You think you know Gandhi? My arse you do.
So the tenuous lead-in before the funny facts… Great South Africans was a 2004 TV show that looked to count down the country’s most important figures but was cancelled due to controversy for featuring too many apartheid figures and mis-representing what it meant to be a “great South African”. The fact you only had to have lived there for a time qualified people like Lord of the Rings scribe JRR Tolkien who was born in Bloemfontein but left when he was 3, and the focus of this piece, Mohandas Gandhi, who was born in India but worked there from 1893 to 1915.
While number one was no surprise – anyone else and there would have been uproar – the televised countdown only got down to number 11 before being cancelled. This meant the people at numbers 2-10 only got placed alphabetically…
1. Nelson Mandela, first president of post-Apartheid South Africa and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner (1918 – )
2. Christiaan Barnard, pioneering heart transplant surgeon (1922–2001)
3. F. W. de Klerk, former president and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner (1936 – )
4. Mahatma Gandhi, political activist (1869–1948)
5. Nkosi Johnson, child who died of AIDS (1989–2001)
6. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, politician and 2nd wife of Nelson Mandela (1936 – )
7. Thabo Mbeki, second president of post-Apartheid South Africa (1942 – )
8. Gary Player, golfer (1936 – )
9. Jan Smuts, statesman (1870–1950)
10. Desmond Tutu, cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner (1931 – )
In fairness not a bad mix of people. I just love when plaudits are decided alphabetically. “Here you go Mohandas, you get number 4 cause your second name begins with a G!”
Anyway, Gandhi is a fierce interesting bloke. Looking for proof?
- Though we all know him as Mahatma, his real name is Mohandas! Mahatma means “Great Soul” and is just a nickname hippies and lazy journalists gave him.
- Even better, in India he’s known as “Bapu”, which simply means “Father”. Simple answer next time someone asks you who’s the daddy. Gandhi. Mohandas Gandhi is the father. (tip of the hat to Andrew, WHO IS NOT THE FATHER).
- Some of his writing from South Africa is a wee bit racist –
i) “(Black people) are as a rule uncivilised — the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals.”
ii) “They’re loafers… a species of humanity almost unknown among the Indians.”
iii) “We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do… We believe also that the white race in South Africa should be the predominating race.”
iv) “(Indians are) infinitely superior”.
- Got married at the age of 13. TO AN OLDER WOMAN. The 14-year-old Kasturba. They were together for 60 years until her death in 1944 when, after an argument between father and son, it was decided they should no longer give her any penicillin. Oooooh, controversial.
- So turns out he really liked sex. And for a man who preached celibacy and restraint for huge portions of his life, he saw quite a lot of action. With lots of different women. A biographer, Joseph Lelyveld, called him a “sexual weirdo”. He often slept with young girls for “for bodily warmth at night“. Yeah right Gandhi. Most of this only really broke to the western media following a 1987 article in the Washington Monthly – “Gandhi’s Girls“.
- Did not like meat. Or booze. Hence the lack of a belly.
- Gandhi was not a fighter and preferred to sit and do something about it by doing nothing about it. His birthday, October 2nd, is now called the
Sit Around and Do Nothing DayInternational Day of Non-Violence.
- His glasses are worth nearly two million dollars. I can relate to having valuable specs as mine broke a few months ago and I spent $3.99 on some epoxy resin to fix them as they’re priceless.
- He was Time’s third ever “person of the year”, and the first non-American to receive the honour. Though Hitler and Stalin also joined that club by taking the prize in 1938 and 1939. Nice company to be keeping.
- He didn’t like the idea of Israel – “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs.” I haven’t liked the idea of Israel ever since the 1998 Eurovision song contest saw the gender-reassigned Dana International from Tel Aviv beat Ireland’s Dawn Martin.
- If he were from Dublin his name would have been abbreviated to Gando.
- After four failed attempts, this randy bunch of Hindu nationalists eventually killed Gandhi. They shot him three times at a prayer meeting on January 30th 1948.
- He is no relation to Indira Gandhi, India’s prime minister for four terms between 1966 to 1984. They share a surname and a place on the list of “people who wuz assassinated”.
- This also means he’s no relation to Indira’s son Rajiv (also assassinated, notice a pattern?) or her grandson, current Indian Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has not yet been assassinated.
- Ben Kingsley won an oscar for his portrayal of Gandhi in the 1982 film Gandhi. I thought he was better in Sexy Beast.
- In the featured picture at the top of this post (this one) he is probably touching his willy.
Could do with a burger:
How the hell is this all online: