M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man before the Mahatma

M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man before the Mahatma

M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man before the Mahatma

M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man before the Mahatma


In 1888, at the age of eighteen, Mohandas Gandhi sets out from his modest home in India. Shy, timid, and soft-spoken, he embarks on what he believes will be a new life abroad. Twenty-seven years later, at the age of forty-five, he returns--this time fearless, impassioned, and ready to lead his country to freedom.

What transformed him?

The law.

M. K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law is the first biography of the Mahatma's early years as a lawyer. It follows Gandhi as he embarks on a personal journey of self-discovery: from his education in Britain, through the failure of his first law practice in India, to his eventual migration to South Africa. Though he found initial success representing wealthy Indian merchants, events on the ground would come to change him. Relentless attacks by the white colonial establishment on Indian civil rights prompted Gandhi to give up his lucrative business in favor of representing the oppressed in court. Gandhi had originally hoped that the South African legal system could be relied upon for justice. But when the courts failed to respond, he had no choice but to shift tactics, developing what would ultimately become his lasting legacy--the philosophy and practice of nonviolent civil disobedience.

As he took on the most powerful governmental, economic, and political forces of his day, Gandhi transformed himself from a modest civil rights lawyer into a tireless freedom fighter. Relying on never-before-seen archival materials, this book provides the reader with a front-row seat to the dramatic events that would alter Gandhi--and history--forever.


To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India I come
as a pilgrim.

Martin luther king, jr., on the occasion of
his visit to India, 1959

The image the world has of Mohandas Gandhi is a stark one. Say the name “Gandhi,” and the listener invariably conjures up a vision of an elderly, unassuming, bald-headed man. He peers at us through well-worn wire-rimmed glasses, notable because they constitute one of the few items owned by one who has stripped himself of virtually all material possessions. As we see him, he wears not manufactured clothing from England’s factories, but plain, white, homespun cotton from India’s fields—and a minimum of that, too. He is an ascetic man: he prays, he keeps silence, he fasts, he refrains from wine, meat, and sexual relations. He knows the strength he has in the political arena is derived from decidedly higher sources: his clear and unswerving devotion to the cause of Indian freedom and a view of life that sees the spiritual as the underpinning of the political.

There is, however, another Gandhi. We find a photograph of him in the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. the place is Johannesburg, the year about 1905. in this picture a tie, a starched shirt, and a three-piece suit replace the homespun. a younger Gandhi, with a head of hair and a striking mustache, sits with authority in an office chair placed outdoors for the occasion of this photograph. Surrounding him are four members of his staff, including, on his immediate left, the smiling Sonja Schlesin, his longtime secretary, and, on his immediate right, H. S. L. Polak, his trusted associate.

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