Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gandhi : Naked Ambition

Jad Adams has put in all the research in this book and both primary and secondary sources have been used to write this biography of Gandhi. This is not the first book on Gandhi and most of the readers would be already aware of the life story of Gandhi which has been written too often. To ensure that readers find the book interesting, Adams has emphasized more on the contradictions in Gandhi's life, which can make for an interesting read.

I must caution, however, that devout fans and followers of Gandhi might find this book insulting. Adams has deliberately avoided using the prefix 'Mahatma' or even the suffix 'ji', both of which are customary in Indian writings. He has given equal space to both the personal and the political life of the man, and has also gone in the details of the clothes Gandhi wore, the food he ate and the women he slept with (or did not sleep with). The focus is mostly on highlighting the contradictions of a spiritual man and a leader of the masses with a chauvinist husband and a cruel father. Various other contradictions have also been pointed out.

The claim of the author is to be "objective" about the person he is writing, but a closer study would easily depict how Adams cannot shed his Anglo-centric attitude in glorifying everything that is Western and ridiculing everything that is Indian. He somehow overemphasizes on the influence of Christianity and Gandhi's European friends but wishfully ignores the various Indian philosophies and Indian personalities that also had an impact on Gandhi. Adams' over-emphasis is more conspicuous in detailing the various 'brahmacharya' experiments, the crash diets and the disastrous family life. In all these depictions, a slight tinge of criticism keeps getting transformed into ridicule, though the British English tries to conceal it through flowery words.

Overall, the book can be said to be interesting and would mostly attract readers who find Gandhi's criticism fascinating. But as an objective book and an academic analysis of Gandhi's life, the book fails on various accounts. When compared with all other biographies (including the autobiography), this book is one of the most colored by the author's ethnocentrism. It could be an interesting read but must be supplemented by more objective biographies of Gandhi to get a complete picture.

CMT's Book Rating 3/5

1 comment:

Hrishikesh Mukherjee said...

Hello Sir,
I was reading the book The Men who killed Gandhi by Manohar Malgaonkar. Could you please suggest if there are any other Indian Books of the same genre. I am looking for any subject other than Gandhi.