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Gandhi Before India

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  536 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
The first volume of a magisterial biography: the definitive portrait of the life and work of one of the most abidingly influential--and controversial--men in modern history.
     Here is a revelatory work of biography that takes us from Gandhi's birth in 1869 through his upbringing in Gujarat, his 2 years as a student in London, and his 2 decades as a lawyer and community
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published October 2nd 2013 by Random House Canada (first published January 1st 2013)
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Thaths I too am curious about when the second volume is going to come out. Looks like nobody in the general public knows as your question has remained…moreI too am curious about when the second volume is going to come out. Looks like nobody in the general public knows as your question has remained unanswered for 6 months.(less)

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Vivek Tejuja
Oct 16, 2013 Vivek Tejuja rated it it was amazing
Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Who was Gandhi? Was he just a movement? Or was there more to him? Was there ever more to him as a person? What was he like before he started the revolution of such a kind that inspired millions to follow him? How did he get there? Who was Gandhi the man? Such questions always cropped in my mind in school.

There was always this chapter on the Mahatma in school and yet we never tried to know more about the man. He was always an enigma. Maybe becau
Feb 09, 2014 Eunice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-2014
A great start to the year with two wonderful works of non-fiction by two authors who I am privileged to have met. Indeed they both lunched in our house in Chennai on the same day. William Dalrymple's masterly Return of a King I have already reviewed. Ram Guha's Gandhi before India is also a beautifully written book, and the result of deep research into archives ignored by others.

It is fascinating to learn of Gandhi's progress from indifferent student to Mahatma, his time in the UK and in South
Terri Jacobson
May 15, 2014 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
This book is a detailed chronicle of Mahatma Gandhi's life in the early years. Gandhi spent 20 years working in South Africa trying to negotiate basic rights for his people. Around the year 1900, there was a large population of Indians in South Africa. Many of them came as indentured servants, but there was also a middle class that provided goods and services to the Indian community. Gandhi was trained in London to be a lawyer, and his original goal was to work in this profession in India itself ...more
Jan 04, 2014 Raghu rated it really liked it

I was hesitant to buy this book because I was skeptical as to what more that is new can be written about Mahatma Gandhi. After all, the Govt of India had published 100 volumes of his collected works after nearly 40 years of sustained effort in assembling them. Still, the title kindled my interest because I realized that I know little about Gandhi's first 45 years of life, which were spent substantially outside India. In fact, for most of us in India, the window into Gandhi's life before he came
Nov 05, 2013 Manoj rated it really liked it
A young London-returned Gujarati lawyer finds little luck establishing a practice in the Bombay High Court. He is called to South Africa by Muslim merchants there, to help with one case. He finds his services so much in demand there that he decides to stay a little longer.

His work brings him in contact with people from all strata of society --- plantation workers, Jewish intellectuals, missionaries, politicians, feminists. He displays an extraordinary talent for deep life-changing friendships w
வழககறிஞராய போனவர மகாதமவாய திருமபிய வரலாறு.

இநதியரகளைப பொறுததவரை தாஙகள விருமபும/மதிககும மனிதரகளை, புனிதரகளாக உயரததி அவரகளைச சுறறி ஒரு புனித பிமபததைக கடடியமைததுவிடடு, உணமையை முழுதாகவோ அலலது பகுதியாகவோ திரைபோடடு மறைததுவிடுவாரகள. உணமை யாருககும வேணடியதிலலை. அதனால பைசா உபயோகமும கிடையாது. ஆனால, கடடி எழுபபபபடட புகழ மயககஙகளோ இனிமையைத தரும.
Sam Marlowe
Apr 14, 2014 Sam Marlowe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The making of the Mahatma and his time tested methods of passive resistance are usually the missing chapters in any popular biography or biofilm of the Father of the Nation. This book takes us through the many stages in the life of M K Gandhi, who evolves through chapters from a shy student to a cosmopolitan vegetarian to a failed lawyer to a Hindu Pluralist and eventually becoming the champion of the Indian cause in colonial South Africa. Many thanks to Guha, who whether by magic or mastership ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Vinay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
truly a masterpiece... started loving Gandhi after reading this book
Rob Smith
Jul 05, 2014 Rob Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know a lot about Gandhi. All I know about him comes from pop-cultural osmosis (like Richard Attenborough's Gandhi), or the smattering I picked up in high school. This delightful biography by Ramachandra Guha eschews the typical 'skip to India' philosophies taken towards Gandhi's life. It encompasses Gandhi's birth and early life and ends in 1915, before Gandhi returned to India. Those desirous of a complete narrative will have to wait for the promised sequel volume.

Guha sets out to provi
Sudheendra Chaitanya
Apr 20, 2014 Sudheendra Chaitanya rated it really liked it
Excellent book. Good way to write and read history. Especially to show how the character evolves over 25 years.

