Ramachandra Guha visited Northeastern University as part of The Center for Emerging Markets India Lecture Series, which is directed by Distinguished Professor Ravi Ramamurti.
Guha, an award-winning biographer and historian, presented two lectures, “Why Gandhi Matters” and “Five Fault Lines in Contemporary India,” based on his newly-released biography, Gandhi: The years that changed the world (1914-1948). The book explores Gandhi’s 30-year effort to liberate India from British rule and unite the nation.
Guha shared intimate details about Gandhi and recalled how he spent his days. His vision was expressed by “the force of example.” He fasted for 24 hours at a time to call attention to the social plights of India. He spent his Mondays in voluntary silence. He also made himself available to his followers, allowing them to walk with him during his daily strolls.
“Compare him with Churchill or de Gaulle or Roosevelt or Stalin: These other people, you couldn’t just go and talk with them,” said Guha in references to Gandhi’s contemporary leaders of Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. “But anyone could walk into Gandhi’s Ashram, and whoever came could walk alongside him. Gandhi would patiently entertain any question from anyone in India.”
Gandhi believed in nonviolent resistance which he proposed for the first time in public as a young expatriate lawyer working in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1906. He envisioned pluralism across all planes of Indian society and molded young leaders, encouraging them to pursue their own visions for the future of India.
In his second lecture, Guha explored the 1947 liberation and partition by Britain, resulting in the creation of Pakistan and India. In India’s 80 years of independence it has already endured five defined periods of crisis.
“We can come out of it,” he said of the current moment. “We can.”