The Epoch Makers
A large number of study materials are already available on almost every great personality of world. On Gandhi alone, there is wide range of materials. The greatest quality of the book written by Gopal Krishna Gandhi lies in the proximity of author to subject matters. The author who is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi from father side and of C Rajagopalachari from mother side has natural claim of authenticity as during his childhood and after, he has seen the events from a close quarters.
A number of persons written about separately in the book are those who have been closely associated with Gandhi- Kripalani, Jayapraksh Narayan, Bapu’s biographer Pyarelal and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan- and some of them like the Dalai Lama has been highly inspired by the Mahatma. There is no doubt that Gandhiji was the greatest son of India in the 20th century. And every time you read him, he will be impressed upon by his achievements. He was dear to both Patel and Nehru. The author refers to an incident mentioned by his biographer Pyarelal highlighting the affection and regard Nehru had for his mentor- Gandhi who was on fast demanding immediate release of the dues of Rs 55 crore to Pakistan after partition. When a Hindu protester shout ‘Let Gandhi Die’, Nehru lost his temper and cried saying, “Say it again to my face… you will have to kill me first.”
Many may not know that “of all the front-ranking leaders who joined the freedom struggle in response to Gandhi’s call, Kripalani was the first”. The author has taken a wise decision in writing about him immediately after Gandhi. Freedom at Midnight, a book authored by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, carries a photograph where at the negotiation table on the issue, from Indian side- apart from Nehru and Patel, the other two persons who represented India were Baldev Singh of Punjab and JB Kripalani.
Jayapraksh Narayan, more popularly known as JP has been, perhaps the greatest mass leader of India next only to Gandhi. People of our generation did not see Gandhi’s ‘Quit India Movement’, we read about him and his movement that attracted people on large scale. But we have seen the movement led by JP against emergency and can say with conviction that after Gandhiji in Indian history, there is no other parallel to his movements both in terms of mass mobilisation and the impact it brought out.
The selection of persons for readers by the author is amazing. Who would not like to know about Jyoti Babu, Dalai Lama and M S Subha Laksmi, the finest vocalist who finds place in Ramchandra Guha’s- Anthropologist Among the Marxists: And Other Essays? One would love to read others included in the book. However, the greatest omission of the book, deliberately or otherwise, lies in the absence of a chapter on his maternal grandfather, Rajaji who to follow Ramchandra Guha again, was as towering a statesman as was Jawaharlal Nehru. A chapter on Rajaji could have done a value addition to the book. Despite this, it is a treat to read this book.
By P C Singh