Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Was Gandhi a big old 'mo?

Gandhi (seated, left) and Kallenbach, (seated, right)
A new biography of the India's most famous and influential spiritual and civil rights leader, Mahatma Gandhi, paints a very different picture of the little man who drove out the Brits. In his new book, “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India”, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld attempts to give the reader a more realistic look at the man behind the iconic image.

The book makes a variety of "unfavorable" claims about Gandhi's character. Among some of the tamer allegations is that he may have been gay or bisexual and was passionately in love with his long-time friend and confidant, Hermann Kallenbach, a German architect and amateur body builder.

Gandhi is said to have repeatedly tested his spiritual resolve to resist the temptations of the flesh by sleeping with a group of young women without ever touching any of them. One book reviewer for The Wall Street Journal's India Real Time wrote:
“As Mr. Lelyveld makes abundantly clear, Gandhi’s organ probably only rarely became aroused with his naked young ladies, because the love of his life was a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom Gandhi left his wife in 1908,” wrote Andrew Roberts, in a review of the book that categorizes a long list of Gandhi’s failings, managing even to work in a mention of the fact that he (Gandhi, not Mr. Roberts, we hasten to add) once suffered from hemorrhoids.
Gandhi's desendents are not happy with the way he's been depicted in the new book. India Real Time continues:
In India, meanwhile, Gandhi relatives and historians have said they are upset by the interpretation of Gandhi’s letters to Kallenbach, although it’s not clear whether they’re upset by the suggestion of homosexuality or by the suggestion that he was cheating on his loyal wife. There has been less reaction to quotes in the book in which Gandhi expresses racist attitudes to black South Africans.

The Mail Today quoted Tushar Gandhi, a great-grandson, as saying Western writers have a “morbid fascination” with Gandhi’s sexuality—although this is no doubt because of Gandhi’s own repressive attitude towards sex and his adoption of celibacy even though he was married.

“It also helps that no matter what you write about him, there are no repercussions. Let them write such things about a Muslim or a Dalit leader,” said Mr. Gandhi. “It is always open season with Gandhi.”
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