My Experiments with Truth

                                     My experiments with Truth- M K Gandhi

When I picked up the book I expected it to be a boring autobiography filled with the same details that we were fed with year after year during our school years. I couldn’t have been further away from the truth! The father of our Nation true to his form had caught me off guard.

In Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s own admission he beat up his wife, sampled non vegetarian food when young and turned down a doctor when the doctor wanted to administer his dying son the only medicine known that could save him- beef soup. Gandhi is candid about his flaws and under plays the action when he describes the incidents which have now become renowned as important historical events in our country’s consciousness. The choice of title is apt as throughout the course of his life Gandhi is trying out new methods that test his endurance. He calls them experiments.

Would you have revered him so much if you were told that Gandhi was a wife beater? I was shocked when I read his candid description of his father’s death. He admits that his lust for his wife robbed him of the opportunity of being by his father’s bedside in his dying moments. He beat his wife in his teens as he was away for extended periods of time for studies and was a jealous and possessive husband for the short durations that he spent at home, flying into a rage at the slightest incident.

Gandhi mellows considerably with age and by the time he reaches his late 30s his transformation into an almost saint like personality is complete. As a reader you grow to understand that he is at one level someone who is constantly trying out new things. He goes on a full nut diet, tries out extreme forms of fasting, all in the quest of understanding health and aspects related to it better. His evolution into a man geared for public service runs parallel to his increasingly distant relationship with his wife. Later on in the book he repeats many times of how much he loves his wife but that the nature of his love has changed considerably over time. He embraces abstinence and encourages others to do so as well though the motivation according to him was to limit the size of his growing family. He also wanted to experiment and see if he can live amidst material comforts and still remain disconnected with them.

This makes me wonder, if a woman would treat her husband in the same way as he treated his wife then would she have been revered in the similar fashion that Gandhi is? Why is it alright for a man to be irresponsible about his wife and kids’ welfare but the same behaviour by a woman is condemned. Doesn’t she have any say in the decision that impacts both of them? Is that fair on his part?

While I read the book my heart went out to Gandhi’s wife who gets no say in almost all his decisions. She is either a silent spectator or a weeping desolate woman. Over time though she emerges and becomes his pillar of support who looks up to her husband and revers him. All the while however she remains an utterly powerless individual who is always on the sidelines.

Gandhi’s children seem to occupy even less of his thoughts. In their initial years he is mostly away from them.when they are growing up he is keen on making them model children all the while giving a complete disregard to what they like. This is in complete contrast to Gandhi’s own personality which thrived on freedom of thought, speech and action. He did not follow what was taught to him, rather he at all points seeks more information to gain a complete mastery over the subject and then come to a conclusion.

To a book lover I would say that the autobiography will not always be a page turner and would demand your patience. It will however be a revelation and show you facets of Gandhi’s personality that you never knew existed. It is a good example to understand how far our history text books are from reality.