Tag Archives: ramachandra guha

Book Review: Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha

Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha Title: Gandhi Before India
Author: Ramachandra Guha
Publisher: Allen Lane
ISBN: 9781846142666
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 688
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Who was Gandhi? Was he just a movement? Or was there more to him? Was there ever more to him as a person? What was he like before he started the revolution of such a kind that inspired millions to follow him? How did he get there? Who was Gandhi the man? Such questions always cropped in my mind in school.

There was always this chapter on the Mahatma in school and yet we never tried to know more about the man. He was always an enigma. Maybe because not enough is written or spoken of him before his time in India. Of his formative years spent in England and South Africa. Ramachandra Guha discovers the man through those years in his aptly titled book, “Gandhi Before India”.

“Gandhi Before India” is all about the man and what led him to believe in what he did. It is about his years in England and South Africa before coming back to India in 1915 and starting a revolution against the Empire like none other.

The book is an attempt to unearth Gandhi like never before. His ideologies, his thoughts, the convergence of incidents in his life, that made him the man he was and how he grew to become the Mahatma or rather what he was before he became the “Great Soul”.

“Gandhi Before India” brings to light the transformation of the boy to the man. The writing makes no bones about it and that is what will have the reader from page one. Gandhi somehow is always relevant. In almost every single time and era, and this book strives to unearth the man behind all the layers.

Ramachandra Guha’s research is intense and that is evident. He has gone through letters, journals and had more conversations with people to get to know the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that we all grew up knowing and taking for granted as a part of history.

To me the book told a lot more about the Mahatma than I ever knew or was aware of. Maybe books such as these are meant to do that. To get you to know more so the dim view or opinions do not exist anymore. “Gandhi Before India” is a rich work on the man who was and what he became. The “what he” became part is yet to be documented by Mr. Guha and there is definitely a sequel of to this. I for one cannot wait for it.

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Book Review: Patriots and Partisans by Ramachandra Guha

Title: Patriots and Partisans
Author: Ramachandra Guha
Publisher: Allen Lane, Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780670083862
Genre: Non-Fiction, Current Affairs, History
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It is in a way most refreshing to read something non-fiction after feasting on fiction, after a long time. The spell broke with Ramachandra Guha’s book, “Patriots and Partisans”. I remember reading, “India After Gandhi” by him with great fervor, however that was a long time ago and it was quite a long read. “Patriots and Partisans” on the other hand is a relatively short read and is mainly divided into two parts, consisting of several essays. I am assuming that some essays are old and have already appeared in other publications (as the case is most often) and some are new and written for this volume.

“Patriots and Partisans” manages to cover almost all grounds of India – political, socio-economical, and of cultural relevance. From what I could gather after reading the first half of the book is that Guha devoutly defends the liberal center from the dogmas of left and right with a lot of examples and relevance of situations, which takes the reader to different thought processes and at the same time challenges the intellectual. He analyses Gandhi’s religious pluralism and moves on to talk about the fall in Nehru’s reputation after his death. This book in true Guha style is introspective and can stand alone as a reference base.

The second half of the book deals with writers and scholars. This without saying was my most favourite part of the book. The essays deal with the decline of bilingual intellectuals in the country, to how literature is not what it seems. In the second half, the reader is familiarized with portraits of a magazine editor, a bookshop owner (my most favourite piece in the entire book), a publishing house and a famous historical archive.

I enjoyed reading these essays a lot. I might even reread them at some point. What I enjoyed about the writing was its honesty and transparency to a very large extent. Guha writes almost urgently and his views are strong and clear. “Patriots and Partisans” may not be enjoyed by all , given its serious content but it is definitely a great read for the reader base that will enjoy a good mix of politics and art.

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Makers of Modern India: Edited and Introduced by Ramachandra Guha

This is one book that everyone who has an interest in the evolvement of the idea of India must read. Ramachandra Guha, the writer of this book, is known worldwide for his impeccable style of writing. His writing only gets better when he deals with anything that has any interest in the modern India.


This is a book about those Indians who has changed the way India used to be perceived. Guha meticulously researched for this book and the result is a highly readable account of genuine heroes of modern India. The book is about thinking and writing of nineteen thinkers of modern India. 

I started reading this book around four days ago and it took a lot from me – in the sense, when it came to the ideas and thoughts of the nineteen thinkers – right from Rammohan Roy who speaks about Relations between Men and Women to Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s thoughts on elevating the depressed classes, it was an eye-opener. The topics that these leaders touch on are varied – from gender, class and to banishing English as a language to Kashmir, Tibet, and Nationalism – it is the variedness of these topics that sometimes lead to contradictory and quite opposing ideas. What I like is the selection of passages, speeches and thoughts that Guha has so skillfully compiled. It touches on almost every aspect and yet there were gaps that could have been filled.

The interpretation of their writings were done by Guha in the context of the then prevailing situations. Though, there is notable exclusion from the book. Not a single Indian Marxist has been covered by Guha. There is no doubt that Indian Marxists are great thinkers, but when it comes to the pragmatism of their high level of thinking, there is none. Definitely, there is not an iota of pragmatism in the thinking of Indian Marxists.

Then, the exclusion of Subhas Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel from the list of makers of modern India is highly contestable. These two definitely changed the perspective and thinking of innumerable people. And, of course, these two leaders were also responsible for making the largest democracy of the world. The reason mentioned by Guha for their inclusion is not sufficient.

Anyway, this is a book which will directly take you in the mind of thinkers who have been covered. Do read this to understand the ethos of India in a straight way and to the point. In a nutshell, this one is a highly readable book by Ramachandra Guha.

Makers of Modern India; Edited and Introduced by Ramachandra Guha; Penguin Viking; Rs. 799