GANDHI: A Life by Yogesh Chadha


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The first major biography in over 20 years of perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly one of the strangest men ever to exercise important political influence. Born in 1869, married, as was customary at that time, at the age of 13, sent over to London to become a barrister, Gandhi found his vocation when he went to South Africa to deal with a large case, and enlisted himself in the struggle against discrimination against Asians. There he learned many of the techniques he later used against the British, including satyagraha, ""the Force that is born of Troth and Love or non-violence."" On his return to India in 1915, he criticized the ""indescribable filth"" of the country, the conspicuous wealth of the maharajahs, and the continuing discrimination against the untouchables. His campaigns against the conditions of the Indian workers and against the hated salt tax attracted huge support, and his strategy of noncooperation with the British landed him in jail. And yet for all his efforts, his ""fasts unto death"" to reconcile Hindu and Muslim, his continuing emphasis on nonviolence, when independence came in 1947, the partition of the country was accompanied by an orgy of blood-letting--and his own assassination at the hands of a Hindu extremist. Odd as he was, a small, unimposing man with no front teeth and spindly legs, a fanatical vegetarian who ceased marital relations with his wife at 36 and who believed that sex was only permissible for procreation, and whose knowledge of events outside India was limited, by the 1930s, as Nehru put it, ""Gandhi was India."" It is perhaps the supreme example of the power of moral force in politics, and Chadha, an Indian businessman who has spent the past eight years researching and writing this book, lets the record, so far as possible, speak for itself. It is balanced, even-handed, and, like its subject, inspiring.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0471350621
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Wiley