US President Barack Obama touring the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum in Mumbai on November 6, 2010.(Jason Reed/REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama touring the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum in Mumbai on November 6, 2010.(Jason Reed/REUTERS)

Excerpt: A Promised Land by Barack Obama

In this exclusive excerpt from the first volume of his presidential memoir, Barack Obama writes about being profoundly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON NOV 27, 2020 08:13 PM IST
768pp, Rs 1999; Penguin Random House
768pp, Rs 1999; Penguin Random House

I’d never been to India before, but the country had always held a special place in my imagination. Maybe it was its sheer size, with one-sixth of the world’s population, an estimated two thousand distinct ethnic groups, and more than seven hundred languages spoken. Maybe it was because I’d spent a part of my childhood in Indonesia listening to the epic Hindu tales of the Ramayana and the Mahābhārata, or because of my interest in Eastern religions, or because of a group of Pakistani and Indian college friends who’d taught to me to cook dahl and keema and turned me on to Bollywood movies.

More than anything, though, my fascination with India had to do with Mahatma Gandhi. Along with Lincoln, King, and Mandela, Gandhi had profoundly influenced my thinking. As a young man, I’d studied his writings and found him giving voice to some of my deepest instincts. His notion of satyagraha, or devotion to truth, and the power of nonviolent resistance to stir the conscience; his insistence on our common humanity and the essential oneness of all religions; and his belief in every society’s obligation, through its political, economic, and social arrangements, to recognize the equal worth and dignity of all people — each of these ideas resonated with me. Gandhi’s actions had stirred me even more than his words; he’d put his beliefs to the test by risking his life, going to prison, and throwing himself fully into the struggles of his people. His nonviolent campaign for Indian independence from Britain, which began in 1915 and continued for more than thirty years, hadn’t just helped overcome an empire and liberate much of the subcontinent, it had set off a moral charge that pulsed around the globe. It became a beacon for other dispossessed, marginalized groups — including Black Americans in the Jim Crow South — intent on securing their freedom.

Michelle and I had a chance early in the trip to visit Mani Bhavan, the modest two-story building tucked into a quiet Mumbai neighborhood that had been Gandhi’s home base for many years. Before the start of our tour, our guide, a gracious woman in a blue sari, showed us the guestbook Dr King had signed in 1959, when he’d traveled to India to draw international attention to the struggle for racial justice in the United States and pay homage to the man whose teachings had inspired him.

President Barack Obama addresses the US on the end of the combat mission in Iraq from the Oval Office on August 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama addresses the US on the end of the combat mission in Iraq from the Oval Office on August 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The guide then invited us upstairs to see Gandhi’s private quarters. Taking off our shoes, we entered a simple room with a floor of smooth, patterned tile, its terrace doors open to admit a slight breeze and a pale, hazy light. I stared at the spartan floor bed and pillow, the collection of spinning wheels, the old-fashioned phone and low wooden writing desk, trying to imagine Gandhi present in the room, a slight, brown-skinned man in a plain cotton dhoti, his legs folded under him, composing a letter to the British viceroy or charting the next phase of the Salt March. And in that moment, I had the strongest wish to sit beside him and talk. To ask him where he’d found the strength and imagination to do so much with so very little. To ask how he’d recovered from disappointment.

He’d had more than his share. For all his extraordinary gifts, Gandhi hadn’t been able to heal the subcontinent’s deep religious schisms or prevent its partitioning into a predominantly Hindu India and an overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan, a seismic event in which untold numbers died in sectarian violence and millions of families were forced to pack up what they could carry and migrate across newly established borders. Despite his labors, he hadn’t undone India’s stifling caste system. Somehow, though, he’d marched, fasted, and preached well into his seventies — until that final day in 1948, when on his way to prayer, he was shot at point-blank range by a young Hindu extremist who viewed his ecumenism as a betrayal of the faith.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)
Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

By hindustantimes.com
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:46 PM IST
This week’s list of compelling reads includes a collection of myth and folklore, an account of relations between India and China, and an anthology that reflects on the identity of an ethnic group displaced by Partition.
Close
Naipaul is not a contributor but his prickly presence can be sensed in the collection:VS Naipaul in a picture dated 9th November, 1968.(John Minihan/Getty Images)
Naipaul is not a contributor but his prickly presence can be sensed in the collection:VS Naipaul in a picture dated 9th November, 1968.(John Minihan/Getty Images)

Review: The Book of Indian Essays edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

By CP Surendran
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:36 PM IST
Many of the well-known essays in this anthology still look and feel new.
Close
Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni(Courtesy the publisher)
Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni(Courtesy the publisher)

Interview: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Author, The Last Queen

By Simar Bhasin
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:27 PM IST
The author says she wanted to present Queen Jindan Kaur, regent of the Sikh empire from 1843-46, and mother of the last Maharaja, Dalip Singh, in all her complexity and humanness
Close
Lalitha Lajmi with Yasser Usman, author of Guru Dutt; An Unfinished Story.(Yasser Usman)
Lalitha Lajmi with Yasser Usman, author of Guru Dutt; An Unfinished Story.(Yasser Usman)

Essay: Frozen in time and memory; Conversations with Guru Dutt’s sister

By Yasser Usman
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:27 PM IST
Yasser Usman writes about Lalitha Lajmi’s contribution to his book, on the film maker.
Close
Over the course of his career, spanning nearly fifty years, Archer has published over 37 titles and sold over 275 million copies around the world.(Wikimedia Commons )
Over the course of his career, spanning nearly fifty years, Archer has published over 37 titles and sold over 275 million copies around the world.(Wikimedia Commons )

