Read Gandhi

Perspectives In The 21st Century

By- Ranu Uniyal, Nazneen Khan, Raj Gaurav Verma.

Relevance of Gandhi in Contemporary Times

Anita Singh

Reading Gandhi: Perspectives in the 21st  

as the acknowledgement page states an outcome of a one day conference held in the Deparment of  English at Lucknow University 2019 Structurally divided into an introduction and fourteen chapters, the anthology captures several interesting and less  considered aspects of Gandhi s life written  by scholars drawn from diverse regions. The book is designed to present Gandhi’s  thoughts navigating, from his politics to principles and code of life. It helps us  understand the Mahatma’s legacy and his  philosophy which has always been a topic of  discussion, especially in the contemporary  world. The book’s specified audiences  are the scholars of postcolonial literarture, gender and cultural studies but I feel the  reach of the book 1s more widespread and  will definitely appeal to any general reader  interested being acquainted with Gandhi  and his thoughts. 

This book explores the applicability of  Gandhi and Gandhism in an all-pervading  materialistic, consumeristic and polarized  twenty-first century. The significance of  Gandhi in the modern agnostic world, the  secret of his success, his sense of justice, human rights, conflict, and peace building, along with his alternative method of  nonviolent resistance or Satyagraha are the questions the work raises as focal issues. The  authors an their introduction to the book  state that Gandhi’s legacy can be seen as a carefully evolved vision of an organically  sound and mutually supportive independent  world order including nonviolence as a weapon of struggle and Independence for  India. However, quite a large number of  people are sceptical about the new social order Gandhi visualized as t00 idealistic and an inaccessible Utopia only suitable for  academic and semantic elucidations.

The work suggests the framework for understanding the relevance of Gandhi  in contemporary times. The essays in  this volume focus on his inner strength, brotherhood, and self-discipline. Gandhi’s persona becomes a site for discourse the postcolonial era; his representation in literature, and his ideas on women, food, dress and living are included in this study. His philosophical ideas and spiritual experiences reflect his views on truth, identity, and nationhood, The book covers the impact of Gandhian thought on late- capitalism,neo-colonialism and post-truth. 

Ir attempts to present through a collection of research papers engaged with some aspects of Gandhi’s life, his plilosophy, his ideas and their bearing on contemporary times.  

The fist essay by Bhikhu Parekh, ‘Some Reflections on Gandhi’ details Gandhi’s contribution to the individual and social life and quotes what Nehru warned Attenborough, ‘He was much too human to be a saint,’ Parekh goes on to describe Gandhi’s conviction in the absolute efficacy of nonviolence and his satyagraha and finally sums up the obvious tension in Gandhi’s theory of nonviolence: ‘ideally non-violence never fails but in practice does.’ John Thieme’s paper, “R.K Narayan, Politics and Gandhi” discusses R.K Narayan’s novels coinciding with the rise of the nationalist movement. Narayan creates a credible  version of the historical Gandhi highlighting many oF the tenets of his philosophy and episodes from his career. He introduced the Gandhian motif and shows how Gandhi remains an ongoing force in RK Narayan’s Malgudi microcosm.

The book contains interesting chapters: Neelam Saran Gour’s ‘On Gandhi’, Raj Gaurav Verma’s ‘Disobedience as a virtue: From Satyagraha to Post Truth’, Pritish Acharya’s ‘Mahatma Gandhi and the Champaran Satyagraha’, and Alok Kumar’s  “Truth, Ethics and Theory: Gandhi and the Heuristics of Living’, all of which raise pertinent issues of how Gandhi is viewed through multiple lenses. The papers

” The book is designed to present

Gandhi’s thoughts navigating 

from his politics to principles and

code of life.”

trace Gandhi’s emphasis on ethics, moral earnestness, purity of means, truth and nonviolence. These essays argue that Gandhi made Satyagraha a social movement, a truthful way of life and a weapon of conflict  resolution which would create a roadmap of struggle in the minds of people against injustices. The term Satyagraha conveys Gandhi’s passive resistance and reflects upon his courage and inward strength that led him to dissent. These chapters effectively  explore the notion of truth and underscore the role of revolution in the asymmertrical relationship that exists between power and the powerless and argue that Gandhi’s  nation of truth can be approached through  contemporary theoretical methodologies of  reading. 

Papia Sengupta in her essay, ‘Mahatma Gandhi’s Thoughts on Common Language  for India’ discusses Gandhi’s concern  for a national language. She points out how Gandhi was aware that a nascent nation needs a national language that could keep the country and its people  together. However, along with this he was conscious that as a multilingual country we cannot overlook linguistic diversity or  regional languages. Hardeepsinh Ranjitsinh Gohil directs a comparative study of two translation of Gandhi’s paper, ‘The Purpose and Perfection: Two Gujarati Translations of Bhagavat Gita by Mohandas K. Gandhi’.

Gohil connects the role of the translation of a religious text and national identity and how this impacts the idea of nationhood and national culture. Neena Gupta Vij’s paper, “The Syncretic Morality of the Mahatma:  Conquest Through Contrast’ elucidates how  Gandhi was influenced by the transcendental  movement, Indic philosophical thought and various religious philosophies which made him a cusp of East-West confluence. 

Gandhi’s ideas of health and hygiene, food, clothing and nutrition are the mainstay of the chapters ‘Gandhi and Food: A Study’ by Roopa Vijay and Meenakshi Vijay, and ‘Gandhi and His Dressing Codes: Reading Nationalist Symbols as Signs of Colonial Protest’s by Amrita Sharma. The  chapters locate Gandhi at the cross-section  of the Indian freedom struggle and global health organization and try to establish a connection between Gandhian thought and the objectives of these organizations. 

It further argues that the history of the transformation of Gandhi’s sartorial choice and integrity created a trajectory for the national freedom movement as he changed his attire from symbolic British gentlemanliness to a traditional Gujrati, to a common Indian and ultimately into a mahatma who discarded the outer veneer of clothing, Sucharita Awasthi’s paper 

“On True Civilisation and the Education: Gandhiji’s Views in Hind Swaraj analyses and interprets Gandhian ideas on civilization and education in the context of his 1909  book Hind Swaray wherein he expresses his views on freedom, economy, sociery, culture, modern civilization, industrialization, etc. “

Vishaka Sen reads the aspects of feminist subjectivity in the socio-political cultural discourse in her paper on ‘From Abala to Sabala: Feminist Subjectivity in Sudhir Kakar’s Mira and the Mahatma’. Fatima Sahvish’s paper, Significance of Mahatma Gandhis Values: A Man of Simple Livmg and High Thinking explores the worth of Gandhi to his people and nation, in establishing the ground for reform programmes for education and emancipation  for women. 

The book methodically deliberates key issues around Gandhi and presents a number of unfamiliar facts and instances connected to him. It is differenr from any other existing work on him, as it provides a multipronged formula for appreciating his legacy. As a critique one can add that the work is diverse and covers a vast expanse of Gandhi’s philosophy and perceptions that makes it more comprehensive rather than catering to specific research interests. In the last analysis, the anthology expands our understanding of Gandhi and opens debates on many significant issues vexing mankind.