Nine years younger than Gandhi, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari or Rajaji was described by him as his "conscience keeper" and, at one time, as his "only possible successor". As his southern general, Rajaji campaigned for freedom, promoting khadi and prohibition. Though they shared nearly thirty years of colleagueship, hardship, friendship and kinship, when daughter Lakshmi married Devadas Gandhi, Rajaji remained throughout a man of his own mind. The eighty odd largely unpublished letters from this contrarian statesman to his leader, Mahatma Gandhi, and those to his son-in-law Devadas Gandhi and to his grandson, that are presented here come from family archives and public repositories and cover the years from 1920 to 1955, in the run-up to Independence and its early years. Described are the struggles and endeavours, large and small, made in the public arena, besides the inner world of friends, of home and hearth, with both spheres coalescing seamlessly. Frank, brave at times, bitter, the letters are remarkably free of recrimination or anything that would diminish the dialogue. Observed always is the healthy respect of the freedom to differ, to persuade, to agree to disagree, but never to let down or part. Complied, edited and annotated by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in a manner he believes his father, Devadas, would have approved, these letters are accompanied by a deeply felt and illuminating introduction. They offer us a rare glimpse into the lives of two of the tallest Indians of our age, when idealism rode strong but was also challenged.
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Gopalkrishna Gandhi was born in 1945, when Rajagopalachari was sixty-six. Over the next three decades, he oversaw his grandson's education, reading and commencement of a career in the Indian Administrative Service.
Gandhi has written a novel Refuge on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka that first appeared in 1987 and a play in verse, Dara Shukoh. His other books are The Essential Gandhi and Of a Certain Age, a collection of his biographical sketches on twenty notable Indians.
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