Friday, October 01, 2004

On Gandhi and Gandhi-bashing

Not too long ago, a friend of mine called Mahatma Gandhi a 'bastard who allowed partition to happen'. I was angry enough to consider giving her a black eye - I reasoned that being a tv news anchor, she should atleast know the truth (or what passes for the truth). But when I cooled down a bit, I realised that even I didn't know enough about the man. My subsequent attempts to win her over to my side of thinking used self-righteousness as the weapon of choice, rather than information and cool logic. Needless to say, I wasn't very successful.

Now living in these times, I'm sure you'll realise that Gandhi-bashing is fashionable. But I've never been part of that camp, except for a brief while when Outlook magazine ran a cover story on Gandhi's sexual experimentation or something like that.

I picked up a number of books on Gandhi including his Autobiography and a biography by Romain Rolland. None of these books however, talk about the era post-1940, when a number of incidents took place, including the partition, the subsequent riots, independence and of course, the assassination.

A history student once told me that it's up to us to make what we can of the past, and not believe any one source. I believe that as well, and so I suspended judgement on the tricky subject of Gandhi's influence in the shaping of India - after the civil disobedience movement. But this much I'm certain of - Gandhi makes for a great role model. His politicking was based on his convictions & his beliefs were based on a lifetime of experimentation. There wasn't a false bone in his body.

His autobiography in particular is inspiring - read it, and you'll know why.