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Giant Among Pygmies

K. Swaminathan

By T.K. Mahadevan
Affiliated East-West Press, New Delhi, 1976, 30.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 3 May-June 1977

T.K. Mahadevan, whose thoughts and writings have for many, many years revolved round Gandhiji, has now attempted an altogether ‘new kind of book’, which he calls an exercise in philosophical biography. Deliberately shaking off' the ‘shackles of factuality’, he stylizes the story, blows up one event, strikes irreverent poses and, oscillating in his pointillism between Carlyle and Collins-Lapierre, tries to ‘shock’ the reader into sitting up and thinking afresh. Mahadevan is determined to din into the world's deaf ears a message which, according to him, has so far remained unheard. Leaving aside for the moment what the message is, let us consider why and by whom it has so long remained unheard. Mahadevan asserts that Gandhi was ‘a giant trying hard, and tragically failing to communicate with pigmies, men of small minds, pettifoggers and self-centred creatures.’ Not only that. This block in communication, it would seem, diverted the prophet from his major task of emancipating mankind, while he allowed the small people around him to ‘tailor him to their size and shape’ and to use him merely as an instrument in the liberation of India. This complaint that Gandhiji suffered from a ‘communication block’ is utterly unsustainable. If there was one thing that Gandhi possessed in larger measure than any other dvija in India's long history, it was the ability to communi­cate. It was uncanny. Gandhi's magic was the magic of communication. Sankara and Ramanuja spoke to the elite and through them, if at all, to the common people. But the miracle that Gandhi wrought was the almost total rapport he established with prince and pauper, with friend and foe. Action is more eloquent than words. The tragedy of Gandhi, like the tragedy of the other great minds of India, is not that he is not understood, but that he is not follow­ed, by the ego-ridden elite. Gandhiji's main message was moral and spiritual. It was the message of Swarajya in the full Vedic sense of self­-control, self-reliance, fearlessness and autonomy. The people of India did not need to be taught, they had only to be reminded of this ancient dharma. The lesson was understood well enough and practised according to need and capacity by Indian labourers, hawkers in South Africa and by the common people of India. Indeed, in a true satyagraha movement ‘there are no leaders and hence no followers; or all are leaders ...

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