Posted in Political History

The Good, Bad And Ugly Of Indian Polity


“Budhiyulla Manidhar Ellam Vetri Kaanbadhillai;

Vetri Petra Manidhar Ellam Buddhisaali Illai”


As India ushers in Her 70th year of Independence tomorrow, here is a winding post from my end where I have done away with links and have instead copied and pasted texts from various sources, which shall take one through a journey of pre-independent India as well as Her recent past. The good, bad and ugly could be personalities or situations. It is upto us to infer who is who, what is what. Added comments here and there. Purely private. Three entries as of now, but the list shall grow.

Updated: August 14, 2017. Watch this space.


1. Mahatma Gandhi, Father Of The Nation 

Not my Hero.


2. Nathuram Godse, the Gandhi-assassin:

Nathuram Godse – His Last Speech

“May it please Your Honour”

Nathuram Godse

On 8 November 1948, Nathuram Godse (19 May 1910-15 November 1949) rose to make his statement in court. Reading quietly from a typed manuscript, he sought to explain why he had killed Gandhi. His thesis covered ninety-pages, and he was on his feet for five hours. Godse’s statement, excerpted below, should be read by citizens and scholars in its entirely, for it provides an insight into his personality and his understanding of the concept of Indian nationhood.

“Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture. I had, therefore, been intensely proud of Hinduism as a whole. As I grew up I developed a tendency to free thinking unfettered by any superstitious allegiance to any isms, political or religious. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. I openly joined anti-caste movements and maintained that all Hindus are of equal status as to rights, social and religious, and should be considered high or low on merit alone and not through the accident of birth in a particular caste or profession.

I used publicly to take part in organized anti-caste dinners which thousands of Hindus, Brahmins, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas, Chamars and B—–s participated. We broke the caste rules and dined in the company of each other. I have read the speeches and writings of Dadabhai Naoroji, Vivekanand, Gokhale, Tilak, along with the books of ancient and modern history of India and some prominent countries like England, France, America and Russia. Moreover I studied the tenets of socialism and Marxism. But above all I studied very closely what Veer (brave) Savarkar and Gandhiji had written and spoken, as to my mind these two ideologies have contributed more to the moulding of the thought and action of the Indian people during the last thirty years or so, than any other factor has done.

All this thinking and reading led me to believe that it was my first duty to serve Hindudom and Hindus both as a patriot and as a world citizen. To secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores (three hundred million) of Hindus would automatically constitute the freedom and well-being of all India, one fifth of the human race. This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the Hindu Sanatanist ideology and programme, which alone, I came to believe, could win and preserve the National Independence of Hindustan, my Motherland, and enable her to render true service to humanity as well. Since the year 1920, that is, after the demise of Lokmanya Tilak, Gandhi’s influence in the Congress first increased and then became supreme.

His activities for public awakening were phenomenal in their intensity and were reinforced by the slogan of truth and non-violence, which he paraded ostentatiously before the country. No sensible or enlightened person could object to these slogans. In fact there is nothing new or original in them. They are implicit in every constitutional public movement. But it is nothing but a dream if you imagine the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles in its normal life from day to day. In fact, honour, duty and love of one’s own kith and kin and country might often compel us to disregard non-violence and to use force. I could never conceive that an armed resistance to an aggression is unjust.

I would consider it a religious and moral duty to resist and if possible, to overpower such an enemy by use of force. (In the Ramayana) Rama killed Ravana in a tumultuous fight and relieved Sita. (In the Mahabharata) Krishna killed Kansa to end his wickedness; and Arjuna had to fight and slay quite a number of his friends and relations, including the revered Bhishma, because the latter was on the side of the aggressor. It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed the total ignorance of the springs of human action. In more recent history, it was the heroic fight put up by Chhatrapati Shivaji that first checked and eventually destroyed the Muslim tyranny in India. It was absolutely essential for Shivaji to overpower and kill an aggressive Afzal Khan, failing which he would have lost his own life. In condemning history’s towering warriors like Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind Singh as misguided patriots, Gandhi has merely exposed his self-conceit.

