March 26, 2001
Issue


 

COVER
   

Shamed And Crippled
With Tehelka.com's spy-camera taking a heavy political toll after the damning revelations of corruption in defence deals, the beleaguered Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government will have an uphill task restoring its credibility and undoing the damage to its image.

BJP: Old Hype

Interview:
Bangaru Laxman

Jaya Jaitly:
Jhola To Purse

Opposition: On A Roll

INDIA TODAY-ORG-MARG Poll: Outraged !

Defence Establishment
: Surgery For Graft


Interview: G. Fernandes

Barak Missiles:
Off The Mark


Tehelka:
Sting Theory


Highlights Of The Findings

Rakesh Kumar Jain: Gasbag Man

 

 
STATES
   

Wheeling A Good Deal
The battle for BALCO degenerates into a political chess match between Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, and Union Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie. Jogi holds most of the aces at the moment--but will he play them all when it could mean loss of investments to the state?

 

 
STATES
   

The New Targets
The 60,000 policemen in Kashmir are caught in a dilemma. On the one hand, they are the target of militant attacks, and, on the other, the Army sees them with suspicion. It is not just themselves, but their families that the policemen worry about as they struggle to battle militancy and falling morale.

 

 
ECONOMY
   

Crisis Of Confidence While stock prices haven't recovered since the collapse of March 2, the panic has spread from Mumbai to Kolkata. Underlying the fear is a deepening fear of the Securities and Exchange Board of India's will or capacity to regulate the stockmarkets.

 

 
SPORTS
 

Escape to Victory
Down and virtually out, India create a miracle at the Eden Gardens to stun the Australians and break their winning streak.

 

 
THE ARTS
 

Mixing Metaphors Music, dance, and tourism synthesise in the famed textile centre of Maheshwar to provide sustainable synergies for its growth.

 

 
OTHER STORIES
     
 



 
  Home  
 

BOOKS

Wailing For The Mahatma

This amazed biographer is of little help in redeeming
Gandhi---or Gandhism

Oh, He's All Steamed Up!
Women In Flames
Authorspeak
New Releases

There are basically two grounds for writing yet another biography of a historical figure as well known and over-researched as Mahatma Gandhi. Either the contemporary context has undergone a profound change to warrant a reinterpretation or there is a body of new research that alters our understanding of the man and his deeds.

 

GANDHI'S PASSION
By Stanley Wolpert
OUP,
New York
Price: $27.50
Pages: 308

 

Stanley Wolpert's biography is not the work of a professional historian. Based primarily on his close reading of the 90 volumes of Gandhi's Collected Works and the eight-volume biography by D.G. Tendulkar, it is essentially a sympathetic assessment, a study of Gandhi the saint that only tangentially-and with some glaring factual inaccuracies (like describing the Jallianwala Bagh meeting in Amritsar as a gathering of peasants "celebrating their spring harvest") and sweeping over-generalisations-takes into account the environment he operated in. That's not surprising because Wolpert approached the project less as a scholar and more as a polemicist. His study was prompted by his grave disquiet at the May 1998 Pokhran blasts, particularly his "amazement" that "hardly any Indian voices were raised against so complete a departure from everything Mahatma Gandhi believed in and had tried to teach throughout his mature life". An Indophile angst at the disappearance of a mythical "eternal India" is articulated through a celebration of Gandhi's piety.

That the Mahatma has been reduced to a mere shibboleth in India is undeniable. Perhaps it was so even before the crowds celebrated the "big bomb" in May 1998. The question an analyst has to answer is: why? It could be that a people steeped in Gandhian values, including ahimsa, asceticism, vegetarianism and a disdain for westernised modernity, suddenly rediscovered itself in a militant Hindu garb. Alternatively, it is entirely possible that Gandhi's leadership was always an expedient arrangement. While Gandhi's enormous political skills and his mass appeal were put to full use in the battle against the Raj, the movement was carefully detached from his idiosyncratic personal philosophy.

 

PATRON SAINT: Ben Kingsley as Gandhi in the eponymous film

Unfortunately, Wolpert shies away from frontally addressing this mismatch. To him, Gandhi was essentially a pious man in a Christian mould, who was as preoccupied with khadi, abstinence and naturopathy as he was with leading the Congress. Therefore, while the rest of the Congress was in a tizzy trying to evolve alternatives to the Muslim League's Pakistan demand in early 1947, Gandhi's mind was equally focused on his own bizarre experiments to control his sexual urges. He shocked his devotees and almost caused a scandal by sleeping naked with his grand-niece Manu.

Earlier, writes Wolpert, Gandhi "experienced an intensely personal passion for a young, golden-haired, blue-eyed Danish beauty, Esther Faeing". He wrote her persistent "love letters"-"But give me the privilege of calling you my child. 'Rock of ages cleft for me; let me hide myself in Thee.' With deep love." - that lesser mortals would certainly have regarded as plain suggestive. Gandhi could get away because he combined the roles of politician and saintly eccentric.

Little wonder, the other stalwarts of the nationalist movement were schizoid in their scepticism of Gandhism and fanatical faith in Gandhi. To Wolpert, this meant a departure from the true path shown by a legatee of Christ. To others, Gandhism was the extra baggage India had to tolerate to humour a wily leader whose "curious compound of mysticism and astuteness"-as the South African General Smuts accurately described it-knocked the political and ethical foundations of the Empire. Wolpert is "amazed" by India's abandonment of Gandhism. He never stops to ask whether or not it was accepted in the first place.

NEW RELEASES

The Undiscovered Country
By Eknath Easwaran
(Penguin, Rs 150)
A book to help understand life's greatest mystery and its last great change-death.

Maharaja Suraj Mal 1707-1763
By K. Natwar-Singh
(Rupa, Rs 150)
The first full-length account of the life and times of the 18th century soldier-statesman.

A Storehouse of Tales
Ed By Jehanara Wasi (Srishti, Rs 195)
Collection of stories by contemporary Indian women writers displaying the diversity of an undefined land.

A Western Journalist on India
By Francois Gautier
(Har-Anand, Rs 295)
Collection of articles by a French journalist based in Delhi.

The Nuclear Subcontinent
By Asiananda, Jan R. Hakemulder
(Minerva Press, Rs 400)
A call for a confederative remaking of the UN on the Millennium Charter of Human Unity.


 

 
 
 
Care Today
     METRO TODAY
 
   

MetroScape
Pop Corn
"You are the best audience in the whole world," the Vengaboys tell raving crowds
in Delhi.
more...

Looking Glass

Delhi Exhibition:
Pop To Classic

Delhi Restaurant:
San Gimignano

Mumbai Accessories Store: Watches Of Switzerland

 
    Web Exclusives
DESPATCHES
 

A bloody crackdown on Naxalites in the south-eastern fringes of Uttar Pradesh proves that only developmental programmes, not guns, can help fight the menace. INDIA TODAY's Special Correspondent Subhash Mishra explains why in
Despatches.

 

 
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