"He was full of pieces he had picked up here and there: his mother’s love of fasting and austerities, the English common law, Ruskin’s idea of labour, Tolstoy’s Russian religious dream, the South African jail code, the Manchester No breakfast Association. His strong political cause- in
…And when forty years or so later, the main cause had been won, and
,,, And still from time to time in the Indian press there is a cry for the Gandhians of today, and the regret that what had been the ‘greatest mass movement in history’ should have vanished so completely. The unspoken feeling is that Gandhi grew out of the Indian soil and the people who came after have turned away from wisdom that was open to them. There is little understanding that Gandhi had been created by the cultural incompetence of his three years in
Extracted from “ A writer’s people: ways of looking and feeling” by V.S.Naipaul
Update 30-07-08 : After posting this extract, I reflected on why I found it interesting, in the first place. After all, Gandhi is a subject that, over the last so many decades, has been dissected and analysed threadbare, as to become quite boring
Descriptions of Gandhi have been either too laudatory (as in hero-worship) or, in some cases, too critical. Whereas Naipaul, in this article (from where I extracted a few paragraphs) has viewed this subject dispassionately. Gandhi, he says, was made up of several parts that made a significant whole. Each part, by itself, was not indispensable. Conversely, hanging on to one part and believing that to be the whole Gandhi, like the blind men of Hindoostan, is also foolish. And, not all the parts would appeal to everybody. Like in a buffet meal, we are free to choose the elements we want to.
And, Gandhi was not a one-trick pony. He had several weapons in his armoury. Copying one or two out of his bag of tricks will not make one a Gandhian, just as sporting a beard cannot make one Tagore. Because Gandhi’s bag of tricks evolved through a unique combination of experiences and circumstances ( England, South Africa, etc) , that cannot be replicated. He was a product that materialised at the appropriate time.