ramchandra guhaAt their commencement ceremony yesterday, Yale University awarded 12 honorary degrees to individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields.  Indian writer and historian Ramachandra Guha was one of those honoured, according to a press statement by Penguin Books India.

Alongside acclaimed individuals including Nobel Laureates Daniel Kahneman and Ahmed Zewail, and Timothy Berners-Lee, Guha was made a Doctor of Humanities.  President Peter Salovey’s citation when awarding the degree stated:

“As a sage voice of progressive India, you are a leading public intellectual. Your work is brilliant and varied in its scope.  You are an incisive essayist of your country’s vibrant and clamorous politics and society, a renowned historian of modern India, and the definitive biographer of Gandhi. Whether writing about cricket or commenting on contemporary Indian life, you capture the spirit of your nation and its past, while opening new understandings of its present and the promise of its future. As a gifted teacher, you have shared your talents with us at Yale, and we are delighted to have you return to campus, this time as Doctor of Humanities.”

Gandhi before IndiaInterview with Ramachandra Guha on Gandhi Before India: Open Magazine

“There’s lots and lots, including the characters—they’re very important. I wrote a piece in the Financial Times times two weeks ago, [‘Gandhi’s Formative Years’, 20 September 2013] which… was about the laws of biographical writing. One of the laws I’ve arrived at through my studies is that a biography is only as good as its portrait of the secondary characters. And the secondary characters of his South African phase are incredibly fascinating in their own right. They shape and mould him too, but they are forgotten. We know about the characters of his Indian phase; we know about his political followers like [Vallabhbhai] Patel and [Jawaharlal] Nehru, his spiritual followers like Mira Behn [Madeline Slade], and his antagonists like [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah and [BR] Ambedkar.