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1.Write a note on Gandhi as a political and social icon.

ANS: According to M. H. Abrams, autobiography is a genre which is written by aperson about
himself or herselfabout what he or she believes in and what arethe main actions of his or her life.
But have you ever considered why a personwrites an autobiography? What inspires or stimulates a
person? Is it peerpressure or some inner instinct which makes one write an autobiography?Moreover,
another question which one should ponder over is why people areprovoked to read autobiographies.
These are some questions that need to bediscussed as they formulate the background to the genre of
autobiography.Gandhi wrote his autobiography primarily due to peer pressure. However,if peer
pressure is an external force that drove Gandhi to write, then there isanother internal drive that made
him write the Story of My Experiments withTruth. We have to keep in mind that his autobiography was
serialized in amagazine, asserting the fact that there were regular readers. Gandhi, throughhis
writings, wanted to educate people to his thoughts, which is one of the reasons
why he wrote his autobiography.Today, years after Gandhis demise, his autobiography is a means
throughwhich we can assess his contribution to Indian thought and freedom as well ashis life and
principles. There have been many films made on Gandhi as hisphilosophy is still pertinent to our life.
For example, in the movie Munnabhai, wesee a very practical demonstration of Gandhian philosophy
where people aretried to win by love. Therefore, reading Gandhis autobiography would provide the
readers a gateway into understanding Gandhi as a person along with hisphilosophy and
principles.Moreover, an autobiography is not only a portrayal of the life of the personwho is writing it.
It is also a portrayal of the times in which the person had lived.Therefore, when one reads an
autobiography, they get information about thehistory of that time as well. For example, when one
reads that part of GandhisThe Story of My Experiments with Truth when he talks about his stay in
Africa for two decades, we not only gain an insight into Gandhis activities inSouth Africa, but can
also decipher the racist ideology of the South African whitesand how the blacks and the Indians
suffered in South Africa under the racistregime. Moreover, one can also assess the piteous condition of
indentured Indianlabourers in South Africa. After reading about Gandhis fight against the South
African racist regime, we not only see how Gandhi experimented with hisideology, but also get an idea
about the people and their lives in South Africaduring those times.Again, when Gandhi talks about his
early days of involvement in Indianpolitics, we gain an insight about the Indian National Congress and
theircontribution towards the fight against the British regime. Thus, autobiography,like any other
text, is historically and culturally situated or contextualized, providingknowledge of the context, and
thus, can be studied as an important medium ofunderstanding history.M. K. Gandhi is a great
political and social icon of the early twentieth centuryIndia whose compelling presence needs to be
studied and understood by everyIndian to grasp the meaning of what the Indian nation is all about.
Even if onetalks about the world politics of the twentieth century, its study would beincomplete
without a substantial account of Gandhi and his political ideology.However, at the same time, it should
be kept in mind that his political ideology isnot only about fighting the unjust authoritarian regimeit
is also concerned withnation-building, how to develop as a human being and how to grow spiritually
aswell as accomplish the real meaning of life. In that sense, if one talks about

