Some individuals tower over the rest of us by nature of their ability to influence the world. While most of us merely suffer the ebb and flow of history, others appear to possess the unnatural mythical ability to command the sea. One of these individuals was Mohandas K. Gandhi.
Unlike most others who fall into this category of world mover, Gandhi was not a conqueror. He was not a politician, he was not a general, he was not a scientist, and he never sought fame for its own sake. Despite that, he managed to push the world towards his ideals through simply engaging in activities he considered right and true. He became a body of wisdom that carried such weight, humanity could not help but to gravitate around him.
Herein is a review of Gandhi’s Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Despite the label of Autobiography, the book is not a full account of Gandhi’s life. The book was originally published in the form of weekly publications from 1925-1929 following his release from prison. It describes his early childhood in India, his years studying abroad in London, his most troubling encounters with racism as a barrister in South Africa, and it concludes with his first steps back in India in 1921 until his arrest and imprisonment.
Originally written in Gujarati, the book does not describe an exciting adventure filled with danger and romance, and frankly it can be dull in some isolated passages. But these stories are deeply insightful, and sometimes can truly be filled with absolute danger and violence, where whole communities square off against profoundly troubling injustice! Other passages however describe his dietary contemplations in details sometimes exasperating to the author of this review. Gandhi’s purpose in writing this chronicle was to explain to his Indian readers how he came by the ideas that formed his mind and character. In a world as divided as was India by colonial oppression, caste exclusivity, and religious intolerance, he thought it necessary to explain his beliefs on inclusivity, respect, and on the importance of thoroughly examining one’s own beliefs for lies and half-truths.
Gandhi would go on to become the leader of the Indian Independence Movement against British rule of India. Though he would be tragically assassinated following the success of this just cause, his role in shaping the modern world and the current lives of more than a billion Indians and Pakistanis is undeniable. Still today, seven decades since his death, his name carries more weight than that of any current politician, dictator, or celebrity.
It is good that we should know how the best of us came by their ideas. In reading Gandhi, we cannot help but find ourselves wanting in comparison to him. He inevitably provides us with a standard of goodness to which we cannot help but aspire. This being said, he was not perfect, his ideas sometimes seem outdated, but nonetheless, we are fortunate to have his words.
It is relevant to note that Gandhi begins the book by stating that he had to be convinced to write the autobiography since he deemed it a silly idea. Gandhi did not understand why he should put down his ideas on paper for posterity since he was certain that some of them would change in the future as he further examined their validity. In the increasingly ideological world we live in today, a few lessons from Gandhi should be deemed essential to any who claim to think.