He was, paradoxical, as it may appear, a violent pacifist who brought untold calamities on the country in the name of truth and non-violence, while Rana Pratap, Shivaji and the Guru will remain enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen forever for the freedom they brought to them. The accumulating provocation of thirty-two years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhi should be brought to an end immediately. Gandhi had done very good work in South Africa to uphold the rights and well being of the Indian community there.

But when he finally returned to India, he developed a subjective mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong. If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on in his own way. Against such an attitude there can be no halfway house. Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the judge of everyone and everything; he was the master brain guiding the Civil Disobedience movement; no other could know the technique of that movement. He alone knew when to begin it and when to withdraw it. The movement might succeed or fail, but that could make no difference to the Mahatma’s infallibility. ‘A Satyagrahi can never fail’ was his formula for his own infallibility and nobody except himself knew what a Satyagrahi is.

Thus the Mahatma became the judge and the jury in his own case. These childish insanities and obstinacies, coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhi formidable and irresistible. Many people thought that his policies were irrational, but they had either to withdraw from the Congress or place their intelligence at his feet to do with as he liked. In a position of such absolute irresponsibility, Gandhi was guilty of blunder after blunder, failure after failure, and disaster after disaster. Gandhi’s pro-Muslim policy is blatantly illustrated in his perverse attitude on the question of the national language of India. It is quite obvious that Hindi has the most prior claim to be accepted as the premier language.

In the beginning of his career in India, Gandhi gave a great impetus to Hindi, but as he found that the Muslims did not like it, he became a champion of what is called Hindustani. Everybody in India knows that there is no language in India called Hindustani; it has no grammar; it has no vocabulary. It is a mere dialect; it is spoken, not written. It is a tongue and a crossbreed between Hindi and Urdu, and not even the Mahatma’s sophistry could make it popular. But in his desire to please the Muslims he insisted that Hindustani alone should be the national language of India. His blind followers, of course, supported him and the so-called hybrid language began to be used. The charm and the purity of the Hindi language were to be prostituted to please the Muslims. All his experiments were at the expense of the Hindus.

From August 1946 onwards, the private armies of the Muslim League began a massacre of Hindus. The then Viceroy, Lord Wavell, though distressed at what was happening, would not use his powers under the Government of India Act of 1935 to prevent the rape, murder and arson. The Hindu blood began to flow from Bengal to Karachi with little retaliation by the Hindus. The Interim Government formed in September was sabotaged by its Muslim League members right from its inception, but the more they became disloyal and treasonable to the government of which they were a part, the greater was Gandhi’s infatuation for them.

Lord Wavell had to resign as he could not bring about a settlement and was succeeded by Lord Mountbatten. King Stork followed King Log. The Congress, which had boasted of its nationalism and secularism, secretly accepted Pakistan literally at the point of the bayonet and abjectly surrendered to Jinnah. India was vivisected and one-third of the Indian Territory became foreign land to us from 15 August 1947. Lord Mountbatten came to be described in the Congress circles as the greatest Viceroy and Governor-General this country ever had.

The official date for the handing over of power was fixed for June 30, 1948, but Mountbatten with his ruthless surgery gave us a gift of vivisected India ten months in advance. This is what Gandhi had achieved after thirty years of undisputed dictatorship and this is what the Congress party calls ‘freedom’ and ‘peaceful transfer of power’. The Hindu-Muslim unity bubble was finally burst and a theocratic state was established with the consent of Nehru and his crowd and they have called it ‘freedom won by them with sacrifice’ – whose sacrifice? When top leaders of Congress, with the consent of Gandhi, divided and tore the country – which we considered a deity of worship – my mind was filled with direful anger.

One of the conditions imposed by Gandhi for his breaking of the fast related to the mosques in Delhi occupied by the Hindu refugees. But when Hindus in Pakistan were subjected to violent attacks he did not so much as utter a single word to protest and censure the Pakistan Government or the Muslims concerned. Gandhi was shrewd enough to know that while undertaking a fast unto death, had he imposed some conditions on the Muslims in Pakistan, here would have been found hardly any Muslims who could have shown some grief if the fast had ended in his death. It was for this reason that he purposely avoided imposing any conditions on the Muslims.

