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Gandhi Before India

(Gandhi #1)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,084 ratings  ·  149 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 2013)
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 ·  1,084 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ramachandra Guha is probably the most renowned and comprehensive biographer of Mahatma Gandhi. This is the first of the three books of the history of India influenced by Gandhiji written by him. But this talks about his life before he came back to India in 1915 after a successful practical application of Satyagraha in South Africa. This is less of history of India and more of how Gandhi became what India needed in a leader to lead it to independence in the most difficult and tiring of circumstan ...more
Lubinka Dimitrova
I suppose I belong to the kind of audience to which Ramachandra Guha refers at the beginning of his book – people whose image of Gandhi is more or less limited to some basic knowledge, partially influenced by his depiction in the Ben Kingsley movie. Many have virtually no idea that Gandhi spent a huge part of his formative years in South Africa, and even less insights about the influence this experience had on shaping him as Mahatma.

Ramachandra Guha’s book turned out to be an engrossing and eye
Feb 09, 2014 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
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first volume of a two volume biography of Gandhi. It features Gandhi in a 20 plus year career as a “community organizer” leading the fight against racial codes in South Africa - with some significant success. This is where Gandhi developed his ideas of passive resistance (satyagraha) where he moved from being a young lawyer having troubled getting established to being a Mahatma and a leader of protests against empire around the world on the basis of his leadership of a few thousand I ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nbtr, owned, hardcover
Unlike few of the people I know I still don't feel like giving up on Gandhi and his philosophies. After all as a proud Indian Gandhiji has been father of our nation. The face we see on every note and it every official place. I must have seen the 1982 movies more than 4 times and yet despite reading about Gandhiji here and there along the years there was no light on his years in South Africa. We only know of the incident in the railway and just that but this first part of Gandhi biography does ex ...more
Jan 04, 2014 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
Had Guha decided to write one instead of two volumes of Gandhi's biography, the content of this book would have shrunk to 3-4 chapters, not more than 100 pages in that. But, Guha decided to write two volumes instead of one, probably because the title appealed him more to work on this project - 'Gandhi before India' sounds nice after his hugely successful (deservedly) 'India after Gandhi'.

It is no doubt that Guha had done commendable research to fill in the pages of this tome chronicling the for
Nov 05, 2013 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
Sep 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book was 550 pages and too detailed. It was a biography of Gandhi before he even started his struggles and protests in India. I learned a lot, but there was also pages and pages of dates and names that started to blend together. This isn't a great book if you just want general information about Gandhi. ...more
Ankit Rathore
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I recommend every adult to read this book once.

There is no doubt that Gandhi is one of the most important world-renowned personalities of his times, and even now, several generations later, his impact has surely not worn off. However, his South African years, as correctly pointed about by the author, are often overlooked and not given enough importance in how that unique period of time and equally unique political, geographical landscape of South Africa shaped Gandhi’s own beliefs and in turn,
Ever watch a director's cut of a movie you love only to realize that you don't like the movie all that much in this form, and that the edited theatrical version is far better.

Gandhi Before India is that director's cut edition. So many unneeded details and so much information about so many nonsensical things (e.g. detailing the physical layout of a temporary dwelling).

Throw in hundreds of characters and you've got a dizzying book that is a wonderful starter piece for someone doing their PhD on G
Rob Smith
Jul 05, 2014 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 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
Sam Marlowe
Apr 14, 2014 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
Oct 09, 2013 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.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
truly a masterpiece... started loving Gandhi after reading this book
Dec 13, 2014 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
S Ashok
Nov 25, 2013 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 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
Ashish Pathak
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Dedication and commitment on the part of any author becomes quite evident by judging the amount of research and hard-work that went into his/her work. And if Gandhi Before India (GBI, henceforth) is any evidence, Ramchandra Guha's exertions shine out throughout the book, on every page and every paragraph. GBI is the first biographical text that I've completed in full, and second biographical text I've attempted to read (the first one being Swami Vivekanand's in my early school days, which I coul

