IT is the right moment to bring out this book as many in the present generation have either forgotten Mahatma Gandhi or have merely hung his picture on the wall or kept books on him or by him in the last shelf. Our thoughts and actions in the present era have become far from what Gandhiji had advocated. Terror is touching new heights, depth and width. It is growing at such a fast speed that none is spared from its clutches, particularly when we see innocent human beings being killed indiscriminately. Gandhiji’s words, deeds and accomplishments have been forgotten and it is good that this book, containing selected letters out of the thousands that Mahatma Gandhi wrote, will at least remind us of what is right, though it’s another matter that we will ever try to emulate him. Gandhiji came at a time when people had become tired of oppression, tyranny and discrimination by the white rulers. They needed faith and confidence and his non-violent leadership provided both.
The book, My Letters ..shows that Gandhiji had a natural flair for writing. He used no artificial ornamentation or verbosity. Yet his letters are articles are proof of his refined sensibility and aesthetic abilities. His letters were passive, prosaic and crisp, mostly matter of act and seldom emotional or poetic.
Gandhiji had written a very large number of letters and among them were some to Motilal Nehru in which he refers to the British rulers thus: “I do not think they will begin the arrests so soon. But if they do, all the better. They are not likely to take all of us at the same time. If they do and if they put us all together, we shall have a rare time of it.” Even the thought of prison failed to put him in any dread; instead he thought it would be a nice place for he and his friends to get together.
A very interesting letter is written by Gandhiji to Vallabhbhai Patel about BR Ambedkar. He writes, “The main problem is about Ambedkar. I see a risk in coming to any sort of understanding with him, for he has told me in so many words that for him there is no distinction between truth and untruth or between violence and non-violence. He follows one single principle, viz. to adopt every means which will serve his purpose. One has to be very careful indeed when dealing with a man who would become a Christian, Muslim or Sikh and then be reconverted according to his convenience…”
In another letter, on seeing Jinnah’s persistence on the creation of a separate state for Muslims, Gandhiji wrote on 15 September 1944, “For the moment I have shunted the Rajaji Formula and with your assistance am applying my mind very seriously to the famous Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League.
Also included in the book are letters written by Gandhi to Subhas Chandra Bose, Sarojini Naidu, Jayaprakash Narayan and others. This is a very interesting book to read and possess.
(Cedar Books, J-3/16Daryaganj, New Delhi – 110 002; www.pustakmahal.com)