In March of 1948, a group of Gandhi’s closest associates led by Pandit Nehru, Vinoba Bhave, J. B. Kripalani, Maulana Azad and Jayaprakash Narayan, among others, met at Sevagram to reflect and deliberate on Gandhi’s assassination.
Sixty years later, in a contemporary and evocative response to that moving introspection, a group of scholars, thinkers and writers gathered at the Sabarmati Ashram to once again introspect on Gandhi’s death as absence and memory. In a unique fashion, it decodes the frozen meanings of the shock that the nation experienced and helps us feel Gandhi as a force within us, not as a specific individual who lived in history for a specific time.
This book comprises of these reflections, in all their hesitation, tentativeness, openness and counter-factual argument. Spontaneous and engaging, it raises some important questions—what is it to speak of Gandhi’s death? How do we understand the meaning of his assassination? How did the new nation comprehend the nature of his absence? Did his death burden us forever? Or did it in fact allow the nation and the state to explore new directions?
The sublime photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson that accompany the text, cover the story of the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination and his funeral—photographs that capture, as Sadanand Menon puts it, “not the portrait of any man, but the portrait of a nation in the deepest moment of its sorrow.” Be it the brilliantly composed image of Jawaharlal Nehru on the gate of Birla Ghar, delivering his moving ‘The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere’ speech, or the spontaneous rhythm of the crowds gathering around Gandhi’s funeral cortege moving through New Delhi’s Raj Path and Tilak Marg to the cremation site—the images provide visual testimony to the silence and intensity of the event.
Speaking of Gandhi’s Death is a contemplation—an unusual book of reflections, reminiscent of the person and persona of the Mahatma.