Gandhi merely as a political and social activist, then they are falling short ofencompassing all aspects
of his contribution to humankind.Gandhi can be referred to a philosopher who acted, fought and
contributedto the making of a moral world where man is not oppressed and segregated due
to any man-made biases, namely, caste, colour or creed. Therefore, it is importantthat we read enough
material written by and on him in order to understand thesignificance of Gandhi and his philosophy
in present day.
2.Write a note on Gandhis observations on Child Marriage .
ANS: Child marriage was a regular custom during Gandhis childhood. He got married at an early
age of thirteen. However, when he grew up, he severely criticized his father for getting him married so
early in life. Gandhi narrates how he did not realize the true meaning and significance of marriage
when he was married that early in his teenage years. He got married to Kasturba, the daughter of a
Porbandar merchant named GokuldasMakanji. Kasturba, as Gandhi described her in the
autobiography, was simple, independent, preserving and, with me at least, reticent.
Although Gandhi was married early, when he looked at his own marriage in hindsight, he talks about
child marriage with more concern as he thinks that it is not justified in any way. He wrote in his
autobiography: It is my painful duty to have to record here my marriage at the age of thirteen. As I
see the youngsters of the same age about me who are under my care, and think of my own marriage, I
am inclined to pity myself and to congratulate them on having escaped my lot. I can see no moral
argument in support of such a preposterously early marriage. The above-quoted passage presents his
views on child marriage. He thought that there was no reason to make haste when it came to marriage.
Even though Gandhi was married quite early, his love and passion for Kasturba is well-known.
Throughout his life, he was devoted to his wife, and in his autobiography, he devoted a considerable
space for elaborating the relationship between him and his wife, narrating how strange the
relationship was between them in those days immediately after marriage. Gandhi, in the early days of
his marriage, came across pamphlets where child marriage and conjugal love were discussed. He
narrates how those pamphlets mattered quite a lot to him at that point of time. One of the things
discussed in the pamphlet was lifelong faithfulness as a duty of the husband towards the wife. This
idea of lifelong faithfulness, as Gandhi says, remained permanently imprinted in his heart. However,
this idea of faithfulness also had an untoward effect in his life.
Gandhi narrates:
If I should be pledged to be faithful to my wife, she also should be pledged to be faithful to me. The
thought made me a jealous husband. Her duty was easily converted into my right to exact faithfulness
from her. I had absolutely no reason to suspect my wifes fidelity, but jealousy does not wait for
reasons. I must needs be forever on the lookout regarding her movements, and therefore she could not
go anywhere without my
permission. This sowed the seeds of a bitter quarrel between us. The restraint was virtually a sort of
imprisonment. And Kasturbai was not the girl to brook any such thing. She made it a point to go out
whenever and wherever she liked. More restraint on my part resulted in more liberty being taken by
her and in my getting more and more cross. Refusal to speak to one another thus became the order of
the day with us, marriage children. I think it was quite innocent of Kasturbai to have taken those
liberties with my restrictions. How could a guileless girl brook any restraint on going to the temple or
on going on visits to friends? If I had the right to impose restrictions on her, had she not also a similar
right? All this is
clear to me today. But at that time, I had to make good my authority as a husband! Therefore, the idea
of authority of a husband made Gandhi and Kasturbas life very complex as Gandhi unknowingly
tried to assert his authority as a husband which he says was not right. However, Gandhi emphasizes
his love and passion for Kasturba as well as how he desired a reciprocation of his affection from her in
this part of the autobiography. Gandhis honesty in his autobiography finds its manifestation in every
sentence. He admits that when his father was on his death bed, he was busy expressing his passion for
his wife. This shows that he was truthful in his narration of his life. Gandhi writes: If passion had not
blinded me, I should have been spared the torture of separation from my father during his last

