/Biography

Biography presents word-portraits of a range of fascinating or forgotten individuals in India and beyond.

The Cities That Shaped Gandhi


The Cities That Gandhi Shaped

Mahatma Gandhi famously claimed that ‘India lives in her villages’. The focus of his political and social work, and his philosophical writings, was that India was essentially an agrarian civilization, and that it must remain that way. In fact, India had always lived in her towns too. Our epics spoke of the fabled cities of Ayodhya [...]

A Jewel of Bengaluru And India


Hindustan Times

Once, when some of his fellow Hindus were glorifying the practice of sati, Mahatma Gandhi remarked that ‘self-immolation at the death of the husband is not a sign of enlightenment but of gross ignorance’. If she truly loved her deceased husband, said Gandhi, the wife would not commit sati but dedicate her life to the fulfilment [...]

By |2019-05-06T14:34:47+00:00July 29th, 2018|Categories: Biography, Culture|

Three Things Karl Marx Got Mostly Right


Hindustan Times

In the course of doing two degrees in economics I was taught to regard Karl Marx as, in the words of the Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, a ‘minor post-Ricardian’. His labour theory of value was rejected by my teachers; and his predictions about the immiserization of the proletariat and the imminent death of capitalism appeared [...]

The Struggles Of A Muslim Modernizer


The Telegraph

In different but complementary ways, the debate on triple talaq, and the debate on cow slaughter, both demonstrate the medievalist mindset of modern India. Why, when even the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has abolished the pernicious practice of triple talaq, has India not done so? Largely because the leadership of Indian Muslims is in the hands [...]

What Champaran Meant To Gandhi


The Telegraph

A hundred years ago this week, Mohandas K. Gandhi arrived in the district of Champaran in north Bihar. He spent several months in the district, studying the problems of the peasantry, who had been forced by European planters to cultivate indigo against their will. Farmers who refused to meet this obligation had their land confiscated. Through [...]

By |2017-04-23T23:13:10+00:00April 15th, 2017|Categories: History, Biography|Tags: , , , |

A Contemporary View Of Nehru and Patel


Hindustan Times

My home town, Bengaluru, has the country’s best second-hand bookstores. For decades now, they have sustained me in a personal and professional sense, providing materials for my bed-time reading as well as rare documents for my research. In one of these stores I recently picked up an old book that served both purposes. This was A. [...]

By |2016-12-01T23:21:24+00:00November 5th, 2016|Categories: Biography|Tags: , |

A Privileged Peep Into Gandhi’s Inbox


The Telegraph

Mohandas K. Gandhi’s own writings are well known to the world: through a series of books and anthologies under his name that appeared in his lifetime; and, more authoritatively and substantively, through the ninety-seven volumes of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, published between 1958 and 1994, and put together and lovingly edited by a team [...]

How Gandhi’s Martyrdom Saved India


Hindustan Times

On the 31st of January 1948, a former Indian Civil Service officer named Malcolm Darling, then living in retirement in London, wrote in his diary: ‘Gandhi was assassinated yesterday. … Very difficult to say what will happen, but it is as if a ship has lost its keel. Further disintegration seems inevitable, and what happens to [...]

Good Husband Better Man


The Telegraph

Wives of famous men do not always get their due from historians and biographers. Lincoln, Lenin, Churchill, De Gaulle, Lee Kuan Yew— the women they married and whose sacrifices enabled their work are scarcely known to posterity. What is true of politicians is usually true of writers as well. We read and admire Kalidasa, Goethe, Dickens, [...]

By |2015-01-06T15:13:33+00:00December 27th, 2014|Categories: Biography, Culture|Tags: , , , , |

Nehru and Patel


Hindustan Times

The best biography of Vallabhbhai Patel was written by Rajmohan Gandhi. Based on full access to Patel’s own papers, it is a rich account of his life and struggles, set against the context of the historical forces which shaped them. Rajmohan Gandhi’s Patel: A Life, was first published in March 1991. The preface, written in April [...]