Review : The Man before the Mahatma

by Soumya Gupta on November 9, 2012

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Author: Charles DiSalvo
Publisher: Random House Publications
Year: 2012
ISBN: 9789380658674
Rating: ★★★½☆
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There is something about skimming through the pages of history, when you discover that History was once like this Chinese term “Dangxia” which means “now and here”. This is to say that history had a history and a present- like metadata, which means data about data. I have grown up reading about Gandhi’s ideas backwards, so we go back from reading about Nations’ freedom in 1947 to how his ideas helped achieving it. Charles DiSalvo takes this extremely challenging but brilliantly fascinating task of reading about Gandhi and his ideas in a forward manner. So there was a time when history was being built, the Man was becoming the Mahatma. So if Independence and the freedom struggle are post-Mahatma, his twenty years in South Africa are pre-Mahatma.

Gandhi’s role in the making of nation was neither an obvious phenomenon nor was it an oblivious undertaking. We often arrive at his achievements like heroic feats, but we frequently forget to archive the greatness of his ideas. What made him and his ideas so great is definitely worth reading about. This book is like the DNA of Gandhi’s ideas of civil disobedience, non-violence and organized resistance. This book is about the time where he grows as a lawyer at a steady pace, survives as a political face, fails like a menace, becomes the voice of public space and moves forwards to join the freedom struggle race.

Gandhi is an avid reader of law, religion and philosophy. While facing the color coded discrimination at the hands of law, order and society in the British Colony of Transvaal and Natal in South Africa; he experiments at the solutions and resolutions of these problems. Three of the most fascinating things about this particular compilation are these; one Gandhi failed miserably as a public speaker for very long, two Gandhi actually fights like a racists demeaning the aboriginals of South Africa to fight for the racism against Indians and three civil disobedience was not originally the product of Gandhi’s mind. I believe these are teasers enough to make you read this book. Why I strongly suggest one should read it, because the content and intent of Gandhi’s freedom struggle is explored in this book.

Written by Soumya Gupta

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