moments. I should have been massaging him and he would have died in my arms . . . The shame of my
carnal desire at the critical moment of my fathers death is a blot I have
never been able to efface or forget.One needs to keep in mind here that though Gandhi spoke of his
passionfor his wife in much detail in the former chapters of his autobiography, in thelatter chapters,
he spoke about how one should abstain from such passions.
3. Describe Gandhiji's experiment on meat.
ANS: Gandhi, as portrayed in his photographs, had a frail figure right from childhood. Here, frailty
refers to the physique and not a persons personality and individuality. This fact is significant as
Gandhi himself discussed his physique during his childhood quite often in the autobiography. He
mentions the fact that his physique was frail compared to his older brothers, and especially compared
to a Muslim friend named Sheik Mehtab, who could run great distances with remarkable speed and
was spectacular in long as well as high jumps. These abilities of Sheik Mehtab made Gandhi wonder
about his physical prowess. Gandhi considered himself to be a coward as compared to Sheik Mehtab
I used to be haunted by the fear of thieves, ghosts and serpents. I did not dare to stir out of
doors at night. He also mentions how he could not sleep without a light in his room as he was fearful
of serpents, ghosts and darkness. A thought occurred to him that Sheik Mehtab was more courageous
since he consumed meat. However, he could not eat meat as it was forbidden in his religion. Moreover,
during that time, the debate over vegetarianism and non-vegetarian culture (European and
English culture) was already gaining momentum. Gandhi quotes a poem, which
the boys of his school often recited, in his autobiography:
Behold the mighty Englishman,
He rules the Indian small,
Because being a meat-eater
He is five cubits tall.
Furthermore, Sheik Mehtab said that if all Indians ate meat, they could drive away the British from
colonial India and will be able to make India independent of them. He also said that boys who ate
meat did not get boils and that many of their teachers as well as some of the most prominent citizens of
Rajkot ate meat and drank wine secretly. All these propagandas of Sheik Mehtab and other meateaters played havoc on Gandhis mind and he yielded. Sheik Mehtab brought goats meat and bread,
and Gandhi, who rarely touched bakers bread, fell victim to its temptation. It is to be kept in mind
here that Gandhis family was strictly vegetarian. Gandhi bit into the meat but became sick
immediately. However, instead of abjuring it, he decided to continue the experiment, which continued
for some time. But soon Gandhi realized that this experiment was baseless and decided to be a
vegetarian for the rest of his life. There were many other such incidents recounted by Gandhi in this
autobiography. Sheik Mehtab even once led the young Gandhi to the entrance of a brothel. Gandhi
describes how the institution had been told of their arrival and paid in advance. Gandhi went in and
found himself to be out of place immediatelyI was almost struck blind and dumb in this den of vice.
I sat near the woman on her bed, but I was tongue-tied. She naturally lost patience with
me and showed me the door, with abuses and insults. Gandhi claims that Providence interceded and
saved him. Once Gandhi pilfered a bit of gold from his older brother, but after that, he had a moral
crisis as pangs of guilty conscience started pricking at him and he resolved never to steal again. He
confessed to his father by making a written statement of the crime, asking for due penalty and
promising never to steal again. Karamchand, Gandhis father, was moved to tears after reading his
sons confessional statement and immediately tore up the paper and lay down in silence. Gandhi sat
near his father and wept in remorse. The early phase of a persons autobiography, where one narrates
the formative years of their life, birth, family and education, is extremely significant as the incidents
from this part of their life portray the person they would grow up to be. Therefore, it is quite
important that people read this part of any autobiography with utmost attention as it portrays the
incidents that shaped the persons character and the significant influences on their mind. When one
reads the Story of My Experiments with Truth, they not only read about Gandhis contribution to the
world politics and culture in general, but also the incidents and persons who shaped the personality of
the man who we call the Father of the Nation. Furthermore, an autobiography is not only a study of
a persons life, but through it we can also decipher information about the life and practices of that

period. Thus, an autobiography is a historical document which provides a glimpse of the period
mentioned in the autobiography. The initial section of Gandhis the Story of My Experiments with
Truth provides a description of Gandhis family and his birth place as well as the socio-cultural and
religious background of the state of Gujarat. Through all the incidents of his life that Gandhi
describes in these initial chapters of his autobiography, he also mentions all those incidents where he
faltered from the path of virtue and tried to do things that would bring shame to him, such as stealing,
eating meat, or his untimely passion for his wife. Gandhis main objective for including all these
incidents was that he had a deep conviction in morality and truth, as he himself statesOne thing
took deep root in me the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the
substance of all morality. Truth became my sole objective.
4. Describe Gandhis experience of racial discrimination in South Africa.
ANS: When Gandhi was offered a one-year-contract to settle the legal dispute of
Meman Firm in South Africa, he had no idea that South Africa would be his home for
next twenty years, where he will not only practice law in the courtroom, but would fight
for the rights of the Indians settled there against the racial discriminations they faced
every day and the humiliations that they underwent during their stay in the country. As
mentioned earlier, these struggles against the South African
racist regime made way for the advent of Satyagraha. Gandhi not only heard about the
bitter, humiliating and dreadful tales of racist discrimination, victimization and
oppression, but experienced them personally in the early days of his arrival in South
Africa. This firmed Gandhis resolve of staying back in South Africa to fight for the
restoration of the dignity of the Indians living there. Therefore, Gandhi carried on with
his legal work for Meman Firm, but at the same time, continued working on the
problems faced by Indians and meeting them as frequently as possible. The worst kind
of humiliating and oppressive experiences of which he had heard from the indentured
labourers made his resolve stronger and he continued establishing contacts and working
out on a plan to launch his fight against racial victimization. Gandhi narrates his first
impression of the condition of the Indians in living in South Africa: the Indians were
divided into different groups. One was that of Mussalman Merchants, who would call
themselves Arabs. Another was that of Hindu, and yet another of Parsi, clerks. The
Hindu Clerks were neither here nor there, unless they cast in their lot with the Arabs.
The Parsi clerks would call themselves Persians. These three classes had some social
relations with one another. But by far the largest class was that composed of Tamil,
Telugu and North Indian indentured and freed labourers. The indentured labourers
were those who went to Natal on agreement to serve for five years, and came to be
known there as girmitiyas from girmit, which was the corrupt form of the English word
agreement. The other three classes had none but business relations with this class.
English men called them coolies, and as the majority of Indians belonged to the
laboring class, all Indians were called coolies, or samis. I was hence known as a
coolie barrister. The merchants were known as coolie merchants. The original
meaning of the word coolie was thus forgotten, and it became a common appellation
for all Indians. There was a large population of Indians living in South Africa at that
time. They were brought to South Africa so that they could further the economic
interests of the British in South Africa. Many indentured labourers were brought from
India to exploit the natural resources in the Natal Coastal belt of South Africa. Indians
were brought to South Africa as indentured labourers in hordes by the British. These
indentured labourers made Natal prosperous by their hard work. Not only labourers,
but many Indian businessmen also came and settled there. Moreover, many Indians also
prospered in various trades due to their hard work and business acumen. The
increasing Indian population made the native fair-skinned people feel threatened about
their monopolized trade as they felt that Indians were hoarding their share of the profit.
This resentment grew stronger everyday and led to a situation where it was manifested
as a racial prejudice. Indians were then considered as people who were forcibly living in

