Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Guha’s magnanimity towards Heehs’ mischief

[Experiments with facts HT April 05, 2011 Ramachandra Guha
By my count, Kallenbach appears on 33 of Great Soul’s 349 pages. I think Lelyveld exaggerates the significance of Kallenbach in Gandhi’s life in South Africa. In his book, Henry Polak appears only fleetingly, whereas Pranjivan Mehta is not mentioned at all — although these two men were easily as important to Gandhi at this time. This is compounded by the sin of anachronism, the tendency to assess male friendships of a 100 years ago through the lens of a progressive New Yorker of today. Lelyveld privileges things said now to the written evidence of the past. Someone in Ahmedabad tells him Kallenbach and Gandhi were a ‘couple’; someone in Australia claims the relationship was ‘homoerotic’. These remarks (likewise informed by a contemporary sensibility) should have been disregarded; what he should have perhaps laid far more stress on is a remark made by Kallenbach himself, where, writing to his brother in June 1908, he notes that ever since he met Gandhi, ‘I have given up my sex life’.
Lelyveld is stretching the evidence in claiming that Gandhi’s friendship (he uses the term ‘relationship’) with Kallenbach was ‘the most intimate’ of his life. The further claim that ‘Gandhi, leaving his wife behind, had gone to live with a man’ is even more tenuous. The fact was that Gandhi had to be in Transvaal to organise the Indians in that province. Kasturba and the boys stayed at the ashram in Natal, being visited by Gandhi as often as his work permitted.
The friendship between these two men was not sexual, not even ‘homoerotic’; it was, as Gandhi himself described it, that between brothers. While they lived in the same house, Gandhi’s commitment to brahmacharya was matched by Kallenbach’s own. Much later (although Lelyveld does not mention or perhaps know this) Kallenbach broke their common vow of celibacy by having a sexual relationship — with a woman.]

Even Ramachandra Guha, while opposing the ban, acknowledges the dubious remarks in the book,” reminds a correspondent (5 April 2011 23:06 subject Re: lelyveld's gandhi book). Hence, Guha’s magnanimity towards Heehs’ mischief is patently suspicious and conspiratorial. [TNM55]

No comments:

Post a Comment