07 May, 2021

Drinking From A False Glory

K.M. Munshi’s fiction did much to fashion a rigid Gujarati stand on history and identity. This novel, barring a new introduction, has little literary merit.

Drinking From A False Glory

KM. Munshi is the most famous Gujarati writer since Narsinh Mehta, the poet who composed Gandhi’s favourite hymn Vais­hnav Jan. But unlike Mehta, Mun­shi was bilingual. He studied and expressed himself (including in the Constituent Assembly, of which he was part) in English.

Munshi, who died in 1971, was a lawyer and politician. He was a Congressman, who left the party, the translators tell us, because he opposed Gandhi’s call for all Con­gressmen to dissociate from akhadas and other violent physical activity. He was a modernist and sided with Nehru and against Gandhi and Tagore in the Eng­lish versus mother tongue debate on the med­ium of education in government schools.

Despite his various activities, Munshi is most famous for his novels, which have educated and prejudiced generations. It is the very rare Gujarati individual who has not encountered Munshi’s stories. Debates (perhaps we should call them shouting matches) about Muslims in Gujarat will begin with Somnath, which was sacked a thousand years ago. Much of...

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