He was fully aware from past experience that Jinnah was not at all perturbed or influenced by his fast and the Muslim League hardly attached any value to the inner voice of Gandhi. Gandhi is being referred to as the Father of the Nation. But if that is so, he has failed in his paternal duty in as much he has acted very treacherously to the nation by his consenting to the partitioning of it. I stoutly maintain that Gandhi has failed in his duty. He has proved to be the Father of Pakistan. His inner-voice, his spiritual power, his doctrine of non-violence of which so much is made of, all crumbled against Jinnah’s iron will and proved to be powerless.

Briefly speaking, I thought to myself and foresaw that I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I thought that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be practical, able to retaliate and would be powerful with the armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me or dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on the reason, which I consider necessary for sound nation-building.

After having fully considered the question, I took the final decision in the matter, but I did not speak about it to anyone whatsoever. I took courage in both my hands and I did fire the shots at Gandhiji on 30th January 1948, on the prayer-grounds in Birla House. I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus. There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots. I bear no ill will towards anyone individually, but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy, which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi.

I have to say with great regret that Prime Minister Nehru quite forgets that his preaching and deeds are at times at variance with each other when he talks about India as a secular state in season and out of season, because it is significant to note that Nehru has played a leading role in the theocratic state of Pakistan, and his job was made easier by Gandhi’s persistent policy of appeasement towards the Muslims. I now stand before the court to accept the full share of my responsibility for what I have done and the judge would, of course, pass against me such orders of sentence as may be considered proper. But I would like to add that I do not desire any mercy to be shown to me, nor do I wish that anyone should beg for mercy on my behalf.

My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism levelled against it on all sides. I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof someday in future.”

Nathuram Godse was hanged a year later, on 15 November 1949; as per his last wishes, his family and followers have preserved his ashes for immersion in the Indus River of a re-united India.

Well, my take is, Nathuram Godse wouldn’t want his ash to be immersed in Sindhu river today and may heave a sigh of relief. He will know, whatever happened in 1947 turned out to be a blessing in disguise.



This article has a short but important history. It was written on June 23, 1977 by no less a person than M.O. Mathai. He was then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s private secretary. Mathai was an intelligent and competent man from south India, a Catholic by religion, courageous enough to have written two well-known books on his experiences with Nehru and on his times, which became controversial: (1) Reminiscences of the Nehru Age, and, (2) My Days with Nehru. He also wrote the book SHE excerpted below.


She has Cleopatra’s nose, Pauline Bonaparte’s eyes and the breasts of Venus. She has hair on her limbs which have to be shaven frequently. Physically and mentally she is more of a male than a female. I would call her a manly woman.I met her first in her ancestral home in the winter of 1945. She then had a baby son of crawling age and who was a cry baby. My first reaction was that she was a conceited girl with unhappiness written all over her face. Her second son, born in December, 1946, was an unwanted child. As a baby he had to be circumcised to remove a defect. By 1947 her cup of unhappiness was full and fortune took possession of her face.In the autumn of 1946 her father gave her a small Austin car. She wanted me to teach her driving. In the initial stages I used to take her to the Viceroy’s bodyguard’s Polo Ground for lessons. She was quick in learning. Then I stopped the driving lessons because she was getting into the advanced stage of pregnancy. I told her I didn’t want her to take any risk going into the open roads learning driving. Her second son was born in the middle of December 1946. By the middle of February 1947 she was ready to resume driving lessons. We went into the roads and to Connaught Circus. Then I told her “you just imagine that you know everything, concentrate, consider the person driving a car from the opposite direction is a fool, and go along with confidence driving the car, take a round of Connaught Circus and come back”. She did that and returned in triumph. The driving lessons ended there.Before the middle of 1947 she asked me to take her out to a cinema. From then on we used to go out for pictures as often as I was free – which was not frequent.

