How much do I want to read more? 6/10
Contains tons of details about Gandhi's second part of his life, for whoever has time to read it.
[quote, Albert Einstein]
A leader of his People, unsupported by any outward authority, a politician whose success rests not upon craft nor the mastery of technical devices, but simply on the convincing power of his personality; a victorious fighter who has always scorned the use of force; a man of wisdom and humility, armed with resolve and inflexible consistency, who has devoted all his strength to the uplifting of his people and the betterment of their lot; a man who has confronted the brutality of Europe with the dignity of the simple human being, and thus at all times rises superior.
Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
[quote, Lord Willingdon]
It’s a beautiful world if it wasn’t for Gandhi who is really a perfect nuisance . . . At the bottom of every move he makes which he always says is inspired by God, one discovers the political manoeuvre. . . . I see the American Press is saying what a wonderful man he is in that if he threatens to starve there is a terrible hullaballoo over here. It’s true, but the fact is that we live in the midst of very unpractical, mystical, and superstitious folk who look upon Gandhi as something holy, whereas I look upon him as the biggest humbug alive.
I make no hobgoblin of consistency. If I am true to myself from moment to moment, I do not mind all the inconsistencies that may be flung in my face.
When Mohandas K. Gandhi landed in Bombay in January 1915, he was already forty-five.
The two decades that Gandhi spent in the diaspora were crucial to his intellectual and moral development.
To deliver India from British rule was by no means Gandhi’s only preoccupation. The forging of harmonious relations between India’s often disputatious religious communities was a second.
This book tracks Gandhi’s arguments in the fields of politics, social reform, religious relations and self-improvement. These arguments were sometimes private, conducted through letters written and received; but more often public, conducted in widely circulated newspapers and books and pamphlets. Gandhi’s critics were often considerable figures, who possessed a commitment that sometimes equalled his own, and an intelligence that sometimes surpassed his.
I examine here his own continuing examinations into himself, pre-eminently on the question of celibacy. I study his complex and often tortured relations with his wife and his four children.
Gandhi himself wrote that this man’s ‘greatest characteristic’ was ‘his ability to reduce himself to zero, whenever occasion demanded it’
While most people wrote from the cheek, added Naipaul père, ‘Gandhi’s writing is great’ because he wrote from the belly.
In reconstructing Gandhi’s life and struggles, this book draws upon more than sixty different archival collections, located in repositories around the world.
PART I: CLAIMING A NATION (1915–1922)
1. The Returning Hero
Gandhi was leaving South Africa for good, after two decades spent there in various roles: lawyer, editor, food faddist, activist and prisoner. He had been the unquestioned leader of the small Indian community in South Africa. Now he wished to work with, and for, the several hundred million people of his homeland.
Living in London and Johannesburg, he became disenchanted with industrialism; he hoped that India would base its economic future on its peasant and craft traditions rather than mindlessly emulate the West.
Though largely unfamiliar with life in India, Gandhi had a reasonably clear idea of what he could contribute to his country. What he was not clear about was where he would base himself, what organizational affiliation he would seek, and what activities he would undertake. That is why he thought it prudent to first visit Gokhale in London. He needed to consult his guru and seek his guidance before embarking on a career in a land where he was, in political and social terms, an outsider.
Every day, Gandhi spent an hour reading the Gita or the Ramayana to his wife, and another hour teaching Gujarati to his companion.
Gandhi and his eldest son had a deeply troubled relationship. Shortly after Harilal was born, in July 1888, his father left to study law in London. Between 1893 and 1896 Gandhi again lived alone, in Durban. The family were reunited for a few years, but then separated again, as Harilal studied in high school in India while his parents and brothers lived in South Africa.
I cannot believe a salt-free diet, or abstinence from ghee or milk [all of which Gandhi preached and practised] indicates strength of character and morality.
Raychandbhai, had termed celibacy ‘that state supreme’, whereby an individual surrendered his desires to ‘tread the path trodden by the wise and the great’. Another major influence, Leo Tolstoy, also embraced celibacy in later life, celebrating it as ‘a man’s liberation from the lusts’.
They believed that ‘the supremely dangerous desires inside us are sexual’. In later life, the most famous of these celibates, St Augustine, looked back on the sexual encounters of his youth with ‘horror and disdain’.
Like St Augustine, Gandhi gave up sex in his thirties, when fully capable of enjoying its pleasures.
he came to view sex with disgust.
Yet Gandhi felt that he had arrived at brahmacharya too late. Now, those who came under his own influence were asked—or mandated—to take the vow as early as possible.