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Gandhi as Mahatma

May 24, 2007

So I just finished my first year-long appointment assistant teaching an upper-level undergraduate course, “Gandhi’s India.”

Gimmicky title. Gimmicky course. You came to it if you wanted to learn about how bad the evil Brits were to us kala loug, or if you cared to know about Gandhi’s various OCDs and pathologies. One story goes that Gandhi used to use a pencil until it became so small that he could hold it no more. And even then he tried to use it. Or how Gandhi’s associates had to make elaborate arrangements for his goat’s milk, after he swore off cow milk. A classic quote from one of Gandhi’s friends, “it takes a lot of money to keep Bapu poor. ” To say nothing of Gandhi’s weird tests of libido restraint.

I knew Gandhi sold in Amrika, but had no idea how much. Especially in the city of New York, where anything that smacks of New Age, sells (and smells).

I remember when I was in college (that’s when we used to walk to class in chappals) modern South Asia courses couldn’t summon any more than 15 to 18 undergrads.

But here at Columbia, South Asia courses are phenomenally popular. So much so, that the first semester of Gandhi’s India had 170 kids on the first day. A concurrent course on the Modern Middle East apparently had about 300. 

These numbers are striking as are their difference from what I experienced in college, because my college was actually almost the same size as Columbia College. And I graduated ’04, so it was still a post 9/11 world. (Yes, I lied about the chappals).

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2007 5:15 pm

    This reminds me of a booklet I came across, I think it was titled “Gandhi: Saint or Sinner”. The booklet provided documentations to show what a fuddyduddy casteist Gandhi was.

  2. shayan permalink
    May 29, 2007 11:16 pm

    to take nothing away from his achievements, but the man himself was quite the gimmick.

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