I used to mix up Gandhi with Nelson Mandela… After all the latter was inspired by the former, both are kind-looking old men and both had business in South Africa before.
Anyway, I found this book in a bookshop in Nepal, and as I turn its last pages, it’s the day before I fly back to Singapore from Cambodia. I did find another book in Cambodia, but it’s a Longman Grammar Guide.
To be honest, this book isn’t inspiring in the lightning-bolt-strikes-you sense. The wisdom of Gandhi is understated. He is never imposing, but he never wavers either.
His views on colonialism, independence and capitalism also change throughout the book based on his experiences in England, South Africa and India. He was shaped by his teenage years n England, where he learnt how to be a gentlemen. He later scorns the unsanitary habits of his own countrymen, but also swop his suits for dhotis to become closer to them – his selective adoption and discarding of different habits would make him seem either hypocritical or savvy – either way he is a good politician, I suppose. However, keep in mind that it is hardly a book about politics despite what Gandhi may be famous for.
He shares about how he tries to achieve Brahmacharya, his experiments with dietics and his contact with various religions. His obsession with cleaning his own clothes, hydrotherapy and teaching morals give an insider, almost voyeuristic look into Gandhi’s life. And they are all interesting, because he draws morals and values from everything he does. Nothing is too small to work on for Gandhi, I suppose.
His communes, known as Ashrams, are his bigger experiments, which I wished he elaborated on more.
And of course, his experiments never seemed to end or have definite conclusions. Perhaps there isn’t so much value in truth as there is in the process of experiments.
(Anyway, I’ll always be curious whether Gandhi was the creepy man who made young women sleep with him… He is obviously not a perfect man – it is hard to see him as a good father, for one. But to do that in the name of experiment, let’s just say Gandhi takes his experiments very seriously, and the sky’s the limit??? )