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‘Partition remains a great tragedy’

Rajmohan Gandhi, the eldest grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who launches his book — A Tale of Two Revolts, on his grandfather and a compromised freedom.

books Updated: Jan 06, 2010, 20:18 IST
Jayeeta Mazumder
Jayeeta Mazumder
Hindustan Times

Rajmohan Gandhi, the eldest grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who launches his book — A Tale of Two Revolts, on his grandfather and a compromised freedom.

So what made you write about the 1857 struggle and the American Civil War?
Well, these are two events that fascinated me for a long time. Both the events happened back-to-back, on two far-apart stages. I had a great curiosity to study them together and I wanted to see how India’s future was shaped by the two events. I decided to investigate this by following the lives of five inhabitants of India, who were young when these two events took place— Sayyid Ahmed Khan, Vidyasagar, Jotiba Phule, Allan Octavian Hume and Bankimchandra Chatterjee.

Given your background, was politics and history a natural choice?
You could say that. I’ve written about Indian historical subjects. This time, I wanted to write this book because of the growing relationship between India and America. I attempted to produce something that would help the Americans learn about our struggle and Indians about the Civil War.

What is it like to live the Gandhi lineage?
(Laughs) People are friendly to you; they show warmth and interest in you. They want me to relate about my grandfather (Mahatma Gandhi) when they meet me. In fact, all my interviews changes track at some point or the other. But I don’t mind. I’m blessed to have been born in this family.

What did you think of the film Earth that dealt with partition?
It was a very powerful evocation of a painful experience.

What is your take on independence and the partition?
(Sighs and pauses) That’s a very difficult question, you know. Partition remains a great tragedy. I don’t think it has benefited anyone. However, we cannot undo it. We recognise the boundaries but refuse to allow the friendship to continue. It was a painful chapter because there was violence involved.

So you think it was a compromised freedom?
It was a freedom made over pain and grief. It was wonderful; but it was a joy that came mixed with pain.

What do you think of India then and now? Would you say we’ve had it easy now with no battles to fight and no fear of being homeless?
(Laughs) We have so many battles to fight— corruption, environment, education— the list is endless. Those who think there are none, are living in some kind of a cocoon or bubble.

Tell us something that you remember about Mahatma Gandhi.
His capacity to give warmth and affection, even if he himself was in the midst of a lot of pain, was amazing. I remember this from my childhood days, when I was about 12 or so. He would crack jokes with Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel — whoever came to meet him. His capacity to love was astonishing.

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