South Africa. Thus, the hatred of the white people manifested itself in terms of racial
abuses for the Indians and they were humiliated repeatedly on every occasion. Unjust
laws were implemented on Indians, forcing them to leave South Africa and go back to
India. When Gandhi reached South Africa, he experienced these horrific racial
discriminations and abuses firsthand. At the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station, Gandhi
was unceremoniously thrown out of the railway coach, in spite of holding a valid first
class ticket. This was due to the fact that whites would not allow Indians to travel first
class with them even if they could afford the fare. It was a very humiliating experience
for Gandhi; yet he could do nothing but protest against it. However, this incident
changed Gandhis life and thought process completely and he decided that his work in
South Africa was not limited to merely fighting the legal battle for Menan Firm, but
fighting against the humiliations that were heaped upon Indians every day. As
mentioned earlier, M. K. Gandhi personally experienced racial abuses in South Africa
and heard many bitter tales of oppression from the Indians residing there. Initially,
Gandhi was hesitant regarding leaving South Africa and going back to India as he was
subject to better treatment, but as he started facing regular racial discriminations, his
resolve to fight against racism became stronger. Instead of leaving, he stayed there for
the next twenty years which completely changed his life, thoughts and practices. During
his stay, he devised a method of non-violent but firm struggle against the apartheid in
South Africa and emerged as a skilled lawyer and political leader who gave the world
the mighty weapon of Satyagraha.
5. Write a note on Ambedkars strong criticism on Gandhi concerning casteism?
ANS: Untouchablity is not a sanction of religion; it is a device of Satan. The
devil has always quoted scriptures. there is neither nobility, nor bravery in
treating the great and uncomplaining scavengers of the nation as worse
than dogs to be despised and spat upon.
Gandhi, Young India, 19 January 1921
According to Gandhi, untouchability is one of the biggest problems in India.
The caste division prevalent in India historically came into existence during the
later Vedic period when people were stratified by means of the work performed
by them. The four castes are Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. A
Brahmana would be involved in pursuit of the knowledge of Brahma (the
universe). Thus, a person engaged in intellectual pursuit of the knowledge of
the universe is a Brahmana. A Kshatriya is a warrior, a Vaishya deals with
financial matters and a Shudra is a worker. When the caste stratification was
initially conceived, it was not necessary that a person born in a particular
family would pursue the profession of his forefathers. Based on the profession,
a hierarchy is conceived in the society, where people belonging to a higher caste
are respected, while others belonging to lower castes are looked down upon.
This system continued and came to a state where people were recognized by
their caste, not by their profession. Moreover, the people who used to do the
work of scavenging and cleaning were considered to be untouchables and were
not allowed to stay with other people in the society. They used to live outside
the village community as their touch contaminated the purity of other higher
classes. Therefore, they were not only looked down upon but were hated and
abused at every occasion. They lived a life full of humiliation and abuses, which
continued for a long time. Any socially and morally conscious person would
understand that to abuse and humiliate a person for such reasons, and to
ostracize people merely because their occupation involves scavenging is not
only a grave crime, but a great blow to humanity. Rabindranath Tagore, in his
essay, Nationalism in India, has also focused on this aspect and said that our

