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Gandhi: The Man, His People & the Empire: The Man, His People and the Empire Hardcover – 1 Aug 2007
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‘Rajmohan is the son of Gandhi’s youngest son, Devadas. But he has more to offer than his family background. He is an accomplished biographer, columnist and editor... He has a deeper understanding of the social and political landscape of India, of the cleavages of caste and religion, and of the dynamics of the dominant Congress Party... Rajmohan takes us at a leisurely pace through the broad sweep of Gandhi’s personal and public life. His Gujarati background is given its due, as also his London years, his campaigns in South Africa, and his struggles and travels in India.’ -Ramachandra Guha, Times Literary Supplement
'Rajmohan Gandhi's weighty, authoritative and comprehensive biography is a great achievement' (William Dalrymple Financial Times )
From the Inside Flap
"No one has ever succeeded in pinning Gandhi to paper as well as Rajmohan Gandhi has. He has managed somehow to evoke the whole of his grandfather-including the human flaws that made his triumphs all the more remarkable."--Geoffrey C. Ward, prizewinning biographer of Franklin Roosevelt and scriptwriter for Ken Burns documentary The War"Rajmohan Gandhi's weighty, authoritative, and comprehensive biography is a great achievement."--William Dalrymple, Financial Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
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If Gandhi's your man this is the book, but I doubt this will make any converts due to its bland concentration on the facts, not offering mcuh in th eway of opinion form the rather and very uncritical - not surprising given their relationship.
If I had one very minor complaint it would be that one or two extra maps of India would have been useful. The 19th century map provided at the beginning was of little use as an aid to understanding the complex negotiations and political maneuvering between Congress, The Muslim League, and the British prior to independence.
Don't let that one minor complaint put you off reading this. You'll understand a great man a lot better.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The author, Rajmohan Gandhi, starts by confessing that he is no distant impartial observer but, rather, one of Gandhi's grandchildren. He was a 12 year old schoolboy in Delhi at the time of the Mahatma's assassination. His father, Devdas, was probably the closest of Gandhi's children to their father to the point where Gandhi would seek out Devdas's counsel. So although Rajmohan's direct experience of his subject was limited he would have absorbed much from his father, a man with an intimate understanding of what made him tick, both personally and politically.
Then there is the fact that Rajmohan Gandhi comes to this work only after writing many other distinguished biographies and books on the history of the subcontinent. These include his biographies of Rajaji, Rajaji, a Life, Vallabhbhai Patel Patel, a life, Gaffar Khan, Gaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah Of The Pakhtuns, Jinnah and other Muslim leaders (told in Understanding the Muslim Mind - also published as "Eight Muslim Lives") as well as his study on the Indian Mutiny of 1857, A Tale of Two Revolts told in parallel with the story of Lincoln and the American Civil War which happened around the same time. Context is everything, and just as it would be impossible to write about Rajaji without understanding Gandhi, so this volume on Gandhi is the richer for the deep understanding of the other characters in the story of India's struggle for independence.
The result is not a short book. As well as the vast body of literature already available, Rajmohan draws on private correspondence and documents from the family archives to give a remarkably detailed picture of the man and what made him tick. In telling the story of Gandhi, he is also telling the story of India in the first half of the 20th Century. We see Gandhi's thinking develop over time from the shy young law student in London, the crucible experiences in South Africa to the statesman thinking for the long-term unity of the subcontinent when lesser politicians around him were prepared to sacrifice that for a short-term grab for power.
Gandhi himself was a keen student of history, and it was his own analysis of the failure of the 1857 revolt which contributed to the development of the strategy of Satyagraha, or "Truth Force" (Gandhi resisted the label "non-violence"). One of the book's many strengths is the way it reveals Gandhi as a master political strategist - a useful corrective in an age when most people's understanding of the man comes from one-liners shared on social media. This is no other-worldly cotton-candy saint, but a man with a totally realistic grasp of the murky politics of empire and the evils of greed, racism and arrogance institutionalized into a colonial system, as well as the institutionalized evils of his own culture - the caste system, subjugation of women and untouchability.
Some people today seem to equate Gandhi with non-violent protests, and then claim that it doesn't work because nothing changes. To them I would say, read this book. Gandhi would never have expected that a few middle class people waving placards could shift institutionalized evil. His strategy was to first unite a divided and downtrodden people by identifying himself fully with the poor masses and trying to solve some of their most basic subsistence level problems. And then it was to provoke and keep provoking until he got a response - but always on carefully chosen issues where he held and could maintain the moral high ground. He understood that once the protests became violent, that this violence would be used to justify a much greater violence by the British to crush the protest. At a deeper level, Gandhi understood that real change comes from within - a stirring in the conscience which, when acted upon, becomes contagious.
