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BOOK CORNER: “READING GANDHI–Perspectives in the 21st Century … by Ranu Uniyal, Nazneen Khan and Raj Gaurav Verma

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     This treasure of essays is edited by Ranu Uniyal, Nazneen Khan and Raj Gaurav Verma. All are distinguished academicians. The trinity teaches English at Lucknow University. The book is a publication of Pencraft International published in 2022. The price of the book is Rupees 800. The spine of the book is less than 200 pages. Let me begin by saying that the book is too complex for an average reader. It is an assortment of fourteen articles written by renowned academicians. Perhaps their normal diction would also be complex for the average reader, I guess so. And I only wish the content was simpler and easy to read just like the simple persona of Gandhi.  

    Gandhi is a revered surname in the world. The subject book explores the relevance of M. K. Gandhi in contemporary times and also links it up with times to come. It covers the dispensation of justice, human rights, conflict and peace-building, along with his evergreen mechanism of non-violence and Satyagraha which were focal to him. The essays in this volume focus on inner strength, brotherhood and self-discipline. His persona becomes a rendezvous a nukkad for discourse in the post-colonial era. Practical ideas on food, dress and day-to-day living are included in this study so also his impact on world literature. His philosophical ideals and spiritual experiences reflect his views on truth, identity and nationhood. The book covers the impact of Gandhian thoughts on late capitalism, neo-colonialism and post-truth. It opens debates on many significant issues troubling mankind. Therefore, it will be of interest to scholars of postcolonial literature, gender and cultural studies. Simply put, the book coaches you on the Gandhian way of living and reacting in today’s utopian and dystopian world.

    The august trinity has edited some painstakingly written articles by historians, academicians and writers such as Bhikhu Parekh, John Thieme, Neelam Saran Gour, Pritish Acharya, Alok Kumar, Papia Sengupta, Hardeep Ranjitsinh Gohil, Neena Gupta Vij, Roopa Vijay and Meenakshi Vijay, Amrita Sharma, Suchitra Awasthi, Vishakha Sen, Fatima Sahrish and Raj Gaurav Verma. After reading the book I wondered if the learned authors had simplified the dhoti-clad half-naked fakir called Mahatma Gandhi or complicated him. The title of Mahatma was bestowed upon Gandhi by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Mahatma is a simple soul as we all know. But being simple is not so simple, as it generates complexities for others, perhaps. Surely, this book is not for an average reader but more for academicians who already know Gandhi and it’ll help them in further hair-splitting on his larger-than-life persona.

    The narration gives a full-circle view of Mahatma Gandhi. It offers you the following: The title starts with an introduction by the trinity. Thereafter, the cynosure, Gandhi, is discussed in various articles and in various ways. There are several silhouettes of him. Then comes the juxtaposition of R.K. Narayan, Politics and Gandhi, and isn’t it amusing when a child labels Gandhiji as a man who kept three monkeys and made salt, says the next article titled, ‘On Gandhi.’ Gandhiji became renowned because of the Champaran Satyagraha. He used to walk for 18 km a day which he did for many years. In the process, he may have walked more than 59000 km. Then comes, Truth, Ethics and Theory: Gandhi and the Heuristics of Living. A mental shortcut to living. These are all improbable-sounding words in today’s context. Despite all our ideological compulsions why does it seem so difficult to disown Gandhi completely? Writing about Gandhi in the twenty-first century, to begin with requires a good amount of ground-clearing.  There is so much muck in the air because of the language row in India. But Gandhi had his own thoughts on a Common Language for India. The Ramayan and the Bhagwat Gita were very dear to the Mahatma and he had done two Gujarati translations of the Bhagwat Gita which is mentioned in the article titled, ‘The Purpose and Perfection: Two Gujarati Translations of Bhagwat Gita by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.’ Mahatma Gandhi is seen as an exceptional force in world politics because he fought with a technologically superior imperial force without resorting to modern weaponry. Gandhi had a diet chart for every Indian in his book titled ‘Gram Swaraj.’ The article ‘Gandhi and Food’ says it all in its narration. What a personality Gandhi was. His dress code had the lusciousness of a fakir that became the national symbol and his sartorial flavour also had the insignia of Colonial Protest. On a true vibrant civilization and the real edifice of education Gandhi’s book ‘Hind Swaraj’ still stands out.

There are so many descriptions of Gandhi by so many researchers in the book. The book is well-edited with a good flow of sentences. There is relevant day-to-day information about Gandhi in the narration for eg he used to write 700 words every day and used to walk 18 km a day. Since the book is a recent publication I would desist from being a spoiler so I won’t reveal more. But yes unlike violence Gandhi’s non-violence acted silently and slowly, and took its own time, but in the end, it delivered.

The book needs to be simplified for an average reader. The articles are well-researched and give you a plethora of facts about Gandhi that will entice you to read the book. There should have been a summary at the end of each chapter to simplify the deliberations. Who could imagine a 5ft 5 inches tall person weighing about 46.7 kg with a BMI of 17.1 kg—which means underweight will lead India to freedom from the fierce British Raj? But why should anyone read this book? Well if you want to know if Gandhi was responsible for the partition read this book. In the same manner, if you want to know more about Gandhi here is the book.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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