Nick Ziegler
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Biography is a somewhat-disparaged genre of history, but it has several possible virtues. History is experienced with the periodicity of human lives, and tracing impersonal forces or the trajectories of practices, beliefs, or institutions can sometimes obscure the contingency and lived quality of events. Depending on the skill of the biographer, biography can provide a few services to the reader. Biography can provide deep context for the behavior of an individual, whether this be historically s ...more
Ritesh Joharapurkar
While ‘The story of my experiment with truth’ is the narrative through the eyes of Gandhi himself of what he experienced and felt of his struggles and transformation, Ramachandra Guha takes an objective view on Gandhi’s life through his comprehensive research of contemporary readings, interviews and visits to the places where Gandhi lived, studied, worked and got transformed. I can feel the completeness of the extensive research Guha has made to portray Gandhi through the eyes of his confidants, ...more
Vivek Patil
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the start to the end, it was captivating. Everyone who has encountered conflicting public opinions about the teachings of Gandhi (or the man himself), should read this book. It presents an honest account of Gandhi's life. I learned from this account more than what I would learn from any glorification. I loved the way he lived according to his values and principles. This book covers only half of his life, though. ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
As part of SSC, you are first introduced to the pre-1947 era good Mahatma by government-influenced school textbooks in addition to Doordarshan, rupee notes, statues and roads named in his honor. Then the internet and your friends introduce you again to a 'bad' Mahatma in a slow feed of misinformation and half-truths. By the time you are an adult, you are partly disillusioned with him and only contribute your two cents in conversations when you have something juicy to talk about him.
So when decid
Pat Rolston
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am woefully uninformed regarding Gandhi and Mr Guha has begun to put that situation to rest. This is the first of a two part biography that is meticulously researched and very well written. There is essential historical context with an amazing amount of personal information that is unusual in its specificity. I found by the end of volume one that I had enough detail to feel like I knew the man personally.

The story continues with volume two and I look forward to reading about Gandhi’s return t
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great unbiased study of Gandhi's early years culled from personal letters of his own and friends gives an intimate portrait of the man and his metamorphosis, detailing how he struggled against racism in South Africa and ultimately became one of the most important and influential people of the 20th century. Anyone interested in the man, his strengths and imperfections, will find this a fascinating and informative read. ...more
Nazrul Buang
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just came back from a two-week solo travel to India, and I wanted to know more about India on print. Reading up on Gandhi's life - perhaps the most prominent figure in modern Indian history - seems like the only befitting thing to do, and the perfect way to kick off my reading journey for 2020.

Mahatma Gandhi is a figure of utmost importance in modern history. Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the unassuming man is credited for liberating India from British rule and granted the title of 'Father
Tarun Rattan
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent biography of Gandhi covering first 46 years of the great man's life before he became Mahatma and prior to his joining & then leading the freedom struggle at India. Gandhi spent twenty years of his early life at South Africa, of which most were spent resisting early attempts on apartheid by the governments of different provinces of South Africa. Gandhi endured all the hardships, went to jail numerous times, survived a few attempts on his life but never buckled down and became ...more
Aman Saxena
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Man is a product of circumstance". The struggle in SA against racial prejudices anchored by Gandhi will surely register as a modest contribution to the man himself, but there may be some truth to this proposal. The able preceptors (GK Gokhale, Leo Tolstoy, Henry Salt,Dadabhai Naroji, Raychandbhai), disciples (Joseph Doke, Hermann Kallenbach, Maud Polak) of Gandhi's widely preached political philosophy or religious theosophy, and friends-cum-admirers (Pranjivan Mehta, Parsee Rustomjee, Sonja Sch ...more
Dhruv Bhandula
Undoubtedly one of the finest works by Mr Guha. I had heard and read a lot about Gandhiji's Work in Indian independence and his movements and experiments in India, but so far wasn't much aware of the 2 decades he spent in South Africa. Very few writers have thrown a light on this crucial part of his life. He wouldn't have been what he became later on if he hadn't learnt in all in South Africa and it was a pleasure to read about Gandhiji's experiments, successes, failures and frustrations in Sout ...more
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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

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“பாரபட்சம் அவரை துன்பப்படுத்தியது. அவர், ‘இன்னொரு மனிதரின் சிந்தனைகள் மோசமானவை, நம்முடைய சிந்தனைகளே நல்லவை என்றும், நம்மிடமிருந்து வேறுபடும் பார்வை கொண்டவர்கள் நாட்டின் எதிரிகள் என்றும் சொல்வது கெட்ட பழக்கம்” 1 likes
“நியாயமான வழிமுறைகளே நியாயமான விளைவுகளை உண்டாக்கும்; எல்லாவற்றிலும் இல்லாவிட்டாலும், குறைந்தபட்சம் பெரும்பாலான நிகழ்வுகளில் அன்பு, இரக்கம் ஆகியவற்றின் சக்தி ஆயுதங்களின் சக்தியைவிட எல்லையற்ற அளவில் அதிகமானது. காந்தியைப்” 1 likes
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