Book review: Some experiments with Gandhi

Sunday, 16 January 2011 - 2:36am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Is there anything left to say about one of the most famous men in the world?

Book: Catching Up With Gandhi
Author: Graham Turner
Penguin
329 pages
Rs350

Is there anything left to say about one of the most famous men in the world? A man who led this country’s well-documented journey to freedom, whose ideas and message inspired people across countries and races, and whose personal life and choices were laid bare for all to know and see.

Graham Turner obviously thought there was plenty when he decided to recapture the life of Mahatma Gandhi in the biography, Catching Up With Gandhi. The British journalist does this by retracing Gandhi’s footsteps in the company of two of his grandchildren — Rajmohan Gandhi in India and Ela Gandhi in South Africa — from the house in Porbandar where he was born to the lawns in Delhi where he died.

If your first impression is that the book is a re-examination of Gandhi’s legacy at a time when his country seems to be racing away from his ideals, know that it isn’t. And if you’re looking for new information or scandals, know that there aren’t.

This is a gentle and generous retelling of his life, his dealings with people, the political decisions and the ‘experiments with truth’. Turner writes with a light touch — ‘Gandhi arrived in Durban in a frock coat and spoiling for a fight’, ‘When (Winston) Churchill sounded off, he always did it in style, if not accurately’ — briskly describing a life of 70-odd years without getting bogged down by the task. Though his thoughts on Gandhi occasionally border on the reverential, it is perhaps understandable, given that this was a man whose charisma had mesmerised millions of Indians.

At the book launch in Mumbai, Turner reportedly said, ‘Most of the books written on Gandhi are heavy and not easy to read. I wanted to write something that young people would find interesting and accessible.’

And that is exactly what he has done. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. If you have never read a book on Gandhi, this would be a good start.


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