When GenNext appears to be almost ignorant of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his contribution to India'sfreedom movement enough to be remembered as the Father of the Nation, it is unlikely that it would have heard of Gopal Krishna Gokhale whom the Mahatma himself regarded as his guru. And yet it was Gokhale among the very few of his countrymen who set the independence struggle ball rolling. What is remarkable is that he was born in 1866 when India had come under total British subjugation for hardly nine years. But so strong and vivid must have been the memory of the Gokhale household of decades of Maratha glory that inevitably young Gopal Krishna was quite early drawn to the need for social reform and liberation from British yoke.
Quite early in his life he came under the spell of another great Indian, Mahadev Govind Ranade, the man, says the author of this brief biography ?who more than any other, not even excepting G.G. Agarkar, was responsible for his development into a great servant of India?.
Gokhale was born in a little village in Ratnagiri district and though he passed away at a comparatively young age of 49, by the time of his death he had earned the reputation as a dedicated patriot and a man of ?balanced loyalty? who even in those days went beyond the restricted view of his opponents, which was ?Maharashtra first, India, if possible next, but the Mussalmans nowhere?.
Gokhale saw the fatal dangers of such a position and as Hayland puts it ?stood like a rock for his principle of friendly cooperation with Mussalmans in the interests of India as a whole?. That, by itself, must be considered one of its greatest contribution to the essential unity of India.
This is not a biography in the accepted sense of the term. It is the firm conviction of its author that ?the only adequate fashion of dealing with Gokhale is to permit him, as far as possible, to speak for himself?.
Consequently, this book is largely filled with quotations from Gokhale'sspeeches, which is just as well. The speeches incidentally show a mind capable of undertaking laborious study of the minutiae of finance and statistics which come as no surprise considering that he took Mathematics as his optional subject for his B.A. during his studies at Elphinstone College, Bombay. That he was equally well up in other subjects like History, English and Political Economy and was even known as ?Professor-to-order? only showed his catholicity of tastes.
Though this biography is painfully brief, it deals adequately enough with Gokhale'spolitical activities especially between the years 1902 to 1910. Constructive in his approach the author states that ?his (Gokhale?s) moral stature was so commanding, his personal ascendancy became so marked that men of enlightenment and goodwill themselves responsible for directing the destinies of the Indian people were glad to accept his guidance wherever they could. For years he stood forth in the eyes surprisingly of both the India Government and of the British democracy as the representative Indian.?
Short this biography may be, but all-encompassing it certainly is. It may not be doing full justice to the man but it tells us enough of the man and his times to make it not only readable but most informative. We don't know more about the other two, Ranade and Tilak and even less of Gandhi, but it is a good introduction to the politics of the times.