Gandhi's social identity, how it evolves, how he learns, and the impact it has on the community is laid out threadbare. Event to event, instance to instance. But, his religious core doesn't receive such a focus, one feels. So, while one appreciates the swiftness and the moral strength with which Gandhi responds to a situation, and how that helps the community take to the cause with gre
Oct 09, 2013 Jbondandrews rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading Gandhi Before India, though I wish that he had taken up cause with the Africans too. I look forward to reading about the other people he got to know during his time in South Africa.
Mayank Kumar
Jan 28, 2014 Mayank Kumar rated it really liked it
Excellent work again by the author. Very exhaustive and gives a clear insight into formation of a Mahatama with flaws as well as merits covered. Too detailed though.

A must read for anyone who want to understand GandhiJi.
May 11, 2014 Bettie☯ marked it as maybe
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
to look into/watch ratings/need the price to drop
Dec 13, 2014 Idyll rated it it was amazing
As can be expected of Guha, this book is a thorough and unprecedented study of the transformation of Gandhi from a city-bred lawyer to a nonconformist civil rights leader in South Africa. The book builds his story chronologically from his birth to his final departure from South Africa using contemporary records - letters to and by him, news articles written about or by him, various petitions, and the views expressed by various leaders and intellectuals on either side of the debate.

The book read
Samrat Ashok
Nov 25, 2013 Samrat Ashok rated it really liked it
This magnum opus by Ramachandra Guha , the first of the two books on the Life of Gandhi is a truly amazing book on Gandhi.I have read a fair share of books on Gandhi notably Louis Fischer book on Gandhi, controversial book Great Soul which mischievously suggested that Gandhi could have been Gay. This book stands out for its truly remarkable and objective treatment on the early life of Gandhi in South Africa.

It gloriously captures the travel of how Gandhi from a orthodox Hindu background overcome
Sandeepan Mondal
Mar 17, 2014 Sandeepan Mondal rated it it was amazing
A brilliant portrayal of one of the world’s greatest thinker, non-violent practitioner and leader

Many of us have criticized Gandhi (and his protégé Nehru) for his inept handling of Hindu-Muslim unity, sidelining other prominent leaders of his time and constantly seeking a compromise with the British thus delaying the much anticipated “swaraj” by many years. What most of the people don’t get right is that only because of the methods of non-violence adopted by the Mahatma, India could function as
Ashok Sridharan
Mar 14, 2016 Ashok Sridharan rated it it was amazing
Gandhi Before India is a seminal work on the political career of Mohandas Gandhi long before he went on to become a mass leader or earn the title of Mahatma.

The book brief recounts the early life of Gandhi in Porbandar, the time he spent in Britain, followed by the short time he spent after his return to India and the circumstances that led to his taking up an assignment in South Africa as a struggling 24 year old barrister in 1893.

The book then recounts how Gandhi, who went to plead the case of
Nov 08, 2015 Aditi rated it liked it
It was interesting, to say the least. I like how thoroughly-researched this book is. Next stop, Gandhi's collected works' 5 volumes that I have from Sabarmati Ashram. Actually, no, the immediate next is Katherine Frank's Indira (or Bill Bryson's A Brief History of Nearly Everything), but those too, soon. I've skimmed through them and read random parts several times; this book makes me want to read them all properly, right away. As I mentioned already, Gandhi Before India is interesting. It sheds ...more
Vivek Subramanian
Apr 20, 2014 Vivek Subramanian rated it it was amazing
One of the best book ever I read.. when I started I was bit hesitate whether I could complete this book..but I strongly believe gandhis's soul exist in this book which driven me to read completely.. Thanks to ram guha for this wonderful book.. This book introduces unknown characters who we're admire by mahatmas goodness like Thambi Naidoo, Herman Hallanbach, Henry Pollack, Millie Polack, Calicha, Albert West, Joseph Doke, Henry Salt, raychandabhai, pranjeevan Mehta, sheik mehtab, maganlal, kastu ...more
Dec 01, 2013 Shane rated it liked it
A great view into the events that formed who Gandhi became. It was interesting to see his view being limited to Indians and then Asians, while overlooking the native Africans in South Africa. He seems later to come to the understanding that all peoples should be equal under the law, but limited his efforts in promoting this, even for Indians in South Africa.

His strong views on vegetarianism and natural remedies struck me as a bit odd, but given the state of medicine at the time (and perhaps eve
This is a wildly detailed biography from Gandhi's birth to his studies in London to his failures in Bombay to his satyagraha movement in South Africa to his departure back to India. More so, it's a portrait of how racially torn and divided lands Transvaal and Natal were. God, they sounded terrible. They make turn of the century London and India look like Eden.

Guha emphasizes that Gandhi was able to live among anyone in the UK and India, but when it came to South Africa there were violence and ra
Anubhav Kale
Mar 06, 2016 Anubhav Kale rated it it was amazing
I started reading this after reading through Guha's India after Gandhi. For someone like me, who did not know much about Gandhi's years in South Africa this turned out to be a fascinating read. Guha, as is widely known, is a fantastic storyteller and is evident in the 500 pages here.

