Fan of Western Wear to Half-Clad Fakir: The Man that Gandhi Was

A sneak peek into Gandhi’s thoughts and opinions before he became the Mahatma.

2 min read

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(This article was first published on 2 October 2018. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary.)


Bapu, Father of the Nation, Leader, and Visionary. Gandhi was known to don many hats. But who was the real Gandhi? Was he a flawed man?

Did you know that long before he preached vegetarianism to the world, he had secretly relished meat. Long before he spun khadi and taught us Indians to be self-reliant he had forced his wife and children to sport Western wear. Gandhi's striking confessions in his autobiography, The story of my experiments with truth, reveal the man behind the Mahatma.


The Mahatma Who Believed in Equality of Sexes Was Once a Jealous Husband

Gandhi says in his book that:

“‘If I should be pledged to be faithful to my wife, she also should be pledged to be faithful to me,’ I said to myself. The thought made me a jealous husband. Her duty was easily converted into my right to exact faithfulness from her, and if it had to be exacted, I should be watchfully tenacious of the right. I had absolutely no reason to suspect my wife’s fidelity, but jealousy does not wait for reasons.”

It took a long time for Gandhi to realise that he was wrong in doubting his wife and he rectified himself which resulted in a long marriage with his wife Kasturba which was filled with mutual respect for each other.


From Relishing Meat to Preaching Vegetarianism

We all know that Gandhi was all for vegetarianism, but it is rarely known that there was a time when he secretly relished meat. He ate meat for the first time when one of his friends forced him. Initially he didn’t like the taste but gradually he acquired a taste for it, turning a meat addict. He also believed that Britishers were strong because they ate meat while Indians were weak because they didn’t consume it.

Later, his mother egging him on to take up vegetarianism, when he was going abroad to pursue education, helped him understand the significance of vegetarianism and became instrumental in shaping the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence).


From Being a Fan of European Clothes to a Being Proud Half-Clad Fakir

Gandhi strongly believed once that to have some influence in a society one needs to wear European clothes. He wanted his wife and children to dress in Western wear. But later he understood the power of self-reliance and taught the entire world how to spin the charkha and make Khadi.

“I believed that in order to look civilised, our dress and manners had as far as possible to approximate to the European standard. Because I thought only thus could we have some influence, and without influence it would not be possible to serve the community. I therefore determined the style of dress for my wife and children. How could I like them to be known as Kathiawad Banias?”

From nurturing lustful thoughts to relishing meat, the man Gandhi was stood in stark contrast to the Mahatma he later became.

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