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By Sam Vaknin
Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"

Many myths abound about Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand known as Mahatma "Great Souled") Gandhi (1869-1948).

He was not born to a poor Indian family. His father was dewan (chief minister) of Porbandar, the capital of a small principality in Gujarat in western India under British suzerainty. He later became dewan of Rajkot.

He married at the age of 13 and was a mediocre student. In his adolescence he defied his repressive environment by petty thieving, meat eating, smoking, and professed atheism.

Until the age of 18 He spoke very little English. His main language was Gujarati.

He wanted to be a medical doctor - more precisely, a surgeon. His family forced his to study law.

His first political activity was as a member of the executive committee of the London Vegetarian Society.

He went to South Africa because he couldn't find work in India. He was a poor lawyer, in both senses of the word. He suffered from stage fright.

The "Encyclopedia Britannica" describes his first days there:

"Africa was to present to Gandhi challenges and opportunities that he could hardly have conceived. In a Durban court, he was asked by the European magistrate to take off his turban; he refused and left the courtroom.

A few days later, while traveling to Pretoria, he was unceremoniously thrown out of a first-class railway compartment and left shivering and brooding at Pietermaritzburg Station; in the further course of the journey he was beaten up by the white driver of a stagecoach because he would not travel on the footboard to make room for a European passenger; and finally he was barred from hotels reserved "for Europeans only." These humiliations were the daily lot of Indian traders and labourers in Natal who had learned to pocket them with the same resignation with which they pocketed their meagre earnings."

He was about to sail to London when he read about a bill to deprive the Indians of their right to vote. He decided to stay. It is in Johannesburg, South Africa that his first civil disobedience ("Satyagraha") campaign was staged - not in India.

Gandhi's life was at peril many times. He was almost lynched in Durban as early as January 1897. He was assassinated in 1948.

He was not a pacifist. Nor was he anti-British. When the Boer war broke out, he organized a volunteer corps of 11,000 Indians to defend the British colony of Natal.

More about this topic here:

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Comments

The following comments are for "Another Look at Mahatma Gandhi"
by samvak

Very Sketchy
Given your immense erudition i must say i find this piece extremely superficial. If the intention was to inform those totally ignorant about Gandhi then the least you could have done was to give a balanced -as opposed to a sketchy rather one sided picture.

I can find several inaccuracies here. However I shall confine myself to just two.

Despite your contention ,the fact remains that he was an extremely successful lawyer earning over Stg. 5000 per annum -a huge sum of money in that day and age.

Secondly - his English language skills were second to none . In fact, he and his colleagues -significant among them Prasad , Rajagopalachari , Ambedkar and Nehru - had attained such a mastery over the language that they often gave their opposite British numbers quite a complex...almost as though in view of their not being white they had absolutely no business speaking and writing such good English.

I find the tone of your entire piece quite racist to say very the least..and as such ,therefore ,deeply offensive.

Nothing typifies this mindset better than the following incident drawn from Gandhi's life : Lional Curtis ,Assistant Colonial Secretary of the Transvaal telling Gandhi ," Mr. Gandhi it is not the vices of the Indians that the Europeans in this country fear , but their virtues...."

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: September 6, 2005 )

Gandhi
I think elevating Gandhi to sainthood is not necessarily a good idea. Yes, a more balanced picture would have been more informative but I suspect the author was presuming that most people are familiar with Gandhi and already believe many of the myths associated with him. I think that there are three kinds of would-be rebels, those that would use violence to achieve their goals, those who would never use violence even if their goals could not be achieved otherwise, and those who would prefer not to use violence but ultimately see their goals as important enough that violence is justified as a last resort. And I think Gandhi most likely fell into the third group. To always portray him as the ultimate peace-loving pacifist and a model for mankind is inaccurate and even dangerous if it encourages others to use violence in situations where they deem it justified.

( Posted by: claudita [Member] On: September 6, 2005 )

Gandhi
Dammmmnnn Gina,
Thank you Rj for responding. Regardless of what anyone in the world posts about this great man, the fact remains that he was a great man. There are a million things about every hero or great man that could be dug up, and exposed. Plicks all of em. Frickin plicks.
RW

( Posted by: robert walker [Member] On: September 6, 2005 )

Claudita ...Robert Walker
I most certainly have never proposed that Gandhi be elevated to sainthood or that he represented the epitome of non violence.

It is just that i feel very strongly about giving very short shrift , as has been done here, to a complex multi faceted person such as Gandhi -who had such a huge impact on the world as we now know it.

Were you to delve into his early life you will realise that the well springs of his inspiration derived from two significant sources . The first being the Bible ,which he read from cover to cover and the second bring John Ruskin's famous book 'Unto this last".

Yes, he did see action in the Boer War as a stretcher bearer at the famous battle of Spion Kop.That however does not make him a charlatan ,as far as the creed of non violence goes...nor does it mean that he ended up with blood on his hands.

One doesn't really need to go through abstruse, voluminous tomes written by sundry Ivy League academics to get the measure of the man . On the contrary , there are some very balanced and eminently readable books on him :

- Freedom at Midnight by Collins and Lapierre
- The King Emperor by Group Captain Peter Townsend
- Certain parts in James Michener's The Covenant.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: September 6, 2005 )

Eric...this homespun stuff
Eric

Yours comments as always - most interesting.To be fair only the British could have made Gandhi possible in the first place...not my quote but something I'd read somewhere .

Had it been under the Dutch or the German colonial administrations...they'd have long skewered the likes of him into 'Sheesh Kababs ' .

As to his drawing inspiration from the Bible -well since he's no longer around to answer for that particular sin ,one can at best hazard a guess -

Given that it all happened at the height of the Victorian era ,the Bible must have been far more 'top of the mind' and a PC read than the Koran ....very much along the lines of JK Rowling swamping CS Lewis, in this day and age ..or Sting overwhelming the likes of poor Woody Guthrie .

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: September 6, 2005 )





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