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Was Gandhi like us, and can we be like him?

Event Name (Full/Detailed): 
Institute Lecture on "Was Gandhi like us, and can we be like him?"

Speaker :  Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, historian and biographer interested in peace and reconciliation

Abstract: He died 70 years ago but is constantly discussed, at times critically. The British don’t bring up Churchill in current debates.  The Americans don’t speak of Roosevelt. The Russians don’t talk of Tolstoy. But in India, and outside, Gandhi is a live subject.

Though part of today’s Indian scene and part of the Indian conversation, Gandhi is known only partially and often misleadingly. Many imagine that he was always old (maybe from birth), that he always wore a half-dhoti, always span on his charkha and drank goat’s milk, and always carried a stick.

Others concede that he did remarkable things but think he was an ascetic different from the rest of us. ‘We cannot be like him or relate to him,’ is a frequent comment.

Others may ask, most legitimately, ‘Why should we be like him?’

The lecture will aim to present a Gandhi we may not know by recalling overlooked yet significant pieces from Gandhi’s life and thought. It will ask whether in essential character or nature he was different from the rest of us, and it will also ask whether in will and commitment we can become like him.

About the speaker: Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, a historian and biographer interested in peace and reconciliation, is currently a visiting professor at IIT-Bombay.

For fifteen years, until end-2012, he taught political science and history in the United States as a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

He is currently working on a history of colonial and modern South India. In December 2017, he presided over the Contemporary History section when the Indian History Congress held its annual session in Kolkata.

His most recent books are Why Gandhi Still Matters: An Appraisal of the Mahatma’s Legacy (2017); Understanding our Founding Fathers (2016);Prince of Gujarat: The Extraordinary Story of Prince Gopaldas Desai, 1887-1951 (published in 2014); and Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten (published in 2013).

An earlier study by him, A Tale of Two Revolts: India 1857 & the American Civil War (published in 2009) looked at two 19th-century wars occurring in opposite parts of the world at almost the same time. A previous book, Mohandas: A True Story of a Man, His People and an Empire, published in India, England, France and the USA, received the Biennial Barpujari Award from the Indian History Congress in 2007.

In 2002 he received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his Rajaji: A Life, a biography of Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.

Other books by him include Patel: A Life, a biography of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel; Revenge & Reconciliation: Understanding South Asian History; Understanding the Muslim Mind; and Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns.

From 1992 to 2000 he was Research Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Prior to that he served as a Member of the Rajya Sabha, as Resident Editor, Indian Express, in Chennai, and as Chief Editor, Himmat, Mumbai.

He has been associated from 1956 with Initiatives of Change, formerly known as Moral Re-Armament.

Event Date: 
9 February 2018 - 5:15pm
Room No.21, VMCC
IIT Bombay, Powai
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