More than seventy years ago, one great nation, Great Britain, granted independence to another, India. The transfer of power, while civil, was not entirely peaceful. Hindus and Muslims turned against each other in spasms of sectarian violence. Refugees trekked across the subcontinent - Hindus toward India, and Muslims toward the new nation of Pakistan.
Amid the tumult, one voice crying out for peace commanded attention. It belonged to a spindly, seventy-eight-year-old man who dressed in a loin cloth and carried a handmade spinning wheel.
Mohandas Gandhi, known as the Mahatma, or Great Soul, had the ability to sway the masses through the force of prayer, fasting, and Satyagraha, or non-violent resistance. But just four months later, this apostle of peaceful protest and religious amity was gunned down by a Hindu nationalist. He left behind a stirring and complex legacy.
While the word "original" can be too glibly applied to the great leaders of history, it only begins to describe Mohandas Gandhi. And this book, nearly seven decades after his death, takes a nuanced and textured look at his singular life, including his important, and often fraught, relationships with his wife and four sons.
Gandhi was a London-trained barrister who took on the British Empire in two of it colonial outposts - South Africa and India. He was a warrior who invented a new form of warfare, one that used actions (or inactions) instead of guns. He was a canny politician who never held political office. He invoked God frequently, which his followers considered saintly and his detractors found merely sanctimonious. He was a vegetarian, a teetotaler, and a celibate, who, late in life "tested" his chastity by sleeping next to young, unclothed women. As this book shows, this extraordinary man, for all his great feats, was also extraordinarily human - and that humanness makes his story all the more compelling.