Unlike India after Gandhi which gets dull at times due to too many quotes from contemporary observers of India, Guha has made sure to keep this at a minimum. It was very interesting for me to find out that so many E
Jul 08, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
South Africa was the staging ground for Gahndhi's eventual leadership to liberate India from Great Britain. Over many years, Gandhi morphed from a lawyer to a civil rights leader. He developed and evolved his approach to passive resistance and non-violent protest that became a hugely powerful force. It was also in South Africa that Gandhi focused on the the dietary and simple lifestyle that defined his personal life.

In other words, South Africa was where Mohandas became the Mahatma.

This book ta
Grady Ormsby
Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha is the first part of a two-volume set about the life of Gandhi. The second volume is India After Gandhi. Obviously Gandhi Before India is about his work in South Africa from 1893 until 1914. It was here that Gandhi began his struggle for the dignity of all people. He developed his philosophy and tactics of satyagrahis, non-violence, gradualism and passive resistance. Guha’s research is based not only on the works of Gandhi but also on the works of those wh ...more
Having watched Gandhi the movie several years ago I got the sudden urge to read more about Gandhi this year.

I always find iconic historic individuals early years interesting. In that way it's 5 stars for several chapters.

I have learned a lot. That what makes a good book in my eyes.

This book contains several images of Gandhi, his family, his home and colleagues.

Majority chapters I skim read and skipped since I knew a lot of it from watching the movie.

The author has definitely researched his
Oct 03, 2016 Socratees rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
This is my first biography of Mahatma Gandhi I've read. So my impression of the book is also heavily influenced by the Gandhi's life itself.

The book is extremely well put together, and one can move through the chapters with much ease. I also like the way how the author tries to capture the circumstances and events surrounding Gandhi's key moments in life. Might be a spoiler, but the time he people get mad and try to stone/attack him physically on the streets of South Africa are vividly captured.
Until now I had little idea of the background of the man who became the liberator of the nation of India. This book reveals the development of the man and his ideals, and shows the twenty years of the growth of his revolutionary ideas in the context of South Africa before he returned to India to put them in practice there. Very worthwhile reading, and it enlarged my knowledge of a part of the world that has not before been part of my world view. Not only would he have been a different person and ...more
Sep 14, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
The persona that Gandhi has become in culture stems from what he did in India.

What I never understood, until reading this book, was how his early history - his time in London - gave him an understanding of the west. And then how being at the right time and right place during his time in South Africa raised him as the leader he was to become. In a way, his struggles for freedom in South Africa trained him for his work in India.

Absolutely fascinating!

The book is very thorough which may turn off
Kanti Bit
Nov 21, 2015 Kanti Bit rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliantly written biography. Not only the author brings to light so far unknown facets of Gandhi's life and personality, he does that in a very meticulous, careful and engrossing manner. It's not a simple biography; it is also a social and political history of South Africa (and India, and the British Empire, so to say) of the time. And it's a tale of a life and a history told so well that it reads like fiction. I have never been so engrossed in any biography -- including that of Gand ...more
Apr 20, 2015 Hamsini rated it liked it
Ram guha didnt disappoint with his solid research once again writing a facet of history we tend to read / know less about. Some of the basic civil and human rights we take for granted today have been upheld by champions like gandhi whos values and principles are centuries ahead of his time. Strangely, the book got me thinking of immigration in the contemporary world and its associated issues. Hat tip to guha for a balanced and reliable account of gandhi's work- life contradictions. I have to ad ...more
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Waiting for the book 3 10 Jan 21, 2015 02:26PM  
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Ramachandra Guha was born in Dehradun in 1958, and educated in Delhi and Calcutta. He has taught at the University of Oslo, Stanford, and Yale, and at the Indian Institute of Science. He has been a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and also served as the Indo-American Community Chair Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

After a peripatetic academic career, with
More about Ramachandra Guha...

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“Gandhi had come to South Africa to help settle a commercial dispute. He had, without expecting or anticipating it, become an activist for a political cause instead. Many Indians in the colony now knew of him; as did many Europeans. How did he respond to this public acclaim and public disparagement? His autobiography is silent on this score. But that he diligently followed the press for every trace of his name seems clear. In a steel almirah in an archive in Ahmedabad lie many volumes of newspaper clippings from the Natal of the 1890s, doubtless collected by Gandhi himself.” 0 likes
“In Kathiawar itself, Mohandas Gandhi could never have met or befriended these men, who became, as it were, unwitting agents of a transformative process whereby he moved from orthodoxy to heterodoxy in religion, from lawyering to activism in professional life and from a conservative inland Indian town (Rajkot) to a growing, bustling South African port (Durban). Leaving Bombay in 1888 a small-town Bania with the habits, manners and prejudices of his caste, six years later Gandhi had become a Hindu who befriended Christians and worked for Muslims while organizing political campaigns in – of all places – Natal.” 0 likes
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