Making a Mahatma

Pietermaritzburg, 7 June 1893. Winter. A 24 year old attorney, M K Gandhi, recently arrived on South African shores on a year's girmit (or contract) is thrown out of a first class compartment of a train from Durban to Pretoria... And the rest is our history. As Mandela famously said, You gave us Mohandas; we returned him to you as Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi had come to Durban to fight a lawsuit for Dada Abdullah and Co. Tasting the racial discrimination that plagued the land at that time and his subsequent experiences in South Africa, he became sensitive to the plight of the girmitiyas (bonded labours).

Suspended between despair and a hope for an implausible escape to their promised land, the girmitiyas found in this young attorney a voice that would guide them to a new dawn.

In The Girmitiya Saga, published recently by Niyogi Press, Giriraj Kishore retraces the socio-political background of the 19th and 20th-century South Africa, highlighting the importance of the young attorney’s actions in South Africa and their monumental significance for humanity as a whole. After having carefully researched the subject in South Africa, England, Mauritius and India, Giriraj Kishore has imaginatively cast the facts in the mould of an arresting novel—Pehla Girmitiya. First published in Hindi in 1999, the novel was very well received in the world of Hindi literature. The following year, the author was honoured with the Vyas Samman by the K.K. Birla Foundation, and the Mahatma Gandhi Samman by the Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan for this book.

A flesh-and-blood human being, Mohandas Karamchand is an average man who finds himself, along with many others, in a particular historical and sociological configuration that sets him off on a life-altering path—towards becoming the Mahatma…

Padma Shri Giriraj Kishore founded the Institute of Technology Kanpur's, Centre for Creative Writing. He has been Convener of the Hindi Committee of Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, and Emeritus Fellow of the Ministry of Culture. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1992. Originally published in Hindi, this book has been translated by Prajapati Sah who retired as Professor of English and Linguistics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

In our Gandhi Studies and ILT sections, 1026 pages in hardcover, Rs 995. ISBN: 9788189738457.