In an exclusive story this week, Shankar Vedantam, a staff writer and columnist ("Department of Human Behavior") for the Washington Post, was able to contribute to our collective understanding of Mahatma Gandhi.
According to Vedantam, only two speeches that Gandhi gave in English have been recorded. One was from the 1930s and, as described in "Saying His Peace":
Recently, however, the second speech surfaced in -- of all places -- downtown Washington. It had been lovingly preserved for 60 years by John Cosgrove, a former president of the National Press Club. Cosgrove's copy came from Alfred Wagg, a journalist who recorded the speech in New Delhi and produced four 78-rpm LPs that included both Gandhi's voice as well as Wagg's own commentary about the Indian independence leader. Cosgrove discovered the significance of the recording during a chance encounter with Rajmohan Gandhi, when the author came to the Press Club this past spring to promote his new biography.
Gandhi's speech -- made with the uneven diction of an elderly man who sounds as though he has lost most of his teeth -- had the same themes he visited over and over throughout his life: the importance of nonviolence, the eradication of the caste system in Hindu society, amity between South Asia's Hindus and Muslims, and a world united against violence and exploitation.
"A friend asked yesterday, did I believe in one world?" Gandhi says at one point in the speech. "Of course I believe in World One. And how can I possibly do otherwise? . . . You can redeliver that message now in this age of democracy, in the age of awakening of the poorest of the poor."
Read the rest of the piece here. You can listen to the recording below and then watch his grandson and biographer, Rajmohan Gandhi talk about the recording and about his grandfather.
Asked how get got this scoop, Vedantam told SAJAforum via e-mail: "Serendipity + luck. I happened to be at a dinner table with Rajmohan Gandhi when John Cosgrove came by to introduce himself." And the rest is a piece of recaptured history. Vedantam wrote a guest "On Faith" column for WP & Newsweek.com.Listen to the Gandhi recording:
Rajmohan Gandhi talks to Shankar Vedantam about the recording:
Rajmohan Gandhi talks to Shankar Vedantam about the Mahatma:
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