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Of Spiritual Transformation

Susan Visvanathan

By Pannalal Dasgupta Translated by K.V. Subrahmonyan
Earthcare Books, Kolkatta, 2011, pp. 490, 395.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 12 December 2011

The book by Pannalal Dasgupta is calm, clear and has depths of experience, and as sometimes happens, we share in the translator's wisdom as much as the author's. That sort of symbiosis, which allows the flow of Bengali and English to be conjoined without entering treacle country, is truly the sign of genius. We get a good sense of the book's intentions in the paragraph quoted below. Gandhiji enters into conversation with Ramachandra Rao or Gora, who is an aethicist. Both are dialogic, hoping for the understanding of the other. Gandhiji says to Gora, 'Yes, I see an ideal in your talk. I can neither say my theism is right nor your atheism wrong. We are seekers after truth. We change whenever we find ourselves in the wrong side. There is no harm as long as you are not fanatical. Whether you are in the right, I am in the right, results will prove. Then I may go your way or you may come my way; or both of us may go a third way. So go ahead with your work. I will help you, though your method is against mine' (p. 33). "The book Revolutionary Gandhi will be particularly welcomed by those who are concerned that diversity, (and not totalizing answers, such as one cure for all, or one religion for all, or one educational system for all) is what India has always imagined to be its destiny." Pannalal Dasgupta was the General Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist Party but while in jail, he experienced what K.V. Subrahmonyan (personal conversation 16.7.11) calls a metanoia or spiritual transformation. The author lived well into his 90s and supported KVS' translation of his book which was an act of love by a man who knows several Indian and foreign languages. Pannalal writing about harijans and workers said that Gandhi was concerned that the working class movement should gain strength from the presence of the harijan labourers and cultivators. He writes, 'In his outlook as well as his personal life, Gandhiji attained the level of the truly classless human being. He called himself a peasant in his early life, but in his later years he used to say, Mein Bhangi Hoon' (I am a sweeper) (p. 329). Pyarelal is quoted as saying that Gandhi had said that labour was real capital. 'But labour had to be made conscious of its strength. It had to have ...

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