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Joseph Lelyveld, whose book on Mahatma Gandhi has infuriated many, tellsRediff.com‘s Arthur J Pais how the controversy went viral.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joseph Lelyveld has three words for those who have banned or sought to ban his book Great Soul – Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India: “Read it carefully.”
Speaking to Rediff.com from his New York home, he says the passages about Mahatma Gandhi’s friendship with Herman Kallenbach, the German architect Gandhi lived with for about four years in Johannesburg, that have offended some people — who probably haven’t read the book — have been misunderstood, and in two specific cases, deliberately distorted. Read more here……
“Gandhi: Naked Ambition” by British historian Jad Adams sheds new light on the spiritual leader and independence hero whose spartan existence and resistance to earthly pleasures are an integral part of his popular image.
The book has been released in Britain and will be available soon in India where it is bound to make waves in a country where Gandhi’s image is fiercely protected and a source of national pride.
That his attitudes to sex were censorious and unusual is well known. He wrote of his disgust at himself for having intercourse with his wife Kasturba, aged 15, when his father died in 1885.
In later life, having fathered four children, he forbade even married couples in his ashram retreats from having sex and lectured men on the need to take a cold bath when they felt lustful.
More than 60 years after Gandhi’s death, Adams has gone through hundreds of pages of his writings and eyewitness accounts to build a behind-closed-doors picture of a man considered both a saint and the father of the nation in India.
“One of things you find about Gandhi is how much he wrote about sex,” Adams told AFP by telephone from his home in London.
“When we look at his sexuality, what happens is that he has a perfectly normal sex life for the first part of his life, one that would be recognisable to almost anyone in the world.
“He gets married and has a family of four.
“But what interested me was that he made a decision that it would be a good idea to be chaste (in 1900). Six years later, he makes a vow and puts it into practice.”
But contrary to the image of the abstemious Hindu ascetic, in later life Gandhi frequently bathed with nubile young women, had nude massages and often shared a bed with one or more of his followers, Adams’ book said. Read more here……