Gandhi’s formative years

79a5475a-21ac-11e3-8aff-00144feab7deRamachandra Guha at the Financial Times:

The city that really shaped Gandhi was Johannesburg, where he lived between 1903 and 1913. Following the end of the Anglo-Boer war, the gold-rich Transvaal was attracting immigrants from all over the world. Marauders and exploiters came to Johannesburg in search of wealth, eccentrics and free-spirits to escape convention or ostracism at home.

One of these dissenters was Henry Polak, a Jewish journalist sent out from London by his family in a vain attempt to thwart his relationship with a Christian socialist named Millie Graham. Gandhi first met Polak in a vegetarian restaurant; later, after Graham also came out, the couple were married with the Indian lawyer as a witness. The Gandhis and the Polaks shared a home, where fierce arguments raged about diet, religion, politics, and the respective merits of radicalism and meliorism. Another strong influence was Sonja Schlesin, his secretary. The Russian-Jewish Schlesin was an energetic feminist, who – like the Polaks – moved Gandhi away from his inherited social conservatism and patriarchy.

more here.