Ambedkar, Gandhi and the battle against caste by Arundhati Roy: Caravan Magazine

arundhati_royANNIHILATION OF CASTE is the nearly eighty-year-old text of a speech that was never delivered.* When I first read it I felt as though somebody had walked into a dim room and opened the windows. Reading Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar bridges the gap between what most Indians are schooled to believe in and the reality we experience every day of our lives.

My father was a Hindu, a Brahmo. I never met him until I was an adult. I grew up with my mother, in a Syrian Christian family in Ayemenem, a small village in communist-ruled Kerala. And yet all around me were the fissures and cracks of caste. Ayemenem had its own separate “Parayan” church where “Parayan” priests preached to an “untouchable” congregation. Caste was implied in peoples’ names, in the way people referred to each other, in the work they did, in the clothes they wore, in the marriages that were arranged, in the language we spoke. Even so, I never encountered the notion of caste in a single school textbook. Reading Ambedkar alerted me to a gaping hole in our pedagogical universe. Reading him also made it clear why that hole exists and why it will continue to exist until Indian society undergoes radical, revolutionary change.

A new biography of the Mahatma explores hidden facets of his life. A section from the first chapter, ‘The Final Hours’: Pramod Kapoor 

gandhi_cover_20140203There is a widespread belief that living saints are given some intimation of their own mortality. Mahatma Gandhi often talked about living to 125 years or more, like some Hindu seers had done, but on January 29, a day before his assassination, Gandhi was unusually eloquent about mortality and his own death. On that day, members of the Nehru family had arrived at Birla Bhavan around lunchtime. They included Krishna Hutheesing, Jawaharlal’s sister, his daughter Indira with her four-year-old  son, Rajiv, as well as Sarojini Naidu, the nationalist leader.

GandhipressSanjay Sipahimalani reviews Gandhi’s Printing Press by Isabel Hofmeyr in The Sunday Guardian

On a winter’s day in 1904, four wagons, each pulled by 16 oxen, set off from Durban with a load of precious cargo. Fording rivers and braving rugged terrain, they reached their destination safely, with the burden being unloaded and installed in a corrugated iron building. The cargo was the printing equipment of an organization known as the International Printing Press, which had just been shifted to the first structure of the 100-acre Phoenix settlement, Gandhi’s South Africa ashram. From its plates emerged periodicals and publications that were immensely influential in disseminating Gandhi’s ideas.