The Gandhi you know, and the one you don’t

There are facets of the man that the whole world knows.

Married as teenagers, and ‘jealously possessive’ till her death decades later

Gandhi and Kasturba—both born in 1869—were married in 1883.

Back then, it was a five-day bullock-cart journey to cover the 300kms between Rajkot, where he lived, and Porbandar, the wedding venue. Gandhi and Kasturba were married for 61 years, and he often describes himself as a jealous and possessive husband.

She died in 1944 at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, where she was imprisoned with Gandhi from 1942 onwards for participating in the Quit India movement.


London calling, and the experience of life on a broader canvas

In 1888, Gandhi moved to London to study law, convincing his mother and brother that his religious values would not be compromised.

This was a period of exposure not just to bad weather and worse food, but also to ideas and people who would influence his personality.

He tried French, dancing and violin lessons, worked on his English and etiquette, attended meetings on Christianity, and started his experiments with truth, diet, religion and value-based living.


Life hack for the overseas student is simple: live the simple life

Money is always short for a student abroad, and it was no different for Gandhi. After his initial indulgences in efforts to “be an English gentleman”, he buckled down and started counting pennies, feeling the guilt of having to ask his brother for money. He moved to cheaper lodgings, began cooking for himself, and kept careful account of expenses, a habit that would continue all his life even when lakhs passed through his hands as part of the freedom movement.


Finding religion again, in a foreign land

Oddly reminiscent of NRIs today, Gandhi rediscovered Hinduism abroad, in London. His faith had largely been prescribed by custom—until he read Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation of the Gita, The Song Celestial.


He later met Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant, who inspired him to read more on Hinduism. He also spent his time with Christian friends, understanding their books, and reading on Islam, exposure to all of which led to a syncretic way of thought.


An unenthusiastic vegetarian finds his vegetarianism bible

Early in his London years, Gandhi came across Henry Stephens Salt’s A Plea for Vegetarianism in one of the few vegetarian restaurants in the city (he’d been subsisting on bread).

“From the date of reading this book, I may claim to have become a vegetarian by choice,” wrote Gandhi in his autobiography.

Later, his obsession with vegetarianism, purity and the rather harsh language with which he describes meat-eating earned him bitter critics.


The rebirth of Gandhi as the researcher of multiple diets

Until he went to London, Gandhi was a reluctant vegetarian, kept to the path only by the dictates of his father and vows extracted by his mother. As a teenager, he’d eaten meat for a year on the sly, wishing he could one day do so “freely and openly”. In London, often hungry, he managed to find and sign up with the Vegetarian Society. This was the beginning of his experimenting with diet—fruitarian, veganism, intermittent fasting, and more.

A lawyer at last and back in India, but without the skills to practise Indian law

Two days after he was called to the Bar in 1891, and three busy and educative years in London later, Gandhi sailed for India and tried to establish a practice. It was a long haul as he hadn’t practised or apprenticed in Britain.

He was well-versed in Roman law, which helped him later on in South Africa, but in court in India, he found himself at a loss.

He was painfully shy and afraid, said Gandhi, and unfamiliar with Indian laws, having studied in England. He tried setting up a practice in Bombay, but eventually gave up and moved to Rajkot where his family’s connections helped him secure work such as drafting memos and documents.

The doctor who fired up a leader and funded the freedom fighter

Dr. Pranjivandas Mehta was the “reader” to whom Gandhi addressed his sermons in “Hind Swaraj”, based on a conversation the two had in London in 1909. Mehta, who shaped Gandhi’s ideas and backed him financially, was a doctor, lawyer and diamond merchant in Rangoon. They met when Gandhi was a student in London. More than a decade before the Dandi March in 1930, Mehta wrote to him about the need for action against repressive tax laws. Mehta died in 1932.


Suresh Shah, Pathfinders Enterprise


My thoughts in writing above is inspired from wirtes by several good authors

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