She looked forward to taking me out driving over the Ridge with the jungle on either side. She hated small cars. So we used to go in my car which was a Plymouth. She liked to go into the wilds where there were ruins. Drives to regions beyond Qutab Minar were favored. One day, during an aimless drive, she told me complainingly “You do not love me”. I said “I do not know; I had not thought about it”. By the autumn of 1947 I knew she had fallen headlong in love with me without my taking any initiative in the matter. Her face would light up on seeing me. She started talking to me about herself. She said that some time after her marriage, she discovered that her husband was not faithful to her. This came to her as a great shock because she married him in the teeth of opposition from every member of the family. She said she began to lose her saris, coats, blouses, shoes and handbags. She suspected the servants until she discovered some of her lost things on the persons of two women at a party. These women were known to be friendly with her husband. She also found out to which women her husband had given the books stolen from her book-shelves.She made it known rather discreetly what her intentions were about me. I told her I had two inhibitions: (1) I did not like to fool around with married women; (2) my loyalty to her father prohibited anything such as she had in mind. She was immediately forthcoming about No.1. She assured me that some time ago she had stopped having anything to do with her husband. She added: “I can no longer bear the thought of his touching me”. She further confided in me “fortunately he has also gone impotent though he retained his attraction to women”. About No. 2 she was angry with me and asked “What has my father got to do with it? Am I a minor?” 

Since then she spent as much time with me as possible and ridiculed me for my attitude to her father in so far as she was concerned. But I continued to resist gently. I was not mentally prepared or reconciled as yet.On the 18th November 1947 she took me to her room and kissed me full on the lips and told me “I want to sleep with you; take me to the wilds tomorrow evening”. I told her that I had very little experience with women. She said “all the better”. So on the 19th, which was her birthday, we went driving out and chose a place in the wilderness. On our way back I told her that I had some revulsion about milk in her breasts (though she had stopped breast-feeding the child a while ago). Afterward, she did something about it and soon went completely dry. She discovered that I knew little about sex, and gave me two books, one of them by Dr. Abraham Stone about sex and female anatomy. I read them with profit.She was not promiscuous; neither did she need sex too frequently. But in the sex act she had all the artfulness of French women and Kerala Nair women combined. She loved prolonged kissing and being kissed in the same fashion. She had established a reputation of being cold and forbidding. She was nothing of the kind. It was only a pose as a feminine measure of self-protection. She was a passionate woman who was exceptionally good as a wriggler in bed. During the twelve years we were lovers, I was never satisfied with her.Progressively she became hostile to the fat female family friend who used to come to stay. Ever since she saw the family friend welcoming me on arrival with a hug and an innocent kiss on my cheek, she became jealous and livid with rage against the family friend. Occasionally the family friend used to ask me to take her and my “she” to a good cinema whenever there was one in town. My “she” could cleverly see to it that I did not sit near the family friend but only next to her as third in the row.

The day before the next time the family friend was expected to arrive “she” asked me to take her out into the wilds after sundown. In the car I asked her ‘what is the big idea? I have some urgent work to do’. She replied ‘as long as the fat one is here, I will keep away from you because I do not want you to touch me after she has touched you.’ I assured her that I had absolutely no interest in the fat one. Eventually, ‘she’ got used to the fat one’s friendly welcome and departure gestures to me.She tried hard to persuade me to occasionally go up to her room while her husband was there, sit down and talk to them both. I told her that I had no intention of practicing deception. So she used to bring him to my study occasionally.She used all kinds of devices to ensure that her children spent as little time with their father as possible. She told me that she did not want any influence of their father on them because she was convinced that his influence would be bad for them. She concluded by saying: “I do not want my children to grow up as champion liars.” This was one of the reasons why her husband was shifted to a separate room.Once I mentioned to her something which her husband had told me. She said: “Don’t believe a word of what he says. I have learnt it to my bitter cost”. 

She wrote to A.C.N. Nambiar, whom she had known personally for a long time and who was also a friend of her father and mother, asking for his opinion about divorcing her husband. She knew that Nambiar was a dear friend of mine. Nambiar replied to her to say that under certain circumstances it was preferable to have a clear break to living in make-believe. I did not encourage her in this matter, mostly for the sake of her father.One day, she told me that she could not bear the thought of being married to a Hindu. I told her “It is a compliment to the galaxy of great men Hinduism has produced through the ages”.I never encouraged her to come to my bedroom. On one occasion she came. It was past midnight. I was fast asleep, having worked till midnight; she lay down beside me and gently woke me up by a kiss. I asked her “What is the matter?” She said: “I had to come”. I did not know if she had been troubled in mind. I told her: “Let us lie here quietly and do nothing unless you want to”. She said: “On this occasion, I only want to be with you”. She lay there relaxed till about 4 in the morning, and gently tip-toed to her room upstairs. Before going away she told me: “I never told you that once I thought of committing suicide. Such thoughts do not come to me any more. You have given me back my happiness.”