Jeffrey Archer returns to HarperCollins in major three-book deal

ANI, New Delhi [india]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:17 PM IST
HarperCollins is delighted to announce a major three-book deal for World English Rights with internationally bestselling author Jeffrey Archer.
Close
William Shakespeare 's play Macbeth - Act I Scene III: The Three Witches. Artist: Richard Westall; engraver: Stow.(Getty Images)
William Shakespeare 's play Macbeth - Act I Scene III: The Three Witches. Artist: Richard Westall; engraver: Stow.(Getty Images)

Review: Weird by Olga Khazan

By Sankar Ray
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:09 PM IST
A semi theoretical look at weirdness that includes multiple types of outsider narratives.
Close
"I am a product of traditional India and its ancient wisdom, and modern India and its urban bustle. My upbringing was always an amalgamation of the two Indias, and, just as much, of East and West," the 38-year-old actor said in a statement.(Amazon)
"I am a product of traditional India and its ancient wisdom, and modern India and its urban bustle. My upbringing was always an amalgamation of the two Indias, and, just as much, of East and West," the 38-year-old actor said in a statement.(Amazon)

Priyanka Chopra Jonas' memoir 'Unfinished' to release in February

PTI, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 10:31 AM IST
Actor-producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas' long-awaited book debut, "Unfinished", will hit the bookshelves on February 9, publisher Penguin Random House India announced on Thursday.
Close
“The interest in the book is the result of a renewed desire to understand a U.S. that is in the midst of a civil cold war,” said Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.(Bloomberg)
“The interest in the book is the result of a renewed desire to understand a U.S. that is in the midst of a civil cold war,” said Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.(Bloomberg)

A $2,500 book on US decline is suddenly a must-read in China

Bloomberg, China
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 11:58 AM IST
After chaos engulfed the U.S. Capitol last week, some Chinese intellectuals found themselves searching for copies of an out-of-print book to make sense of events. “America Against America” forecast the U.S.’s decline due to domestic conflicts more than 30 years ago.
Close
A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)
A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting reads of the week

By HT Team | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:50 PM IST
This week’s reading list features a book on a forgotten freedom fighter who also did much for immigrant rights in the US, another on a legend of Hindi cinema, and a volume on the devastation the lockdown has wreaked on India’s poor
Close
Author Pallavi Raghavan(Courtesy HarperCollins)
Author Pallavi Raghavan(Courtesy HarperCollins)

Interview: Pallavi Raghavan, Author, Animosity at Bay: An Alternative History of the India-Pakistan Relationship

By Chintan Girish Modi | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:44 PM IST
We will have a calmer relationship with our history if we understand that the past cannot be used to justify and perpetuate the grievances of the present
Close
Another taut courtroom drama: A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift as Michael Logan and Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson.(Corbis via Getty Images)
Another taut courtroom drama: A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift as Michael Logan and Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson.(Corbis via Getty Images)

Review: A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

By Percy Bharucha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:40 PM IST
In A Time for Mercy, John Grisham looks at the fundamental questions behind the motives to murder while chronicling the impact of race on the system of justice
Close
MS Subbulakshmi’s rendition did much to popularise the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.(HT Photo)
MS Subbulakshmi’s rendition did much to popularise the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.(HT Photo)

Review: Venkatesa Suprabhatam by Venkatesh Parthasarathy

By Rahul Jayaram | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:53 PM IST
This book on Venkatesa Suprabhatam, a famous morning prayer, gives us a close reading of the text, the discourses that inform it, its influence, and its many meanings
Close
“Mowgli’s story is so intriguing because it allows us to see a human child from the perspective of other species,’ says Alter, author of Feral Dreams: Mowgli & His Mothers.
“Mowgli’s story is so intriguing because it allows us to see a human child from the perspective of other species,’ says Alter, author of Feral Dreams: Mowgli & His Mothers.

A retelling of Jungle Book without the colonial baggage

By Paramita Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 08:44 PM IST
Stephen Alter sets the Rudyard Kipling classic in a newly independent India, and has Mowgli, renamed Daniel, working at MIT.
Close
Death is inevitable, and yet passing over needn’t come as a surprise or scary chapter, as we’ve learnt from the 2017 film Coco.(IMAGE COURTESY PIXAR)
Death is inevitable, and yet passing over needn’t come as a surprise or scary chapter, as we’ve learnt from the 2017 film Coco.(IMAGE COURTESY PIXAR)

In a new book, insightful thoughts on readying for life’s final exam

By Dipanjan Sinha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:36 PM IST
Arun Shourie’s Preparing: For Death offers advice on last days, and explores the end as an opportunity to move on rather than an occasion to fear.
Close
Siddhartha Lal at the roll-out of the first bike from the Oragadam plant in Tamil Nadu.(Photo courtesy Eicher Motors)
Siddhartha Lal at the roll-out of the first bike from the Oragadam plant in Tamil Nadu.(Photo courtesy Eicher Motors)

The Enfield journey: A new book explores a bumpy ride into history

By Paramita Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:19 PM IST
Amrit Raj’s Indian Icon: A Cult Called Royal Enfield takes a look at the challenges and deft moves that have gone into building the motorcycle brand.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP