The Pioneer of Pacifism

Staff Correspondent
Thursday, May 18th, 2017


 

For decades, stories of the most courageous pacifist and political leader in South Asia have been told and retold in many a manner. Finally, a quality English translation of Bapu’s original memoirs by his friend and assistant Mahadev Desai, tell the stories of the mahatma’s life, his roots, and the incidents that made him into the man that he finally turned out to be

 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement has directly influenced hundreds and thousands of people, and still continues to do so through his socio-political beliefs. As a descendant of the original Indian sub-continent, and equally a victim of British Colonialism, Bangladeshis, too have been inspired by this man for ages. Yet, it is intriguing to wonder what may have gone through his mind when he led the famous Dandi Salt march, or the even more important Quit India civil disobedient movement? In An Autobiography: The Story Of My Experiments With Truth, this humanitarian and national hero speaks out the occurrences in his life as it happened from the very beginning.

 

In the very introduction of the story, Gandhi mentions how he had been influenced by Swami Anand and his other close co-workers to start writing his autobiography, but is disrupted, ‘I made the start, but scarcely had I turned over the first sheet when riots broke out in Bombay and the work remained at a standstill.’ This simple sentence immediately carries the readers back in time, when Gandhi may have been sitting and writing this very memoir, as riots began in ancient India.

 

Born into a family from the Bania caste, who were originally grocers, Gandhi describes in brief, the roots that made his father the man that he was: truthful, brave, and incorruptible but at the same time very short-tempered. With time, the story discloses how Gandhi himself was influenced consciously or not, by his own father, and tried correcting himself, the flaws that he may have inherited from his father.

 

Much more amazing is when the man who later learnt to lead the world to be truthful and incorrupt, speaks out of his own past flaws. ‘Much as I wish I had not to write this chapter, I know that I shall have to swallow many such bitter draughts in the course of this narrative,’ mentions the mahatma, as he recalls the ridiculous occurrence of marrying off at the premature age of thirteen. Being of the same age, yet learning the socially accepted male dominance in a marriage, prioritizing opinions of elders and men over his wife, Gandhi speaks of traits that he acquired before learning to distinguish his acts with a conscience.

 

His flaws are mentioned repeatedly throughout the book, as it essentially helped him to decipher the rights and wrongs of society. One of the best examples was how his faith on vegetarianism grew not from the moral or religious values, but from the core sense of avoiding hypocrisy, when he decided to avoid it until the day that he gained the courage to eat it openly without the need of lying to his parents, and others. With chronological development of the story, Gandhi’s own maturity surfaces, and in many a chapter, such as that of ‘The Gentle Bihari’, Gandhis understanding of people and respect for every small sacrifice that they make for the sake of humanity, only grows. Wit and persistent hard work to achieve a goal for the greater good has been highlighted in the course of his life, be it for fighting for the rights of the agriculturalists of Bihar, or rendering complete material sacrifice in the quest to become a Brahmacharya and lead the Indian ambulance corps attached to the Natal forces.

 

Overall, ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’ depicts events from Bapu’s childhood to the time when he was honoured by the title Mahatama. His immense contribution to the political arena are well known, not only to post-independent India, but also for laying down the pacifist landmarks, later to be followed by none other than the great Martin Luther King and even Barack H. Obama, current president of the United States Of America. His uniform experience had convinced him that there was no other God than truth, and he has claimed in the very last chapter called Farewell, ‘if every page of this book does not proclaim to the readers that the only means for the realization of truth is Ahimsa, I shall deem all my labor in writing these chapters to have been in vain.’

 

The original manuscript was written in Gujrati, which ran through five editions, with nearly 50,000 copies having been sold. This reviewed book is the English version translated by Mahadev Desai, the first edition of which was published in 1927, that has once again landed on the bookshelf of contemporary readers and critics. This book is perhaps Gandhi’s only lasting message to the present generation, to remind them of the harsh, brutal times of the past, and the need for non-violence, celibacy and other principles of conduct for which he dedicated his entire life.

 

An Autobiography

The Story Of My Experiments With Truth

Pages: 320

Published By: Indialog Publications Pvt. Ltd.

Price: Tk. 350

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