Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review - Gandhi & Churchill

Gandhi & Churchill by Arthur Herman: Excellent eye-opening reading of Gandhi & Churchill's completely orthogonal views on India's freedom, their leadership and struggle in pursuing their cause. The author provides a very balanced view of every one's perspective, including the British, Hindus, Muslims, Untouchables, Gandhi, the Indian congress and others in the politics of that time, so one can appreciate and understand what happened in history and why it happened. A treat and thriller for someone that loves reading incisive analysis with straight facts - this is far from a boring history book. A lot of interesting tid-bits and epithets show out - like Gandhi came to be known as "Mahatma", because Rabindranath Tagore called him so; "It costs a great deal of money to keep this man in poverty" - quoting Sarojini Naidu, on the amount of money sponsors donate to run Gandhi's ashram to keep his image going; "...freedom inside the empire, if possible, and outside of it, if necessary" - referring to Gandhi's earlier attempts to gain equality status for Indians within the British empire, and later shift to complete independence.

To me, Gandhi came out as an outstanding, fearless, headstrong and politically shrewd leader, who could pull all of India together, despite the fact that almost every section, the British, Hindu, Muslim or Untouchable hated him as a leader. He was also opinionated, intransigent and unpredictable, as well not as progressive. For example, the book cites he was opposed to the British building out railways that he used a lot, and rejected English medicine (penicillin) that could have saved his wife, and insisted on swadeshi agrarian methods that Churchill pointed out was out of touch with the reality of feeding a swelling population. Overall, one of the best books I have read, and I am glad to have read it.

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