Rajmohan Gandhi

Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empire

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Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empire Summary

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Gandhi: The Man, His People and the Empire(2008) is a biography of Mahatma Gandhi written by his grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi. In covering his life, the growth of his belief system, particularly with respect to nonviolent resistance, is examined, along with his political experiences and his relationships with his family. It is considered perhaps the definitive account of Gandhi’s life by virtue of his grandson having access to his family and family related materials. It shows Gandhi to be a complex figure:he was the embodiment of nonviolence while also encouraging Indians to serve in World War I. He sought an independent India but was not opposed to the British. The book tells of his battle against South African discrimination and the relationships among Muslims and non-Muslims.A unique aspect of this account of Gandhi’s life is that it covers his entire life from his birth in 1869 up to his 1948 assassination, rather than focusing on one particular period as most other biographies do. In addition, it views him as a potentially flawed figure rather than the public persona viewed as an ideal.

A universal symbol of peace, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is likely the most recognizable Indian in the world. In this book, it becomes clear that it is far too simplistic to view Gandhi as simply a calm image of perfection; rather he is one who rose above challenges and imperfections to exemplify the heights that humans can reach. Among his earliest influences were his mother, from whom he learned of fasting as part of religious observances, and his nurse Rambha,who taught him to use the name of Lord Rama as a mantra when he was upset. As time went on, Gandhi traveled to England to further his education, studying to be a barrister. He was greatly influenced by the ideas of various religions and began to develop his life-long tenet that all citizens should be treated equally.

Apartheid in South Africa was a significant source of revelation in Gandhi’s life. Gandhi sent letters to newspapers voicing opposition to the inequalities of the laws and traditions that were affecting the South African Indian community. Further, Gandhi’s words prompted nonviolent protests. Gandhi established Tolstoy Farm in South Africa in 1910. Here, groups representing numerous countries and religions worked together. It was the center of satyagraha, or nonviolence, which Gandhi led.At one point in time, twenty-five hundred people were imprisoned for displaying their resistance to the racist laws that were in place.

Once Gandhi returned to India, he had in mind three main concerns. One was bringing unity among Hindu and Muslim communities. Another concern was the gap that existed between the upper caste Hindus and the “untouchables,” and finally,he was concerned with preparing the people to be worthy of their freedom. He recognized early that these would be long term issues. He took steps to move the Congress to provide genuine representation for the millions of downtrodden people in the villages throughout India. Gandhi could not help but become political in his mission. Without an understanding of, and an ability to work with, the political system, there was not much progress to be made in the social and religious arenas. Gandhi worked with various political groups and individuals in influential positions while remaining in solidarity with the masses.

Gandhi not only gave the utmost respect to those whose opinions he opposed, but also always strived to understand their perspectives. Further, he remained willing to change his point of view if he found it necessary. That he publically practiced that which he encouraged others to do served to ingratiate Gandhi on a global scale. Empathy and respect for even those with whom he was in direct opposition formed the high moral ground on which Gandhi existed. Although some took exception to Gandhi’s combining religion and politics, he did so by virtue of his knowing that religion plays a role in all areas of life.The messages he attached to it were ones of tolerance of others and the spreading of goodwill among men. He encouraged Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs who attacked one another’s communities to atone and find mutual ground. All religions were included in Gandhi’s prayer meetings proclaiming peace over violence.

In writing a text about his grandfather, Rajmohan Gandhi has managed to maintain an objective voice. As he synthesizes many and varied sources of material, he is able to show previously unknown facets of a figure already fully engrained in world culture. Seen are aspects of familial relationships that were difficult, a sense of humor that had been a lesser known part of his personality, and his relationships with, thus his influence upon, many who would go on to be leaders in his country. New, and perhaps unexpected, insights do nothing to tarnish the legacy of a man who peacefully strived to love and unite everyone.