Once, early in our life of love, she told me, “I never knew what real sex was until I had you”. At the height of her passion in bed, she would hold me tight and say “Oh, Bhupat, I love you”. She loved to give and receive nick-names. She gave me the name of Bhupat the dacoit, and I promptly gave her the name of Putli, the dacoitess. In private we used to call each other by these names. About her protestations of love in her romantic excitement, I quoted to her once two passages from Byron’s Don Juan:”Man’s love is a man’s life, a thing apart,It is a woman’s whole existence.In her first passion woman loves her lover;In all others all she loves is love”.She replied, “all right, I want you to tell me as often as possible, not in bed, that you love me”. I tried my best to oblige her. In fact, there was no difficulty, for I had fallen deeply in love with her.One evening, I found her disturbed. When she saw me, she burst into tears. I asked her what had happened. She said that when she came from her dressing room to drink her usual glass of milk, she discovered that there was finely powdered glass in it. The powder was floating on the thick cream. At the first sip she immediately sensed it in her mouth and spat it out. She said that from her dressing room she heard her husband sneaking into her bedroom and making an exit. She controlled herself, put her arms round me and holding me tight, said: “Oh, Mackie, I love you; I am so glad you came up.”

In the Constellation plans on our first visit abroad together, she was all excitement when we were in sight of Mont Blanc. She said softly to me, “I like the Queen Bee, I would like to make love high up in the air”. I asked her:”Didn’t you ever dream of soaring higher up like an eagle and surveying the world? I woke up from such a dream once and found myself on the floor, for I had fallen from the bed without breaking any bones”. She knew I was pulling her leg. On reaching London, she found out the first free meal-time for her, and arranged for me to take her to a quiet restaurant. On reaching the restaurant, I asked her to order the food; I said I would have the same as hers with the addition of six large raw oysters on ice with appropriate sauce to begin with. She said she too would have it. The main dish she ordered was veal. She said “Ever since I arrived here, I have been dying to eat veal”. I asked her if ever she had read Vatsayana’s Kama Sutra. She said, “No, why?” I told her Vatsayana had prescribed veal for young couple for six months before marriage. She had not even read the Ramayana or the Mahabaharata. Her knowledge of the Ramayana was only what her grandmother had told her. In many ways, she was a denationalized person.

She did not like artificial birth-control aids. Once in the early fifties she got pregnant by me. She decided to have an abortion done. She went to the British High Commission doctor whom she knew personally; but he refused to help. So she went to her ancestral home and got in touch with a lady doctor whom she knew personally and in whom she had perfect confidence. On this trip she took her second son with her. After a fortnight the mother and the little son returned with the good news that the boy was cured of his defect in speech in the natural process. Earlier he could not pronounce “R”, and the mother was worried about it; she was in frantic search for a speech-correction expert. On the day of her return, she told me that the whole thing came out without any medication or aid.Was the father aware of her attachment to me? The answer is in the affirmative. Every time he had to go out for dinner, he knew where to find her. Fifteen minutes before the time of departure, she would come fully decked up and sit in front of me in my study. At the stroke of the appointed time the father would pass my study and call her out.

