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Fact and Fantasy

Radhika Kumar

By Varsha Das
National Gandhi Museum, 2014, Rs. 90.00

By Celia Rees
Scholastic India, 2014, pp. 432, £12.99

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 11 November 2008

Satyagraha ki Kahani is a pictorial compilation of the history of Satyagraha by Varsha Das and the staff of the National Gandhi Museum. Priced attractively at a throwaway price of Rs. Ninety, this lovely booklet traces the history of Satyagraha from its genesis in South Africa in 1906 to the acme of the Quit India movement in 1942. Ably accompanied by cogent and appropriate captions and an integrative narration this booklet is a wonderful addition to the library of literature on Gandhi and the Freedom Movement of India. (Lest one get carried away by the argumentative tradition the book clarifies right at the beginning. This is neither a book on Gandhi, nor about the Freedom Movement. It is exactly what it says it is—a pictorial history of the Satyagraha movement.)   There are some rarely seen pictures of the South African phase of Satyagraha including the railway station at Pietermaritzberg, the Charlestown stage coach and Gandhiji’s chambers at Ferguson corner. There are a few snapshots of public meetings prior to the launch of Satyagraha and portrait photographs of important associates during the South African phase of Gandhiji’s career. An arresting still, though a reconstruction, is the eviction of Gandhiji from the railway coach, his luggage still in mid-air.   There are pictures of history in the making. One of Gandhiji leading the Salt Satyagraha and marching towards Dandi. Another of Gandhiji at Bhimrad, Gujarat at 0830 AM on the 6th of April, 1930, bending forward to pick up a handful of salt. A few pictures of police lathi charges during the Civil Disobedience Movement. An earlier snap of ladies leading an anti-government procession during the Non-cooperation movement. These are precious moments to cherish in the genesis of our nation.   Of historical importance are the few snapshots of the Champaran, Ahmedabad and Khera struggles. These still show Gandhiji in the unfamiliar, fully clothed gear of an educated upwardly mobile Indian of that era. The evolution of M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Johannesburg attired in suit and tie to the familiar Bapu, father of our nation, in familiar clothes, leading the Dandi March can be clearly appreciated. It has been aptly said—A picture says more than a thousand words.   Steeped in fantasy, dealing with the forces of evil taking over the world is The Stone Testament. Everyone knows that the world will definitely be saved but the exact method is never clear. And one ...

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