wrote Raja Rao once, "there can be no world of tomorrow." Now at the dawn of a
new millennium, and Gandhi internationally acknowledged as a most influential
figure of the twentieth century, the Great Indian Way offers fresh, important
perspectives on his life — and Gandhism.
The book focuses
especially on Gandhi’s South African days. The birth of Gandhism, Raja Rao
holds, lay in the confrontation between the Briton, the Boer and the Indian
"coolie". Gandhism was tested and fashioned in many a struggle in the "dark
continent": the most cataclysmic of all, perhaps, the mass strike by Indian coal
miners in Newcastle against the move to hold Indian marriages invalid. Thus was
born the truth-warrior — and satyagraha and non-violent resistance forged — in a
pilgrimage processional almost, the great march by more than two thousand Indian
men, women and children from Newcastle to the Transvaal frontier. Gandhism
touched the very nerve centre of the British Empire and within fifty years
catalysed the political transformation of India and the world.
In South Africa too
it was that Gandhi sought the right way to live and experimented with all that
he later practised both in his public and private life. By the time Gandhi left
South Africa for India in 1914, the manifesto for India’s freedom was already
well scripted. In India, it unfolded on a much grander scale.
Raja Rao weaves
together the whole chronicle in epic dimensions — in vigorous, rhythmic, moving
cadences, uncovering hidden meaning in an aside here, a parable there unfolding
the Mahatma’s life and the meaning of Gandhism on a vast canvas.