Gandhi and Savarkar in north London

KRISHNAVARMA COVER BOOK BY HITESH BHANUSALI

 

MK (‘Mahatma’) Gandhi, born in Porbandar (Gujarat) visited London in 1906. He spent the first two days of his stay at India House, the hostel in Highgate founded in 1905 by Shyamji Krishnavarma (born in Kutch, now part of Gujarat).  Gandhi did not see eye to eye with Krishnavarma and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was living in India House. These extracts from my book “IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS” describes Gandhi’s meetings with Krishnavarma and Savarkar.

 

Extracts

During October 1906, India House received one of its most well-known guests. On the 20th of that month, MK Gandhi arrived at Waterloo Station, having recently disembarked from a ship that had carried him from South Africa. He was met by the father of Henry Polak (Gandhi’s South African associate), Lewis Ritch, and others of his followers. They travelled together to India House, where Gandhi spent two nights. After that, he moved to the now long-since closed luxurious Cecil Hotel, which used to stand in the Strand. During his stay in London, he attended at least three of the Sunday evening meetings held every week at India House. These meetings were to discuss matters connected with India, to celebrate Indian festivals, and to allow Indians in London to socialise…

… Savarkar was not friendly to Gandhi when he visited India House in 1906. He strongly disapproved of this visitor’s thoughts and actions throughout his life. It is said that on one of Gandhi’s visits to India House, Savarkar, who loved prawns, offered some to the vegetarian visitor, who politely refused them. Savarkar said to Gandhi:

Well, if you cannot eat with us, how on earth are you going to work with us? … this is just boiled fish … we want people who are ready to eat the Britishers alive…”

Incidentally, Shyamji Krishnavarma was, like Gandhi, a strict vegetarian. He preferred cooked food and had his favourite food, mung dal (a lentil preparation), sent from India. Also, he avoided onions and chillies. Regarding food at India House, especially as it reached its final year, Asaf Ali wrote:

Within a fortnight of our stay in India House, Rauf [Ali’s brother] and I decided to move out of it. For here food served there defied description. And here were Madrasis, Mahrattas, and Punjabis, each so far apart in tastes…”

Gandhi had not come to Highgate to discuss eating habits with the young revolutionary Savarkar. The future Mahatma, who had praised the work of Shyamji, wanted to confront and argue his case with Shyamji, who had been very critical of the assistance that he had offered the British during their war with the South African Boers.

On one of his visits to India House (Sunday 21st October), Gandhi spent the whole day there. During the day, he spent time talking to young Indians. In the evening, he spoke with Shyamji. One of the matters that particularly concerned Shyamji was the forthcoming election of the President of the Indian National Congress. BG Tilak, whom Shyamji admired, was one of the candidates. The ‘moderate’ Indian nationalists favoured Dadabhai Naoroji. Shyamji tried to persuade Gandhi to dissuade Naoroji from standing. However, Gandhi felt that Naoroji was the right man to be President. In November 1906, Shyamji wrote an article in Indian Sociologist, condemning Naoroji. He made comments such as:

We have ample evidence to show that Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji is ever ready to oblige his Anglo-Indian friends at the cost of his country … Mr. Dadabhai is allowing the great reputation he made in the past to damp down the aspirations of the Indians of today … How long does Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji expect that the Indian people will continue to be hoodwinked by him?

Three years later, Gandhi published a booklet called Hind Swaraj. It was, in part, a thinly veiled criticism of the extremists like Shyamji and Savarkar.

 

End of extracts

 

IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS” by Adam Yamey may be bought here:

https://www.bookdepository.com/IDEAS-BOMBS-BULLETS-Adam-YAMEY/9780244203870

AND here:

https://www.amazon.com/IDEAS-BOMBS-BULLETS-Adam-YAMEY/dp/0244203873/

Also on KINDLE

And (in India only):

https://pothi.com/pothi/book/adam-yamey-ideas-bombs-and-bullets

 

Picture shows Krishnavarma on a book by Hitesh Bhansali

Two famous vegetarians

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A photograph of Mahatma Gandhi stands above a fire place in the home of the great paywright George Bernard Shaw at Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire. Gandhi, born in Porbandar in Gujarat, met Shaw in London in 1931.

