even comments on how some primary sources he used were not to be found in the alleged Complete Works of Gandhi His scholarship is superb, as reflected in the wider range of sources By sources alone, this will be the definitive account of Gandhi s time in India.
The text also takes a remarkable even handed view of such an influential global figure Guha does not unfairly criticize Gandhi, nor worship him You will learn about Gandhi s successful struggle for independence as well as several unsavory aspects of his character, like his tumultuous relationship with his eldest son.
Possibly the most surprising fact I took away from the text, was how the bulk of Gandhi s personal philosophy, his vegetarianism, his pacifism, was borne out of his barrister studies in Victorian Britain His passion for vegetarianism for instance, can be traced back to the writings of a Victorian named Henry Salt His pacifism stemmed from the moralist, Christian anarchic writings of Leo Tolstoy Although it s doubtful, as Guha notes, that Gandhi ever read his fiction epics.
Gandhi remains a global figure He inspired most of the struggles for freedom that followed after him, like the Civil Rights movement in America As any astute reader will notice, much of the peaceful protest tactics innovated by Gandhi, are ones still fresh and as useful as they were at the turn of the twentieth century For it s excellence in such an important subject, for making me forget that Gandhi could be or was clich , this book gets the highest rating I can possibly give it It is one of those few, universal books I will recommend to everyone.
Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi Who was Gandhi Was he just a movement Or was there to him Was there ever to him as a person What was he like before he started the revolution of such a kind that inspired millions to follow him How did he get there Who was Gandhi the man Such questions always cropped in my mind in school.
There was always this chapter on the Mahatma in school and yet we never tried to know about the man He was always an enigma Maybe because not enough is written or spoken of him before his time in India Of his formative years spent in England and South Africa Ramachandra Guha discovers the man through those years in his aptly titled book, Gandhi Before India Gandhi Before India is all about the man and what led him to believe in what he did It is about his years in England and South Africa before coming back to India in 1915 and starting a revolution against the Empire like none other.
The book is an attempt to unearth Gandhi like never before His ideologies, his thoughts, the convergence of incidents in his life, that made him the man he was and how he grew to become the Mahatma or rather what he was before he became the Great Soul Gandhi Before India brings to light the transformation of the boy to the man The writing makes no bones about it and that is what will have the reader from page one Gandhi somehow is always relevant In almost every single time and era, and this book strives to unearth the man behind all the layers.
Ramachandra Guha s research is intense and that is evident He has gone through letters, journals and had conversations with people to get to know the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that we all grew up knowing and taking for granted as a part of history.
To me the book told a lot about the Mahatma than I ever knew or was aware of Maybe books such as these are meant to do that To get you to know so the dim view or opinions do not exist any Gandhi Before India is a rich work on the man who was and what he became The what he became part is yet to be documented by Mr Guha and there is definitely a sequel of to this I for one cannot wait for it.
This is the first volume of a two volume biography of Gandhi It features Gandhi in a 20 plus year career as a community organizer leading the fight against racial codes in South Africa with some significant success This is where Gandhi developed his ideas of passive resistance satyagraha where he moved from being a young lawyer having troubled getting established to being a Mahatma and a leader of protests against empire around the world on the basis of his leadership of a few thousand Indians of all sorts against what became the South African government Gandhi has always struck me a someone who is difficult to understand That is still the case here, but that is OK A common person should not have done what he managed to do Gandhi was not an overnight success in India and after seeing him develop in his conflict with Smuts and Botha, it is not surprising at all that he was so formidable in India.
I originally thought this was a specialty book on Gandhi s early work, but it is the first volume of Guha s biography I put it in my queue a few years ago but got distracted It turns out that Guha s second volume is out and was a top biography during the past year.
This book is fairly easy to follow, but between the geography and the difficult names, it would be good to have access to a map and the Internet, so that it is possible to link names and places and at least make a start a remembering who is who in Gandhi s story There are lots of people involved and many are distinctive As to place names, I still get confused by Indian geography as well as South African history and history and geography The author does a fine job of keeping the narrative clear and taking time to recap the story after crucial moments.
A great start to the year with two wonderful works of non fiction by two authors who I am privileged to have met Indeed they both lunched in our house in Chennai on the same day William Dalrymple s masterly Return of a King I have already reviewed Ram Guha s Gandhi Before India is also a beautifully written book, and the result of deep research into archives ignored by others It is fascinating to learn of Gandhi s progress from indifferent student to Mahatma, his time in the UK and in South Africa, his extensive friendships with people of many different nationalities and religions, his sprituality which could embrace the common core of all faiths As well as showing us with evidence how Gandhi s character was formed in his struggles in South Africa the book also opened a window for me on the origins of Apartheid It was not solely the Boers who were the problem White Britons didn t want to allow hard working Indians to have rights in a colony which they felt should be for the them They weren t averse of course to indentured labourers as long as they went home again when their bondage was over Fortunately there were also some Europeans who supported the fight not only for the Indians but also for Africans.
Guha is not blind to some of Gandhi s eccentric habits but one does come to see how his self denial, particularly in dietary and later sexual matters form part of his own training to be able to endure suffering and hardship in the sake of a just cause I look forward to the next volume Will Ram Guha be able to reveal new insights into the much widely chronicled life and work of Gandhi after his return to India I suspect he will.