Gandhi Jayanti Special: The Art of Solitude

It was almost two years ago when artist A Ramachandran was flipping through the images from DG  Tendulkar’s book Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

author_img Rewati Rau Published :  02nd October 2021 07:09 PM   |   Published :   |  02nd October 2021 07:09 PM
Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti

Mahatma Gandhi

It was almost two years ago when artist A Ramachandran was flipping through the images from DG  Tendulkar’s book Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

A particular photograph caught his attention — Mahatma Gandhi staring into emptiness, sitting next to his wife Kasturba Gandhi’s corpse. Ramachandran, who has always been deeply influenced by Gandhi, decided to sketch a fresh set of portraits, albeit presenting the Father of the Nation in a different light.

The artist’s latest works, exhibited at Defence Colony’s Vadehra Art Gallery till October 10, reveal postures and expressions of Mahatma — his loneliness; his humility; his infinite compassion; his grit and courage; his sorrowing sense of loss for what he encounters around him, particularly the death of his wife Kasturba — in a never-seen-before way. 

Titled Gandhi: Loneliness of the Great, this exhibition showcases about 20 works of the Mahatma in pens, brush, and ink drawings, completed during the artist’s two-month sojourn in Mumbai between December 2019 and January 2020.  

“The photographs in Tendulkar’s Mahatma were very telling — they show the evolution of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to Mahatma, from early times to his last days. That is when I could see the vulnerability of the great man,” says the 86-year-old artist, who lives and works at his studio located in East Delhi’s Artist Colony.

Influencing early childhood

Growing up in pre-independent India, Ramachandran’s early years were replete with talks about Gandhi.

“From childhood, I have heard about Gandhiji and was brought up on his ideals. Then when I went to Santiniketan, I learnt how he influenced my teacher Nandalal Bose as well. Gandhiji motivated him to adopt local mediums of expression. He changed the art movement by suggesting that artists work around the environment of rural India and not the urban culture,” says Ramachandran, one India’s most prominent artists.  

Legacy of a leader

A Padma Bhushan awardee, Ramachandran always admired the person that Gandhi was, not the politician. Equating him to the Buddha and Jesus, the artist says, “When Gandhiji became an active political leader in India, he changed the way he dressed and his character. He travelled by third class and identified with the poor unlike other political leaders.

That itself is a courageous act for any politician. He lived a life of simplicity and made himself a role model. He practised what he preached. Everything about him is unique — he spun his own cloth, boycotted foreign goods, his non-cooperation movement against the British, Satyagraha, the non-violent movement.” 

Arun Vadehra, founder of Vadehra Art Gallery agrees, “There is no better quote on Gandhi than by Albert Einstein: ‘Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth’.”

Understanding his loneliness 

Ramachandran believes that someone who is as unique as the Mahatma will always be lonely. He says, “All great men are ultimately lonely. They can only practise their high morals and tough ideals on themselves and not on others.” 

This, the artist explains, is because not everyone can be as virtuous as them. He concludes, “The moral ground on which they [people like Gandhi] operate is high and such ideals cannot be practised by ordinary people.”

Reading Corner

A perspective on Gandhi

October 2 marks the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi — the legendary personality whose struggles and resolution helped India gain independence. On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, check out these page-turners that highlight ‘Bapu’ beyond his political persona.

Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer

Publisher: Signet Press

Price: Rs 269

A moving biography of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s hard-won struggle for Independence.

Gandhi’s Delhi (April 12, 1915 — January 30, 1948 and beyond) by Vivek Shukla

Publisher: Anuugya Books

Price: Rs 180

An illuminating tale that highlights facts about Gandhi’s time in Delhi

The Story of my Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

Publisher: Fingerprint! Publishing

Price: Rs 99

This autobiography is a window into the workings of Gandhi’s mind. 

The Good Boatman: A Portrait Of Gandhi by Rajmohan Gandhi

Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Price: Rs 350

A grandson of Gandhi attempts to understand the phenomenon that the political icon was.

Gandhi Before India by Ramchandra Guha

Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Price: Rs 387

Based on archival research in four continents, this book explores Gandhi’s experiments with dissident cults, his friendships and enmities and his failures as a husband and father.