The book does not shy away, either, from the more controversial areas of Gandhi's life - in particular his experiments with brahmacharya (purity) which led him to sleep unclothed next to much younger women both before and after his wife died. To most people now and even to his closest associates back then, these actions seem incomprehensible. The author takes us as far as it is possible to go in understanding, by giving us Gandhi's own explanations - often made to those around him who begged him to stop. My own feeling is that some further light can be shed on these radical experiments by the growing understanding of the brain chemical oxytocin and its role in both morality and creating trust. There is a fascinating TED talk by Paul Zak on this (The Moral Molecule) and an excellent discussion on the role of oxytocin in sex and relationships by Marnia Robinson in Cupid's Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships.
Towards the end of his life, the author relates, Gandhi was asked by an American journalist what message he would like to share. His reply was "My life is my message". Reading this book is probably as close as we are likely to get to understanding that message.
Analytical Review: Readers should expect a very detailed account that tells more about Gandhi the man than other biographies. This book is a well-researched work, comparable with those of Yogesh Chadha and Louis Fischer. All three will give you more or less the same story, but each will illumine perspectives and ideas absent in the others. This book tells more about Gandhi as a human being, a concerned father and husband than other works, and less about the assassins than does Chadha's book. In any event, Rajmohan Gandhi's work is impressive and an important accomplishment.
Additional info for all Indians and Pakistanis
(From K N Rao - Journal of Astrology)
Jinnah's ancestors: His grandfather was Poonja Gokuldas Meghji, a Hindu Bhatia Rajput from Paneli village in Gondal state in Kathiawar. Jinnah's ancestors were Hindu Rajput that converted to Islam. Jinnah's family belonged to the Ismaili Khoja branch of Shi'a Islam, though Jinnah may have converted to Twelver Shi'a Islam.
Gandhiji was a Gujarati Bania. The father of Pakistan was a Gujarati Rajput and of India a Gujarati Bania. The Hindu Gandhi created Khilafat movement and the Muslim Jinnah opposed it.
How Hindu Astrologers Saved the Nation - "The stories of the dependence of Indian politicians on astrological predictions were suppressed during the time of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who consulted astrologers privately, but condemned astrology publicly. I have discussed it in my book, the Nehru Dynasty.
In my book, Astrological Journey through History, Mystery and Horoscopes, there is a reference again as to how the Indian politicians had decided to take the midnight of 14th and 15th August, 1947 for the Independence of India. It is discussed in my sketch of Hardeo Sharma Trivedi thus: "In 1947, when the English rulers had decided to grant independence to India on 15th August, Hardeoji and Suryanarain Vyas of Ujjain had told Babu Rajendra Prasad, who later became the first President of India, that astrologically it was not auspicious. When they came to know that the choice of any hour on that day was all the English rulers were prepared to concede, Hardeo insisted that it should be at midnight for three reasons:
---By that time the Moon would have entered Pushya Nakshatra, known as a Maha nakshatra in Bengal and, the most favorable nakshatra for a Muhurta.
---It should be at midnight, roundabout the Abhijeet Muhurta, which was calculated thus: sun-rise on August 15 was at 5-33-31 A.M. Sun-set was at 6. 57.31 P.M. Counted from sunset, the time for the next sunrise would be after 10 hours and 36 minutes, half of which was 5 hours and 18 minutes. If 5 hours and 18 minutes were added to the sunset time we would reach 12 hours and 15 minutes midnight. Twenty four minutes before or after 12.15 midnight would be the Abhijeet Muhurta. That would be the only best time available.
---The third important factor was that by that time the lagna rising would be Vrishabha, a fixed sign, which is always favored for foundations of buildings or, stable independence.
It has been recorded by Sir Woodrow Wyatt that the time of Indian Independence was chosen on astrological considerations but, within the twenty four hours given. The astrologers who advised the government were Hardeoji and Suryanarain Vyas. Yet, until now no Indian astrologer would even mention these names.
Sir Woodrow Wyatt wrote in May 1988 an article on the central page of the Times, London, "Who Does Not Consult Stars", and defended Ronald Reagan, the US President, for consulting astrologers. There he revealed that Indian astrologers had chosen the time of Indian Independence and that the subsequent history of India was somewhat more successful than Pakistan's, which got dismembered. (From the Journal of Astrology July-September issue of 1997)