Mira and the Mahatma by Sudhir Kakar


Mira and the Mahatma by Sudhir Kakar – the title gives the impression of Mira’s story. In fact, is the story of a British girl who left everything at the age of 33 to be with Mahatma Gandhi. And live life as per his ideology. That story sure runs through the book. But is nothing more than her longing and devotion for Gandhi just like her namesake had for Lord Krishna.

But more than that the book is about Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram and the life thereof. His experiments, his character, and the way he made people live life the way he chose it for them.

Mira and the Mahatma by Sudhir Kakar

Mira and the Mahatma by Sudhir Kakar

The story of Mira and the Mahatma begins with an effort to etch Mira’s character in Britain. Her longing for Beethoven, her reading the Gandhi’s biography, and then after a few exchanged letters, her decision to leave everything and go and live in his Ashram. As she spends more time with him, she yearns more for him. And she does get more favors from him than the rest of the inmates.

Narrated Story

The story has been narrated by Navin, who was the Hindi teacher for Mira during her stay in Ashram. Navin is someone who had left a rich background and his literary interests for the Ashram. It talks about her learning the ways of the Ashram. Learning Hindi, learning to spin, and growing up to become Gandhi’s personal assistant. Mira took care of his personal needs during their travels together in various parts of the world. She kept longing for him, kept getting rejected and most of her life used/directed by Gandhi.

Eventually, she falls for another man called Prithvi Singh. He was the man who spoke one-on-one with Gandhi and did not hesitate to challenge him and tell him that he had failed in getting freedom for India. But at the same time, while he was in Ashram, he followed all the rules and regulations of the Ashram. He knew the fact that women were attracted to him. But like a simpleton from Punjab had his own notion of the woman he wanted to marry. The irony was that he kept treating Mira as his sister, like the rest of the women at Ashram. Finally, she left India and settled down in Europe. The book does not mention when did she go back.


According to Sudhir Kakar, Ashram was Gandhi’s laboratory, where he did different types of experiments. He experimented by making people live with the bare minimum necessities taken care of. Made a lot of rich people give up all they had to come and co-exist with the less privileged. He made spinning the ‘Charkha’ as his logo or signature activity to give the message of self-reliance. Experimented with various diet regimes on the Ashram residents.

Keenly observing the effect of each dietary component, going to the extent of examining the stool the next day. Most of the people were made to eat raw food with a minimum of cooked food. Not that people enjoyed it. But they would do so for the devotion that they had for Gandhi.


What is interesting is that his wife Kasturba did not really participate in the experiments. She goes to the extent of saying ‘ One Mahatma in the family is enough’. Though the book Mira and the Mahatma does not say so, I am not sure if Gandhi himself followed these strict diet regimes. He used to get himself massaged with ‘Desi ghee’ every evening. Mira used to take care of his meals, in the Ashram and while he traveled. She used to ensure that the food was not only hygienic and clean but also according to Gandhi’s taste.

An interesting point is when the narrator goes back home after a long stint at the Ashram and eats the normal food cooked by his mother. He realizes what had he been missing in life and how he cherished eating that food.

Buy Mira and the Mahatma by Sudhir Kakar on Amazon India

Brilliantly Written

The book Mira and the Mahatma has been brilliantly written by Sudhir Kakar. It does seem dry in a lot of places. I guess that has to do with the subject and not the narrative. The story is well woven between the three main characters Gandhi, Mira, and Navin the narrator. All other characters make a guest appearance off and on in the story.

One of them is Premchand with whom the narrator worked in Lucknow. Of course, there is a backdrop of the freedom struggle going on at that point in time. You get some not so well known perspectives of that time.

I am not sure how much Gandhi succeeded in making a difference in the lives of the underprivileged or Harijans as he called them. But he definitely made a lot of people who had everything, live like one of them…:-)

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  1. Rightly said. There are a lot of perspectives in Gandhi’s life that have been masked. He was a great politician. I think he himself was not comfortable with the name ‘Mahatma’. Our own historians have quite carefully masked all his very human sides, particularly romantic one and even his family life. He was a well-known lawyer in those days and had exposure towards all the good things in life. His relationship with his sons was strained to say the least. One should rather remember him as a miraculous leader. I think nobody in India would ever see that kind of popularity. He was a statesman. A wonderful leader who commanded respect of a whole nation. But then he was human too.

  2. In the movie “Gandhi” , Gandhi referred to Mira as his sister on the very first interaction when she came to Ashram for the first time..just an observation…

  3. If you ask me he comes through as quite a jekyll and Hyde personality. What we read of him and from him is very different viv a vis what is projected of him as ‘father of the nation’


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