This book is one of the Gandhi publications that came out as an answer to Richard Grenier's controversial article The Gandhi Nobody Knows which was published in a Jewish journal around the time Richard Attenborough's movie on Gandhi was released in 1982. Though not powerfully and directly, Nanda in his book was able to leverage his expertise on Gandhi to lay facts from history in an attempt to challenge some of the accusations Richard Grenier leveled against Gandhi. But, his response to such a controversial article was below the expectation especially since it came from an author of one of the most authoritative biographies of Gandhi.
Seemed to be aimed at all the critics of Gandhi, Nanda's this short book is not very well challenging Richard on some of the seemingly contradicting stances and statements of Gandhi that were pointed out in the article. Some of the most pertinent accusations leveled against Gandhi by his critics are his obsessive adherence to Hinduism and its implications on the national cause, his mixing of religion and politics, his exhibitionism, his contradictions, and his excessive appeasement to Muslims but not to the untouchables. Nanda was not providing adequate explanations to any of these but instead just providing facts from the history and letting readers decide the verdict on Gandhi. While it is true that a devoted Gandhi scholar could possibly not agree with his critics on many areas, a casual reader could easily find himself lost in critics' pretentious accusations and out of context references that support them. To aid such readers, a proper, to the point explanations to the accusations is what needed. Nanda unfortunately failed in that attempt; whether he ever had an intention of writing this book as a reply to Richard's article is not known.
It is easy to criticize Gandhi, so is to answer his critics. Both these are possible because of the contradictions and the conspicuity of his life. But the attitude the intellectual circle has towards such criticisms as one that produced by Richard which has besmirched to the level of a smear campaign directed antagonistically at Gandhi for some unknown reason is that such micro level analysis of Gandhi is not necessitated for emphasizing the usefulness of his teachings and validating his contributions to India's freedom struggle. As Stanley Jones rightly said in his book, Mahatma Gandhi ; an interpretation, while one look at Gandhi through a microscope, one also has to look at him through a telescope to get the total man. Gandhi's critics have always missed this point. The more a person is revered, the higher the intention to defile such a person; a perfect example is a recent book by G. B. Singh Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity in which the author has gone to the extent of even calling Gandhi a racist. What these critics reveal is not much of Gandhi himself but lot of them themselves.
Richard's article was considered inferior by many but his article along with the movie produced a next wave of studies on Gandhi and on the relevance of his teachings on this ever deteriorating world. A lukewarm reply from the historians to Richard's article and hundreds of publications since then produced all over the world on Gandhi's life and his teachings shows that scholars have almost shunned Gandhi's critics.
Gandhi is the least understood of all leaders of twentieth century and that is precisely why he still remains as an enigmatic figure and source of a great deal of research. Even after fifty years since his death, Gandhi remains as a source of inspiration for people to delve into his writings and find new meanings and interpretations of his teachings. It seems highly likely, a hundred years from today, that people still be looking into Gandhi with awe and will carry on the research in the hope to find answers to many universal problems of mankind. And, it is highly likely too that there will be more and more critiques on his life and his teachings in the years ahead.
A novice reader of Gandhi is advised to read the biography of Gandhi by the same author first before reading this book.