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The Gandhian World

Priya Naik

By Ramin Jahanbegloo
Harvard University Press, Harvard, 2013, pp. 196, Rs. 695.00

By Tridip Suhrud
Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, 2012, pp. 214, Rs. 250.00


Gandhi is a language. He constitutes a world of symbols and metaphors which cannot be comprehended without wading into it, and inhabiting it through an everyday practice. His life and his practices offer a philosophical ground, unique to a philo-sopher who was more of a practitioner than a preacher, a man of action rather than words. This review essay looks at Gandhi’s life and philosophy as the continual and consistent act of translating. Gandhi is positioned as a translator, as well as a source of translation. As a translator, Gandhi not only translated texts almost all his life, but also possessed the art of translating in politics and philosophy. From borrowing imageries and thoughts from another universe and grafting it onto another or the sensitive process of distilling cultures and arriving at something quite unique and inimitable, Gandhi embodied the soul of a translator. Suhrud’s Reading Gandhi in Two Tongues and Other Essays is a quiet ode to Gandhi’s lesser known experiments in South Africa and India, and his engagements with followers and opponents. Like the ‘quiet still voice’ Gandhi stated he heard during a fast, Suhrud’s essays too embody that stillness, and attempt to capture the quietness of Gandhi lost in the noise of what goes in the name of ‘Gandhian studies’. Jahanbegloo’s book, The Gandhian Moment, on the other hand, seeks to translate Gandhi in the difficult times of communal estrangement and looks at how Muslim societies can be inspired by Gandhi’s nonviolent methods and ways. Focussed on the autocratic and oppressive regimes of the Middle East, Jahanbegloo’s interest lies in resuscitating Gandhi’s methods for the movements in that area. His work is pitched at a particularly difficult time for the Muslim world, which is often pitted against the modern, democratic world, free from tradition. Turning to Gandhi, the author demonstrates the conjugality between Islam and Gandhi, with key Muslim leaders such as Abdul Gaffar Khan adopting the Gandhian method.   A useful image to position Gandhi is the Hindi and Gujarati word ‘Godhuli’. Suhrud describes it as ‘the moment when cows come home and the dust raised by their feet cover the sky and blur the vision...dusk is a fleeting, intransient moment...between day and night, signifies the presence of both and denial of neither’ (p. 38). The comparison with dusk positions Gandhi in that in-between state, a place occupied ...

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