In the winter of 1958 I happened to see something by sheer chance. Immediately after lunch, I went to convey some urgent information to her. She had already closed the door. I knocked; after about five minutes she half-opened the door and peeped out. I discovered that the curtains were drawn and a tall, youngish handsome, bearded man – a Brahmacahri – was in the room. I came away saying “I had something to tell you; but I shall say it later”. That was the end of our relationship. She tried to make me believe several times that the scene I witnessed meant nothing more than some “yoga” and “spiritual” lessons. I gave her the definite impression that I was not interested in her explanations. Gradually she grew bitter against me. In fact, ultimately she became my deadly enemy – which constantly reminded me of the famous couplet of William Congrave:”Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned; nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”Within a fortnight of the incident I collected all her passionate letters and returned them to her. A year later I came across some more in my old papers. They were also returned to her.There is an erroneous belief among some that she and her husband came together during the last two years of the husband’s life. Enough had happened in their lives that a reunion of hearts was not humanly possible. It is true that she was kind and considerate to him during his illness. Certain things were done during this period and more specially at the cremation and collection of the ashes of the husband and well advertised to give certain desired impressions. They were all for public consumption, for, by that time, she had emerged as a full-fledged political animal.

Well….. no prizes for guessing WHO she was!

Posted in Books

Review: ‘Gandhi Before India’ by Ramachandra Guha

Making of the ‘Mahatma’

Took me a solid 45 days to 2 months to read up Ramachandra Guha’s ‘Gandhi Before India.’  The author has taught at Yale, Stanford, Oslo and also the London School of Economics. Winner of Sahitya Academy and Bharat Bhushan awards in India among others, featured in Prospect magazine’s list of world’s most influential thinkers, it is a tad too much for me to even attempt reviewing the outstanding work the book is.  If at all I am doing it, it is because I want to spread the word, make more people read the class writing of the author that befits the matchless and inimical social life and works of Mahatma Gandhi.  I am trying my hand at non-fictions only from very recently. They are kind of difficult to hold your interest – so the author has a huge responsibility of sustaining the flow in readers (like me who are bred on staple diet of English fictions).

And most certainly I have not read up the ‘Collected Works’ of Gandhi which is a compilation from various archives in India, South Africa and England. Neither have I read Raj Mohan Gandhi,  one of Gandhi’s well known biographers and his grandson. Yet I can imagine the extent to which Mr. Guha pushed  himself with research to dig up archives ranging from as far as Haifa in Israel unearthing evidences that eluded other resourceful eyes, I bow to his brilliant professionalism first over even Gandhi!

Such an accurate recording of history is of great relevance in today’s world of Donald Trumps, in the light of Paris and Brussels from recent times. Another category that must not miss the detailed study is the widespread Indian diaspora that has made every nook and corner of the globe their home. The NRIs need to know how they came to earn their respect in their adopted  homelands on fair and equal footing with the white races and how and where and why the story began. Last but not the least is India’s younger generation who have lost touch with anything concerning Independence movement. The trails have turned cold now and there is nothing by way of inspiration to motivate them ahead. Highschoolers get to learn bare outlines in history text books which is insufficient in my opinion. This hardly does any proper justice. I for once until now never knew Gandhi the way I do now. I have come to know what we are missing.

Schools can stock Mr. Guha’s book in library. Or if I am the Education minister, I would like to make it a part of the curriculum – the Non-detailed English subject.

The book traces Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s early life in South Africa which constitutes the part I of his social life nonetheless. The India part is clearly like an after-thought. Gandhi was already an established social activist in South Africa before he returned to India for good in 1914. A barrister by profession who graduated at the Inner Circle of London, his first broad based association is with the Vegetarian Society in London where he pursues a degree to become attorney-at-law. A chance offer to represent a Gujarati Muslim client in South Africa in a court battle takes him to the African nation where he spends a good 20 years of his life, his 30s and 40s, starting his profession as the first qualified lawyer representing the Indian community in the continent.

As the book unravels, it is impossible to dismiss the conclusion how South Africa shapes the Mahatma like India could never have. From Porbandur to Rajkot and Mumbai and London to Durban and Johannesburg, Gandhi turns out to be a well-traveled and enlightened man, not confined to the narrow spectrum of castes and regional prejudices of India of a bygone era. The peculiar circumstances Gandhi is thrown in, the expat Indian melodrama which is fairly new in foreign soil, friendship with foreigners of varied hue from different backgrounds, his firsthand experiences with the proletariat classes, the trader community and others alike, his correspondence with Tolstoy who sufficiently influences his thought process…  all chisel a young lawyer intent on building a lucrative legal practice on alien soil into one of world’s foremost social reformers of the century. The books he reads, the health practices he preaches, the strict code and ethics of life he adheres to, the editor he is of a press over a 100 years back, the quiet but persistent rebel  yet just and fair he metamorphoses into, Gandhi rides many horses as the author rightly words.

