Neither an ode of adulation, nor an exercise in iconoclasm, this book on Gandhi gives praise where praise is due; and criticizes where criticism is warranted. The author treads in step with Gandhi as he reveals himself in his Experiments with Truth in an honest attempt to understand the Mahatma in the making. Gandhi's veracity is not in question; but his memory, and selection and omission of episodes, inevitably temper the tenor of truth! His equation of Truth with God can only be understood as justice and fair play analogous to sat or rta signifying the Cosmic Order. Page after page poses questions in a bid to understand Gandhi as he speaks, writes and acts.The author relates how Gandhi discovered himself in South Africa; and formulated a new vocabulary of revolt; a new ideology of non-violence and self-suffering to defeat racial injustice and tyranny; to rouse the corrective conscience of his oppressors. Deliberate defiance of unjust laws, self-effacing humility, unflinching acceptance of punishment, the unfading smile and unfailing forgiveness sum up the transformation of an otherwise ordinary mortal into a Mahatma, who identified himself with all downtrodden humanity! Ahimsa, satya and satyagraha became the watchwords of his philosophy in action. The author explores the meanings of these words; and notes that at times Gandhi's ahimsa could be devoid of compassion, confined only to self-cleansing, not true to itself.He learned from all religions without conversion to any; and identified religion with morality, without realizing that morality preceded the rise of religion. As basic morality constituting the core of every religion transcends all doctrinal divisions, Gandhi tirelessly advocated religious tolerance; and Hindu-Muslim unity. He lived and died for peaceful co-existence. But his pursuit of moksa (release from reincarnation) was irrelevant to the world's welfare!Gandhi upheld human equality and indivisibility regardless of race and colour. The author notes his reverence for the Brahmins; and his painful progress from caste consciousness to its final rejection. He draws attention to Gandhi's unwillingness to mount a satyagraha for the liberation of the untouchables from Brahmanical tyranny. Gandhi also took time to realize the woeful plight of the Africans; and to speak of a future which would grant them their due in the land of their birth.The author also takes note of Gandhi's great love of the British, and his faith in their destiny to deliver the world into a dawn of freedom and democracy. He points to Gandhi's celebration of the British success against Indians in 1857! It took a while to shake off that subservience in Gandhi's Hind Swaraj.The book looks closely at Gandhi's relations with his elder brother and friends. The author notes his dictatorial direction of the lives of his wife and sons. His brahmacarya (sexual abstinence) was a capricious imposition on submissive Kasturba; a pathetic denial of the joy of sex mocking mortality and the sorrow of transience. But the book salutes his cruel, uncompromising candour. He practised what he preached. His obsession with sanitation and hygiene unfortunately failed to inspire Indians to follow his example.As an advocate of right means to right ends excluding all violence for the resolution of human disputes, as an enemy of imperialism and champion of human equality, as a practitioner and preacher of religious goodwill and tolerance, as a respecter of the earth and its gifts, as an upholder of the primacy of man over machine, Gandhi remains a beacon of timeless relevance!
PROFESSOR SARVA DAMAN SINGH, B.A.(HONS.), M.A., PH.D. (UNIVERSITY OF LONDON), PH.D. (UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA), F.R.A.S., was born at Angai, in District Mathura of Uttar Pradesh, India; and migrated to Australia in 1974. He won many awards and five gold medals during the course of a distinguished educational career at the universities of Lucknow and London. He has taught at the University of Lucknow; National Academy of Administration, Government of India, Mussoorie; Vikram University, Ujjain; and the University of Queensland, Australia; and held chairs of Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. He is at present Director of the Institute of Asian Studies, Brisbane.He has travelled widely, and lectured at universities and institutions in India, Sri Lanka, U.K., France, Germany, the U.S.A., South Korea, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. Apart from his contributions to numerous books, his publications include Ancient Indian Warfare with Special Reference to the Vedic Period, E.J. Brill, Leiden, with later editions brought out by Motilal Banarasidas, Delhi; The Archaeology of the Lucknow Region, Paritosh Prakashan, Lucknow; Polyandry in Ancient India, Vikas, and Motilal Banarasidas, Delhi; Culture through the Ages, (B.N. Puri Felicitation Volume), Agam, Delhi; The Art of Pir Tareen-Evocation of Beauty in Life and Nature, published by the Institute of Asian Studies, Brisbane; and Indians Abroad, Hope India Publications and Greenwich Millennium Press Ltd, Gurgaon and London. As Honorary Consul of India in Queensland from 2003 till 2011, he addressed numerous forums, always stressing the indivisibility of humanity, and its cultural diversity as a natural expression of its floriferous creativity.