This is more than a biography of an individual; it's a part of India's history. The life of Rajaji is intertwined with the country's struggle for liberation and the happenings in the post-Independence decades.

The author discusses Rajaji's life in three segments. First, the period up to 1937, when he took to the path of ahimsa while opposing the British; second, between 1937 and 1954, the years that saw him occupy several positions; and the third, from the late 1950s to 1972, the phase marked by a vigorous campaign against the Congress.

The book presents the illustrious statesman's life in a most readable format. To cite some of the significant events and interesting nuggets from his life: young Rajaji's fascination for wrestling led him to train under a Muslim master and both would go to worship a Hanuman idol close to his house; he gave up a lucrative legal career to become the Chairman of the Salem Municipal Council; displaying a rare courage of conviction, he employed a social outcast for supplying water in the Agraharam; and he found the correct Tamil equivalents for English terms with help from his friend, A.V. Raman.

Rajaji's strong support for the propagation of Hindi in the 1930s and his vehement anti-Hindi campaign three decades later; his call for Hindu-Muslim and Brahmin-Non-Brahmin unity; and his immense contribution to literature are brought out clearly. That Gandhiji wrote to Rajaji asking him to communicate with his son in Tamil, not English, comes as a revelation. Rajaji came out strongly against the police raid on E.M.S. Namboodiripad's house and confiscation of copies of his book, arguing that the publication did not incite violence or revolution but was only a piece of Marxian literature commonly read in England. Despite his ideological fight against the British, he as the Premier of Madras Presidency had a cordial relationship with Governor Lord Erskine, a fact commended by the Viceroy.

Equanimity

Rajaji was forthright and unsparing while espousing the causes about which he felt convinced. When serious policy differences arose with the Congress, he did not hesitate to break away and found his own party, the Swatantra Party. At the same time, he did not let his ideological differences come in the way of his personal relationships with the Congress leaders. He was one of those who strongly believed in and worked for the relations between India and Pakistan to be free from animosity and informed by good neighbourliness. An astute politician and statesman, firmly committed to Gandhian ideals, Rajaji held high official positions with a sense of equanimity, never swerving from the principle of simple living. In this book, Rajmohan Gandhi has provided an objective assessment of the life of a great son of India.

RAJAJI VAAZHKAI VARALARU: Rajmohan Gandhi, Translated into Tamil by ‘Kalki' Rajendran; Vanathi Pathippagam, 23 Deenadayalu Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 475.

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