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Truth be told...

The furore over Gandhi is misplaced. Not because it may be false, but because we can't handle the truth.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2011 21:02 IST

Former New York Times editor Joseph Lelyveld has written a book in which among other lines, he quotes Tridip Suhrud, a cultural historian: "They were a couple". Mr Lelyveld goes on to write in the next line: "That's a succinct way of summing up the obvious — Kallenbach later remarked that they'd lived together 'almost in the same bed' — but what kind of couple were they?" The Kallenbach mentioned is Hermann Kallenbach, a Jewish East Prussian architect in early 20th century Johannesburg and the 'they' is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Kallenbach. That's right, Mohandas 'Bapu' Gandhi, the Father of our Nation and that secular name uttered to make everything sacred.

Mr Lelyveld, a journalist, quotes another Gandhi scholar characterising the Gandhi-Kallenbach relationship as "'clearly homoerotic' rather than homosexual'", then adding "intending through that choice of words to describe a strong mutual attraction, nothing more". The author goes on to write: "The conclusions passed on by word of mouth in South Africa's small Indian community were sometimes less nuanced. It was no secret

then, or later, that Gandhi, leaving his wife behind, had gone to live with a man."

Well, Mr Lelyveld has, since the huge brouhaha over Gandhi's possible sexuality mentioned in his book Great Soul, denied that he has described the Mahatma as a 'bisexual' anywhere in his biography. But you don't need to be a homophobe, let alone someone who considers it to be impossible that the Mahatma in his incarnation as Mohandas may have been a human with human desires, to figure our what Mr Lelyveld is suggesting. So what? Does that diminish Gandhi's greatness? Does the Indian psyche find it abhorrent that its icon and paternal mentor could have erotic longings, any kind of erotic longings? If it does, isn't that our problem? Going by that most revelatory and 'truthful' of texts, My Experiments with Truth, it certainly wouldn't have bothered Gandhi.