That “mangy beggar” called Gandhi

Bareja – Ahmedabad, March 1930

Reporting on Mahatma Gandhi’s salt march, Ross has trouble reconciling the “ugly” man he meets with the politican’s reputation.

Ross was preparing to leave for Europe when he heard of Gandhi’s plan for the protest march against British rule of India. The article and the dateline of March 13, 1930 imply that Ross met Gandhi at the outset of the Salt March and mark the one instance on the whole 1928–30 trip that he reports on an important news event. His aim is to see Gandhi for himself, as he believes that a “great man”’s spirit always asserts itself in his appearance. Ross, the fawning admirer of strongman leaders from Hipólito Irigoyen and Pancho Villa to Adolf Hitler, finds Gandhi lacking during his short face-to-face session: a “mangy beggar” with hardly a tooth in his mouth. For a moment, Ross questions his perception, asking himself if he misjudges Gandhi, like the Pharisees did Jesus. But in the end the Indian people’s admiration of this man–witnessed, again, with his own eyes during a Gandhi speech–just drives home to him the irreconcilable alienness of the Indian people, their fervent Hinduist devotion and, more generally, “the Asian soul to the European sensibility”. As in other Ross articles from India, this alienness is associated here with the Hindu population’s devout belief in what he considers grotesquely ugly gods (see: Dangerous Broadway Melody).

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Begegnung mit Gandhi. Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung: 1930 Apr 6; 39 (14); 571.

Topic: Profession: reporter
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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