Dinkar Joshi, Jaico Publishing House, 121 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbia- 400 001, email@example.com, www.jaicobooks.com, 2007. 279pp. ISBN-13: 978-81-7992-700-7. INR 250
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” The book trails the life of Harilal Gandhi the eldest amongst the four sons of Mahatma Gandhi from being called the “Junior Gandhi” to his death as an obscure man. Harilal deviates from his father’s morale of selflessness to being selfish with a dream to become a barrister. While Gandhi feeling that education imparted at his own ashram is much more useful than the ones provided by Law schools of England, prevents his son from following his heart’s desire and sponsors someone else’s name, citing moral grounds. This episode creates the life long tussle between the father and the son.
While Harilal decides separate path to prove his father wrong by standing on his own feet, when encountered with challenges he fails and instead finds solace in liquor leading to addiction. When Gandhi is busy attending meetings and conferences where the fate of forty crore Indians was to be decided, he would often find letters or newspaper headlines like Police Arrested Drunk Harilal For Creating A Scene On The Road and so on. Harilal loses control and drowns himself in liquor. He even abandons his children, and the man who always accused his own father for all his problems, proves to be the worst father himself. A budding talent is wasted and his entire life is filled with disappointment, anger and disdain towards the society.
I liked how Dinkar Joshi described the sufferings of Harilal in the most convincing way. There are many emotional scenes particularly, the railway event where Harilal offers a sweet lime to his mother even though he have not eaten for days, or the death bed scene where drunk Harilal confronts his dying mother, or when old tired Hari approaches his son and daughter-in-law affectionately to draw some solace from his tragic life, or when he is barred from attending the last rites of his own father for fear of public shame.
As the note on the cover reads, “Bapu had failed to convince two people in his lifetime: one was Jinnah and other was Harilla,” Dinkar Joshi has done justice in portraying Harilal as a young man, burdened with the widely acclaimed morals of a strict disciplined father, who could lead the world, but was unable to understand his own child.
I would recommend everyone to read this book and understand the harsh realities of life, which even the great Mahatma Gandhi could not cope with. The real beauty of this book lies in the fact that it presents Gandhi as a distressed and misunderstood father and exposes his vulnerable human side, often hidden behind those determined eyes.