The 30 Week Project - (2 week long) Week 3
Thanks to work, and preparations for Deepawali, the second week of my project lasted a couple of days longer than two weeks. But through it all I'm happy that I was able to stick to my rule of devoting only the non-productive time to the book at hand.
The book that I'm done with now is "Gandhi An Autobiography - The story of my experiments with truth", which, as I know now, was written in Gujarati originally. The style of the book is very simple and conversational, which makes it an easy read. The author didn't write it in one go, or take too much time out from his daily schedule to pen this. Instead, he tried to complete a chapter or two each week, which makes it easy for the reader to have breaks between chapters (and suited my reading pattern just fine).
The author is one of those people who bring out deeply polarizing opinions in people. I am yet to meet someone who looks at him objectively, he is either the Mahatma or the selfish politician who played favourites when it mattered the most - nothing in between. It has been my attempt for some time to look at people and situations objectively, and I feel I've succeeded to some extent with the exception of deifying Sachin Tendulkar (like right now it's pissing me that Blogger has a red line under the words "Sachin" and "Tendulkar", what kind of text-editing software does not include God's name in its dictionary). It is with that context that I started reading this book.
As I mentioned, the book is fairly simple and fluid, though it does assume some knowledge of the events around the book's time. I would assume most Indians would have no problem with that, but if you are someone who is not too familiar with Indian freedom struggle I would recommend you to have some supplemental material at hand, maybe just Wikipedia. I would say it also assumes some knowledge about Indian caste system but I wouldn't be able to expand on that since I take most of that knowledge for granted. The author talks about his various trials and experiments in search for truth, and his application of the principles of truth in all matter of his life be it deciding the menu of the next meal or the next step in the struggle against India's British rulers. There is a whole lot of material devoted to the topics which most wouldn't find too engrossing, like development/evolution of his dietary regimen, but to me they demonstrate how devoted he was in trying to apply the principles of truth to each and every aspect of his life. There is criticism and acceptance of shortcomings, but somehow the worst of self-criticism never sounds as scathing as even the most constructive of critical comments from another person. This is an area where I feel biographies score over autobiographies.
The book was finished some 20 years before India became independent and so unfortunately it does not cover possibly the most turbulent of times in our freedom struggle history. It also predates most of the events/actions for which Gandhi was heavily criticized later (handling of Bhagat Singh hanging, choice of PM, handling of Pakistan etc.) I would love to read an account of those times from someone like Gandhi who's in the center of it all, hoping off-course that he would be as honest in recounting those times as he is in this book. Still, it provides a very informative window into the inner world of one of the most important people in our history. I say you should take out the time to read it, and try to remain objective :-)