problem is social, not political. When

Indians would rise above the divisions based on class and caste differentiations,
they can achieve true modernity. Modernity does not only mean adopting the
Western cultureit also suggests that one looks at ones own culture and
traditions from a critical point of view and tries to eradicate the customs which
are detrimental to the society at large. Thus, the eminent freedom fighters and
scholars of the early twentieth century India figured that driving away the
British would not be an end in itself; organizing the society and forming a true
basis of unity was of utmost importance. Gandhi believed that untouchability
was a serious problem in India. When he established his ashram at Sabarmati,
he made it very clear that untouchability cannot be practiced there. He not
only made it a rule at the ashram; he allowed untouchables to stay in the
ashram as well. This step was revolutionary as until then, the untouchables had
never had the opportunity to stay with the people of higher classes. This step
invited a lot of criticism from different parts of society and deterred the
finances for the ashram. However, people gradually came to terms with
Gandhis decision and realized that untouchability was indeed a social evil
prevalent in the nation. Scavengers should not be treated as untouchables, as it
is due to them that we have a clean society to live in. Scavengers are as
important for the society as anyone else, and to treat them with disrespect
invites contempt for the entire civilization. For Gandhi, Satyagraha was not
just a movement whose aim was to make the British quit India. It was a
movement meant to reform India from within, and reformation can only occur
when people are given respect for the work done by them in the society. The
Dalit leader, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, strongly criticized Gandhi regarding
casteism. He felt that Gandhism was a paradox as it stood for freedom from
foreign domination, and, at the same time, sought to maintain a social
structure which permitted the domination of one class by another. For Gandhi,
the village was the basis for building a republican society, unpolluted by
colonialism, while for Ambedkar, it was the black hole of Indian civilization as
the untouchables were outside the village republic. According to himThe
Hindus live in the village and the untouchables live in the ghetto. Therefore,
even though Gandhi continued appealing to the masses to stop the practice of
untouchability and Dalit oppression, the Dalit leaders were of the opinion that
Gandhis appeal was merely a political gimmick. According to Ambedkar:
In so far as he (Gandhi) does think, to me he really appears to be prostituting
the intelligence to find the reasons for supporting this archaic social structure
of the Hindus. He is the most influential apologist of it and therefore the worst
enemy of the Hindus. Ambedkars critique of Gandhi on his views and
political projects make us feel that Gandhi merely talked about the eradication
of untouchability, but took no measures to do away with that evil. However,
when Gandhi did not agree upon the notion of separate electorates for the
Dalits, he only meant that if such practices were established, they would
further harm the Indian society.
6. Critically comment on Gandhis views on Self-Purification.
ANS: Gandhi, throughout his life, has motivated and driven himself to
conquer his passions in order to purify himself. His autobiography, the
Story of My Experiments with Truth, is a narration of those moments of
self-purification and consequent involvement in politics to fight against
the unjust and oppressive practices of society, whether it involved fighting
against the racist oppressions in South Africa or the Satyagraha
movements that he organized in India till 1921. However, Gandhis

achievements never made him complacent. Moreover, he

Ever since my return to India I have had experience of the dormant
passions lying hidden within me. The knowledge of them has made me
feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments
have sustained me and given me great joy. But I know that I have still
before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So
long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his
fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit
of humility. With the intention of making further efforts in his philosophy
of ahimsa and pursuit of truth, Gandhi concludes his autobiography by
asking the readers to join him in
his prayers to the God of Truth: He may grant me the boon of Ahimsa in
mind, word and deed. The concluding chapter of Gandhis autobiography
does not provide a summary of his achievements till the year 1921. It
rather informs the readers of his activities till then as well as his hopes
and aspirations for the future. That fact that for Gandhi, God is truth is
proclaimed in the concluding chapter along with his belief that Gods
presence needs to be realized in ones life by self-purification. Selfpurification is not merely thinking about ones own moksha or salvation.
In order to achieve this goal, one needs to participate in humanitarian and
social reformation efforts, as self-purification is not possible till the time
one tries to purify the world in which they live. Thus, Gandhis religious
or spiritual belief is related to his social, political and cultural concerns. In
his pursuit of truth, ahimsa or non-violence is also central concept as
they are the means to truth according to him. Therefore, even at the end
of his autobiography, he emphasizes on the notion of non-violence or
Satyagraha and asks God to bestow on him the power to carry on with his