Ramachandra Guha on the life of Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi and “The Years That Changed the World”
Mahatma Gandhi led the liberation of India from British rule in the first half of the 20th Century, by massive and peaceful resistance. He is said to be out of political fashion in India these days; he was not a man of fashion. He is thrillingly, dauntingly alive again in a grand biography, the project of decades by India’s leading popular scholar, Ramchandra Guha, visiting us in Boston.
It’s good to be remembering that odd Man of the Century: living with him through 900 pages, his family, his fights, 70 years later, on a different planet. My feet are tired—he never stops walking. But the mind charges us in all directions. The daring of the man, his unshakable conviction about resistance in peace, the instant rapport with children, workers, poor people, the world, the amazing consistency of the way puffed up power—the British viceroys in India, Winston Church over many years—dismissed him as a fakir, a freak, a pain in the neck.
George Orwell reflected on Gandhi at his death began by noting that “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent,” and he ended with a great line Guha quotes: “compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind.”
Indian historian and writer