Both of these great men were vegetarians. Shaw said: “Animals are my friends . . . and I don’t eat my friends.” And Gandhi said: “To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.  I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body“. 

While Gandhi never visited Shaw at his home, Jawaharlal Nehru did in 1950.

In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour politician, is also a vegetarian. I wonder what Shaw would have thought of him and whether he would have put Corbyn’s photograph on his mantle-piece.

 

 

Quotes from https://shawsociety.org/Sri.htm

 

Going vegetarian in Gujarat

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There are many vegetarians in India, particularly in Gujarat.

I am primarily an omnivore, who enjoys meat and fish.

In many of the places we visited on a seven week visit to Kutch and Saurashtra, it was difficult or even impossible to find restaurants serving non-vegetarian food. I spotted street stalls where omelettes were made to order – and they are very delicious – and barrows where un-refrigerated kebabs were on display in the hot weather, awaiting grilling.

In Kutch, I enjoyed the delicately prepared, tasty vegetarian thalis. In Saurashtra, thalis were less attractive to my taste because of their oily-ness and over use of sugar or other sweeeners. However, Gujarat is a paradise for snackers. All over Gujarat, you will find places selling a variety of delicious farsan (savoury snacks). My favourites include: dhokla, patra, ganthia, sev, bhel puri, chewda, dahi puri, khandvi, and pani puri.

Therefore when I wanted something more substantial, I resorted to eating readily available South Indian specialities such as dosas and curd vada. Or, I ordered pizzas. The pizzas, which would look strange to a Sicilian or a Neapolitan, were delicious despite the fact that the cheese used was not remotely similar to mozzarella. I suspect it was often the industrially prepared Indian Amul product. By the way, Amul was a dairy company established just after Indian Independence in Gujarat, inspired by ideas suggested by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, an important statesman and politician born in Gujarat. Getting back to the pizzas, what made them delicious was the tomato sauces used on them. These were not run-of-the-mill out-of-the-can industrial products. They were usually sauces made in the restaurant using fresh tomatoes and herbs and appropriate spices. Indian Chinese food, even if vegetarian, is also an option.

Well, although I am not a fan of veg food, many people fall in love with the various meat-free and egg-free cuisines of Gujarat.

 

Going vegetarian in Gujarat

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Travellers visiting Gujarat should be aware that the majority of food served in the state is vegetarian. In bigger places like Ahmedabad and Baroda, finding non-vegetarian food is less of a problem than in smaller places. If you visit Bhavnagar, the Nilambagh Palace Hotel serves very good food – both veg and non-veg. Many people hanker after Gujarati thalis, but I am not one of these people. Those who are not on the Gujarati meals can easily find well-prepared south Indian vegetarian food like dosas, idli, and vada. Pizzas are also widely available, often with excellent tomato sauce made with fresh tomatos. 

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Gujarati thali

Another thing to consider when planning your trip to Gujarat is that it is a dry state: alcohol is not served in any public places. It is possible to get a permit (I have no idea how) to be allowed alcohol ‘for medical purposes’ (!)  Gujaratis and others desperate for booze can cross the border into either Daman or Diu, both of which were Portuguese colonies until 1961. Now they are administered not by the State of Gujarat, but by the Central Government of India – they are Union Territories. Alcohol is freely available at almost duty-free places in these tiny places, both of which are well-worth visiting.

 

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A mug of chhas

If you are thirsty, there are plenty of soft drinks available including the refreshing watered down yoghurt drink chhas (also known as ‘buttermilk’). Tea is the prevalent hot drink. We found it hard to get decent coffee, let alone any coffee. Most Gujaratis in Kutch and Saurashtra seem to be keen tea drinkers.

 

Discover more about journeying through Gujarat in Adam Yamey’s new book:

GUJ LULU PIC
Paperback available from lulu.com, Amazon, bookepository.com, Kindle, or order it from your bookshop [ISBN: 978-0244407988]