My novel Kurinji Flowers is set during the years before and during the second World War and the struggle for independence in India. The photograph here shows Mohandas Gandhi in 1939, just before the war.
Here is a scene from Kurinji Flowers – at a public meeting when the ideas of Gandhi are being discussed:
After the spinning demonstration, a stout man, clothed in white khadi cloth, addressed the crowd in Hindustani, in an aggressive tone. A bit of a rant. Beside him, another man translated his words into Tamil, giving Hector time to translate into English for my benefit. The gist of it was that khadi was not just cloth, but the living symbol of Indian history, heritage and pride, the means of empowerment of the Indian people and the way to free them from the rule of the British. He quoted Gandhi, saying, “The wearer of khadi is like a man making use of his lungs”. While he spoke, the women carried on spinning, oblivious to his words. I couldn’t help thinking it was an over-claim that a homemade spinning wheel and some rough cloth might be the means of bringing about the overthrow of the British Empire. I was even less convinced once he got onto the topics of sexual abstinence, poverty and diet. It turned out I wasn’t the only one. When the speaker finished, a man hidden from me by a pillar began a slow handclap. I leaned forward, trying to see him, but the pillar blocked my view. When he spoke, his accent and his perfect English signalled he was British, but his words proved he was not.
‘Very creditable, sir. Far be it from me to criticise Mr Gandhi, but it’s will take a lot more than spinning cotton at home every day to drive the British from our country. It’s just a distraction, a sideshow and a diversion from the real issues at stake. We’ve been dragged unconstitutionally into declaring war by our colonial masters. And all you want to talk about is spinning thread and living in an ashram.’