Gandhi’s published book(s) in English and Gujarathi ‘The Home Rule’ and ‘Hind Swaraj’ make him one of India’s foremost established and well-read writers. His editing and publishing of ‘Indian Opinion’ from late 1800s in South Africa again makes him a pioneer in print-media, for ahead of his contemporaries easily. His writing style (as evidenced from his published letters quote unquote Mr. Guha) is fluent and classy and flawless.  There is a slight subordination which irritates the 21st century Indian Me when Gandhi addresses his British administrators. May be the deference has to do with protocol he couldn’t do without but it could also be because Gandhi strikes you basically as a very earnest man who wants to solve issues rather than complicate them. As the book flows, we can summarize how Gandhi wants to avoid controversies, make peace, is willing to go submissive and yield, is averse to treading confrontational paths.

It is in South Africa Gandhi spearheads the ‘Satyagraha’ or ‘Passive Resistance’ movement for the first time in 1907 as the local government gets tough with immigrant population like Indians and coloureds. When Gandhi coins the word, he is still unaware of the Passive Resistance spoken of by Henry Thoreau. The Transvaal Indians unwittingly become the first Satyagrahis in south African/Indian/world history.

Thereafter Gandhi carries forward the nonviolent struggle with the help of a host of Indians of all castes and creed as well some Europeans especially Jewish friends like Henry Polak and family, Kallenbach, Sonja Shlesin, Doke and others. Among Indians he interacts with Tamils, Gujarathis, Parsis, Muslims, Christians and others in the same wavelength. The exposure educates him on the plurality and melting pot that India is which is a reason for his pan-India approach to things (to come later).

The South African odyssey is not easy in that the Satyagrahis who are plantation workers to traders and housewives, all Indians come together irrespective of their ethnic background, to seek voluntary arrest and throw themselves into gaols to shame their cruel administrators into submission.

Gandhi is an exceptional leader in that he practices what he preaches. The way his sons court arrest and difficult times he gives his family and his wife in particular sheds light into the kind of selfless man who is born to lead.

I have always wondered about his ‘brahmacharya’ and the books seems to dwell on a few points for me to dispel certain doubts. In fact the book enables me to even understand WHY MODI?

After prolonged struggle that stretches the Indian community’s mental strength and economic ability, Gandhi is able to successfully secure a repeal of the draconic Asiatic Law by General Smuts that which enforced a $3 tax on Indians and made the Asian weddings null and void.

During the entire course of time, the original and majority inhabitants of South Africa, the blacks, seem to have been brushed under the carpet not merely by the British-Boers but also by expat Indian community including their leader Gandhi. The leader of the Indian masses in South Africa belatedly gives them the due recognition which the author smartly records into his writing (fair enough). John Dube and other African leaders do not seem to be chummy with Gandhi like the way some Europeans seem to have managed to.

Indian history makes a mention of Dadabai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and his mentor Ranade along with V D Savarkar, but we never knew who to place where. Thanks for the clarifications, Mr. Guha! There is a Ranade library in Luz, Mylapore and I was aware Ranade was a freedom fighter but never pushed myself to learn  who he was.

The other real life characters like Raichand Bhai, Pranjeevan Metha, Parsee Rustomjee, Thambi Naidoo etc., have also been suitably highlighted by the author. You bet this is the first time I have heard of them.

Interesting to find a mention of Dr. Annie Besant of Home Rule movement in India after whom Besant Nagar is named in Chennai with its beautiful beach stretch. J. Krishnamurthy is also a thinker and philosopher many of us follow until today. Thanks for shedding some light on the Theosophical Society of Madras, Mr. Guha.

India owes a lot to the Tata name but it comes as a surprise that (the senior) Ratan Tata was already a great contributing figure to India’s glory and a philanthropist   The story continues to date. The Ambanis and Adanis of today can draw a lesson or two from the Tata values.

