Whose Nehru's grandfather

Arun Gandhi: Anger is a gift

The legacy of my grandfather Mahatma Gandhi
Dumont-Buchverlag, Cologne 2017
223 pages, price € 20.00
ISBN-13: 9783832198664
ISBN-10: 3832198660

Arun Gandhi, who grew up in South Africa, looks back on a successful life as a journalist and founder of an educational institute. Now, at over 80 years of age, he talks about the formative time he spent with Mahatma Gandhi, his grandfather, in his ashram in India.
During these two years with his grandfather, Arun Ghandi found his later life theme, namely how to use practices of nonviolence to get closer to peace on a large and small scale. After decades of working as a journalist for the Times of India and the Washington Post, he finally concentrated entirely on the work of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, which he founded.

Rejection and marginalization in South Africa
Just like Mahatma Gandhi before him, Arun Gandhi experienced rejection and exclusion in South Africa because of his Indian origins. He often resisted and sometimes felt great hatred and insatiable anger. When he was 12 years old, his parents didn’t really know what to do with him, because he was also involved in fights. Mahatma Gandhi, his grandfather, had already decided at this time for a life of simplicity and poverty in the ashram and had begun to challenge the colonial power Great Britain with non-violent actions. India's independence no longer seemed impossible in 1944 when Arun Gandhi visited his grandfather and stayed for two years.

Religious conflicts over independence
In the years before independence and partition, India was in turmoil. Millions followed Gandhi's message, while others were not moving fast enough to force Britain to withdraw. Most profoundly, however, the religious conflicts, especially between Hindus and Muslims, determined the negotiations on independence. Gandhi saw even more outbreaks of violence if India were to be divided, while Muhammed Ali Jinnah saw only a separate state, namely Pakistan, as an opportunity for Muslims. Nehru, who then became the first Prime Minister of India, revered Gandhi, but saw no way to achieve an undivided India, especially since Great Britain had already bet on partition.
Of course, as an interested reader, one looks in retrospect in the book for hints and explanations about the developments, because at that time the decisions could have turned out differently if Great Britain had relied more on Gandhi than on Jinnah. And if there had been less secret diplomacy, if, if ...

Book is not a political analysis
Such references are found in the book of Arun Gandhi, for example when he describes how Mahatma Gandhi cleverly spread his proposal to win Jinnah for the unity of India by making him the first prime minister of independent India at the conference in London. Overall, however, the book is not a political analysis, but a review of the special relationship between grandchildren and grandfather. Arun Gandhi learned from his grandfather that if there is to be a better world, it depends on the individual.

Wonderful story of an impatient boy
The 12 year old Arun was sent to his grandfather because he could not contain his anger. He finally learned that through contact with his grandfather. How, that is the wonderful story of the development of a thoroughly impatient boy. He learned through dedication, respect and his grandfather's great love for him. Arun Gandhi also remembers the feelings of adolescents when he thought that his grandfather was exaggerating the simple life or when he wanted to get a special position in the ashram in the face of his famous grandfather. He made a very careful note of his grandfather's reaction to the anger that befell him from time to time. “Anger is a gift. We don't need to be ashamed of it. ”He has learned to pay attention to this anger, not to suppress it because it indicates grievances, but also not to abuse it by serving as grounds for violence.

Who else invokes Gandhi?
Gandhi was not only revered, but also criticized by many. The non-violent action was criticized as ineffective, his attitude towards the caste system as too superficial, his political orientation as too naive. Who still invokes Gandhi in India today? The social development in the decades after Gandhi is not analyzed in the book. Nevertheless, the book is very worth reading because in everyday encounters it makes clear Gandhi's determination to live poorly and simply and to bring about changes without violence. To be credible day after day, to seek balance, to maintain one's own vision of an India of all religions and without separation into castes, that is what Gandhi tried until his murder.

In addition to the extraordinary person Mahatma Gandhi, we also learn how the grandson neither could nor wanted to escape this experience with his grandfather, even if he ultimately thought and acted differently as an adult. I read the easy-to-read book with great profit. I probably didn't learn much new about the history of India at that time, but I understood how important and useful resolute nonviolence could be in our everyday lives today. The grandson's personal memories of his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi are also highly recommended as gifts for family and friends.

Monika Huber

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