New Delhi: The heroes of modern India have come alive in their human avatars in a new anthology of biographical sketches by noted writer and former governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
The volume, 'Of A Certain Age', profiles icons like Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Kriplani, Jayaprakash Narayan, Jyoti Basu, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and the Dalai Lama who have influenced the country's destiny with their contributions.
It probes their frailties, fears, strengths and throws up little-known facts - oddities and qualities that made them legends.
In his opening essay on grandfather Mahatma Gandhi, the writer lends Gandhi a homely and down-to-earth air with a vivid description of a domestic quibble between Mohandas and wife Kasturba.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi quotes from a record penned by Mahatma Gandhi himself.
"When I was staying in Durban, my office clerks often stayed with me...One of our clerks was Christian, born of 'panchama' (untouchable) parents...The house was built after the western model and the rooms rightly had no outlets for dirty water. Each room had a chamber pot."
"Rather than have these cleaned by a servant or a sweeper, my wife and I attended to them," Mahatma Gandhi wrote.
The clerks who made themselves completely at home would clean their own pots, but the Christian clerk was a newcomer and Mahatma Gandhi said "it was our duty to attend to his bedroom..."
Kasturba and Mohandas fell out over the cleaning of a 'untouchable' pot. Gandhi dragged Kasturba to the gate of his house after a fight and threatened to throw her out.
"For heaven's sake, behave yourself and shut the gate. Let us not be found making scenes like this..." Kasturba screamed.
Gandhi put on a brave face and mused, "If my wife could not leave me, neither could I leave her..."
According to Gandhian historian Pyarelal, Kasturba and Mohandas Gandhi were a "couple out of the ordinary", the writer says in his book.
Pyarelal, owned along with the Gandhi papers, an tangible but almost inexhaustible fund of Gandhi episodes that he narrated with delight, Gopalkrishna Gandhi says.
The writer, who joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1968, had served in several key positions in the country and abroad. He was secretary to then president KR Narayanan and retired as the governor of West Bengal.
He has authored three books -- 'Refuge', a novel based on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka in 1987, 'Dara Shukoh', a play in verse, and 'Essential Gandhi', a compilation.
The book published by Penguin-India costs Rs 499.