Gandhi's Nanny State

Article excerpt

QUESTIONIs it true that when Mahatma Gandhi stayed in the London Hilton, he brought a goat to supply milk every day? WHEN Mahatma Gandhi came to London for the 1931 Round Table conference on the future of Indo- British relations, he chose to stay in the modest Kingsley Hall chapel in Bow - not the Hilton.

This was because he was a friend of the British social reformer Muriel Lester, who had visited Gandhi's ashram in India. She invited him to stay at the hall, a social centre that she helped to found, for deprived East End families.

While Gandhi had a modest room on the top floor, his milk-producing goat was tethered on the flat roof.

Gandhi became very popular with local families, who went to meet him at the chapel. He exercised every day by walking along the bank of the nearby canal.

The children particularly were fascinated by his white clothes.

A popular playground rhyme in succeeding years was: 'Where was Gandhi when the lights went out? Underneath the table with his shirt hanging out.' In the late Sixties, I visited Kingsley Hall and took some photographs of Gandhi mementos.

On the main wall there was an oil portrait of him, and his room had been turned into a shrine.

John Williams, Crawley, W. Sussex.


QUESTIONDo the troubles in the Middle East stem from the fact that the British government reneged on the promises made to the Arabs by Lawrence of Arabia? SIR Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, promised the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein ibn Ali, control of certain portions of the Ottoman empire in return for their help in expelling the Turks from their land.

McMahon's second letter, dated October 24, 1915, is crucial. It stated: 'The districts of Mersin and Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo cannot be said to be purely Arab, and must on that account be excepted from the proposed delimitation.

'Subject to that modification, and without prejudice to the treaties concluded between us and certain Arab chiefs, we accept that delimitation.

'As for the regions lying within the proposed frontiers, in which Great Britain is free to act without detriment to interests of her ally France, I am authorised to give you the following pledges on behalf of the Government of Great Britain, and to reply as follows: That subject to the modifications stated above, Great Britain is prepared to recognise and uphold the independence of the Arabs in all the regions lying within the frontiers proposed by the Sharif of Mecca.' McMahon's promises are seen by Arab nationalists as a pledge of immediate Arab independence, which was strongly supported by T. E. Lawrence.

They believe the undertaking was violated by the region's subsequent partition into British and French League of Nations mandates under the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916.

The ambiguity that rose from the letter concerned Palestine, which was not explicitly mentioned in the correspondence. The UK later promised to favour the creation of a Jewish 'National Home' in Palestine in the Balfour Declaration of November 1917.

In many ways, this declaration led directly to the present troubles in the former Palestine.

John Palmer, Chippenham, Wilts..

QUESTIONHas tickling ever been used as a form of torture? THE word tickle is probably derived from an old Scots dialect word, kittle.

The sensation of surprise elicited by tickling may be a warning mechanism against crawling animals, but it has an important social element. Tickling is defined by many child psychologists as an integral bonding activity between parents and children.

There is scant evidence it was practised as a method of torture, though it could induce respiratory failure through intense laughing.

In rituals of public humiliation, such as the stocks or pillory, tickling was a common torture. …