Most of us Tamils grow up underrating ourselves for not doing enough for the nation – be it during the independence struggle or even in securing and safeguarding the Indian nation in present times by way of impressive enrollment in our armed forces. For the first time, I feel better on learning of the Tamil involvement in south African struggles even if we are generally aware of the Tamil interest in African soil.

Tamil diaspora is spread around the world thanks to the British who took the able-bodied Tamils of South India along with the Chinese and planted them as indentured labour in not just South Africa but also in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Mauritius etc. Today’s ethnic issue in Sri Lanka is a direct result of this thoughtless act. While granting independence to the island nation of Sri Lanka, the British discounted the Tamils who had made Sri Lanka their home for over 2 centuries as ‘minorities’ who were reduced to fighting for their voting rights on the departure of the whitemen.

The circumstances are similar in Malaysia with the exception that Malaysian Indians (predominantly Tamil) have a healthy company in (mainland) Chinese who were brought to the south east Asian nation to work in tin mines when the Indian labourers were working the rubber plantations. The British administered the same ‘divide and rule’ policy as in India and Sri Lanka and Malaysia is simmering even today thanks to the mischief. Leong Quinn of China is the Chinese face of the south African Asiatic struggle. After Gandhi returns to India, the nation and China take to two different paths to affirming their political and social status in emerging world scenario.

Neither of the two have it easy though.

Fortunately it is not India or China or Malaysia or Sri Lanka that the occupiers wanted to make their home. It’s unfortunately Africa that was geographically in the temperate zone and not in hot and sultry tropics like Asia did. For the same reason, the Americas became their next home where (native) Indians turned out to be lame ducks like African tribes in the Dark continent.

What bothers is, Gandhi never seeks equal footing for Indians with Europeans in anything in South Africa. Given the point of time, probably this was a pragmatic approach by him that satisfied every quarter and let peace prevail. But the infinite patience he suggests for waiver of $3 tax on Indians following protocols via councils and cabinets makes us wonder whether the same virtue is also Gandhi’s Achille’s Heel. To those of us Gandhi critics who grew up skeptical of his ways, it sounds so not without a justifiable reason.

The self-interest of the British is amazing. What a greed. They have had a jumpstart in a visa-free era but were still shrewd enough to put one into practice when it came to immigration to their own native lands. What we see in France or Belgium today is not even 1% of what the Europeans did to the natives of Asia and Africa and even Americas over centuries when we had no wifi internet to telecast the ethnic cleansings live 24 hours.

Being a Hindu thus places you in a neutral position – of not belonging to either of the Abrahamic faiths that are both anathema to the ancient Bharatiya culture of India spanning over 10,000 years.  Gandhi was blessed with the rare ability of seeing only the good thing in others but the doctrine of his won’t see us through 21st century if we are to close our eyes to injustices and imbalances of the present day.

The book is an exceptional read that not merely Indians but also scholars worldwide must make a point to assimilate and meditate upon, it is also a treasure-house of information on the Father of the Nation that even his ‘Collected Works’ is reported  to have missed (by way of some important mails, etc).

Good research Mr. Guha. Like Gandhi, you are also a skillful writer though I cannot say the same about your speeches that I have listened to in You Tube ! Excellent indexing of the proofs (mails), newspaper clippings and other correspondence, hats off to you for the depths you have plunged to extract valuable information. There is not an extra word and every claim of yours is appropriately validated with a documentary evidence thereof. There is virtually no page turning without citations here or there, referenced by books, quotes, newspapers, photos pertaining to the era.

I shall be passing on the book to my son Mr. Guha – although I am not sure if he will have the ‘housewife’s patience’ that I so freely and readily nurture!

As a concluding note I can say, there is no statesmanship without personal suffering and sacrifice, without the gift of patience and perseverance. In times of one-man-up-ship with regards to armaments and defence strategies and technological feat and material well-being, the book on Mahatma Gandhi reiterates and reserves the primitive rights of natives to scoff at the so-called civilization which does not measure more than westernization.  Unlearning certain modern day methods will go a long way in restoring long lost peace in the world. 200 years later and 100 years after Gandhi preached simple and basal way of life, things have changed to beyond redemption levels but there are checks we can introduce in places to make the world a better place to live in.