Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Mind of MK Gandhi.

I've always thought highly of MK Gandhi. My unpublished novel, The Last Gandhi Movie, has him as the thematic pivot. I recently read Girja Kumar's BRAHMACHARYA Gandhi & His Women Associates. It perturbed me and gave me serious misgivings. This narrative is based mostly on Gandhi's own writings. In it, the so-called Mahatma comes out as manipulative, pathologically obsessive about sex and sin as well as power-crazed. His logic sounds circuitous, serpentine and often self-contradictory and specious, at times even inane. He apparently played God with the lives of those close to him. He was too intrusive and interfering. His charisma was undoubtedly legendary. If he was obsessive about truth, how come he said/wrote different versions of an event to different people? If he was a god-fearing person, how come he believed the worst of his friends and associates time and again? Also, he was in the habit of praising a person to high heaven for a while and then suddenly cutting the ground from under her feet. He was so deeply involved in and on the centre stage of national politics for most of his adult life. How then did he find the time, the emotional resources and the energy to behave like a virtual puppeteer controlling the lives of those in his fold and under his care? All this seems nothing short of weird to me. His tryst with brahmacharya too is an enigma. He seemingly had an extreme revulsion for sexual intimacy. There was a deep emotional scar left on his psche by his failure to be present at his father's bedside at the moment of his death because he was partaking carnal pleasure with his wife. This is usually trotted out as the reason for his guilt feeling. This reminds me of what Aldous Huxley wrote in Proper Studies: "Defined in psychological terms, a fanatic is a man who consciously over-compensates a secret doubt." And: "An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex." (Attributed by Peter J. Mayhew in Discovering Evolutionary Ecology: Bringing Together Ecology And Evolution. Also attributed to Edgar Wallace. In tandem, both seem particularly apt in Gandhi's case. Maybe, Gandhi was a bit like George III in Alan Bennet's dramatic and cinematic versions of his life. In a group reading of Shakespeare's King Lear in the asylum, he suddenly realised why others thought him mad and regained his sanity. Time for yet another of Huxley's accidentally Gandhi-centric pearl of wisdom (this time from Texts & Pretexts): "Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. It is a gift for dealing with the accidents of existence, not the accidents themselves." On this score, maybe Gandhi was found wanting. And, what about the persistent speculation about Gandhi's tantric leanings as reflected in his brahmacharya experiments with his women associates as guinea pig? There is a cogently reasoned study by Nicholas F. Gier, Professor Emeritus, University of Idaho, Was Gandhi a Tantric? which nearly convinces one of the likelihood. After reading Girja Kumar's book, taking Gandhi at his own words seems a bit dicey to me. Even if we find him innocent of prurience, we cannot always believe in the consistency of his utterances. Dr Sushila Nayyar told Ved Mehta that "brahmacharya" was a latter-day invention of Gandhi to ward off criticism of his interaction with his female intimates. Earlier, she used to sleep naked with him for reasons of nature cure (p.41 of Girja Kumar's book). What can we make of all this? Perhaps, the answer is as simple as the moral of this Zen tale. Nan-in, a Japanese master of the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to enquire about Zen. When serving his guest tea, Nan-in kept pouring even after the cup overflowed. The professor after watching could contain himself no more: "The cup is overfull. No more will go in." Said Nan-in: "Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculation. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?" Milord, I rest my case.