Had Gandhi stayed on in Gujarat he could not have outgrown his fastidious upbringing, says historian Ramachandra Guha, adding that his diasporic experience in London and South Africa shaped his philosophies in several vital ways.

Whether the comradeship of his colleagues in the South Africa Satyagrahas - Henry Polak, Thambi Naidoo and Ahmed Kachhalia – or the vitriol from his adversaries such as General Smuts, “they made him who he became,” said Mr. Guha at the launch of his new book ‘Gandhi before India’ on Friday.

In London, where he studied law, he also learnt the tools of propaganda and writing, not least through his friends in the vegetarian society. And he returned from South Africa in 1915 as a practitioner of Satyagraha, armed with “moral courage” borne out of two physical assaults on him, and a belief in “religious pluralism,” said Mr. Guha.

To deeply understand Gandhi “you have to look at him from the perspectives of his friends, followers – and also his adversaries,” Mr. Guha said. Asked about the origins of the appellation of “Mahatma”, Mr. Guha said that he saw Gandhi not necessarily as a “Mahatma” but as “a great man who was not without flaws… And the reason we know about his flaws was that he told us about them,” he added.

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