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A Unique Bond

Rajmohan Gandhi

Edited by Tridip Suhrud and Thomas Weber
Orient BlackSwan, Noida, 2014, pp. 552, Rs. 950.00


In 1978, four years before her death, I  met Mirabehn in the hills of Austria.  At that time I was working on a biography of Rajaji. Among other things I wanted to know what, nearly four decades after Gandhi had launched Quit India, she now thought of that initiative, which Rajaji had opposed. Mirabehn herself was deeply implicated in Quit India. Early in the summer of 1942, she had taken Gandhi’s draft for a Quit India resolution to the Congress Working Committee, which was meeting in Allahabad. At Gandhi’s instance, Mirabehn had also informed Sir Gilbert Laithwaite, the Viceroy’s secretary, of his intentions. When Gandhi and a great many others were imprisoned for Quit India, Mirabehn too was arrested. Along with Gandhi, Kasturba, Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal Nayyar, she was detained in Pune’s Aga Khan’s Palace.  As Mirabehn and I walked on a sloping path not far from Vienna, I asked, ‘After all these years, do you think Quit India was right? Or was it a mistake?’ She stopped walking, thought for a second or two, and then said, ‘A push was needed.’ Her upraised palm pushed the air as she uttered the words. I recall this conversation as I reflect on Beloved Bapu: The Gandhi-Mirabehn Correspondence. Although Suhrud and Weber provide short opening and concluding remarks as well as separate introductions to the eight chronological sections, it is the letters that take up almost 500 of the book’s 552 pages. Several questions must arise for editors of a correspondence as vast as this. How heavily should they prune it? Since most readers would want a selection rather than the entire material, what principles should guide elimination and retention? Which letters call for a mention of their political context, and which can stand comfortably on their own? And so forth. Most letters in this volume are from Gandhi to Mira but there are quite a few also from Mira to Gandhi. Towards the end the editors offer what sounds almost like an apology for their interventions. ‘These letters,’ the editors write, ‘are so transparent that an explanatory framework may hinder rather than further the process of reading them.’  However, the notes provided were certainly needed. In fact some readers would have preferred more notes and fewer letters. How amidst the national struggle Gandhi kept up a ceaseless and detailed correspondence with so many interesting men and women is ...

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