Spinning a yarn for the charkha
Reviewed by Harbans Singh

Music of the Spinning Wheel
By Sudheendra Kulkarni
Amaryllis. Pages 725. Rs 595.

Sudheendra Kulkarni
Sudheendra Kulkarni

One can wonder why a 700-page book on the spinning wheel of Mahatma should be written today and that too by someone who is a member of the BJP. Sudheendra Kulkarni has done that with the stated objective of drawing up a manifesto that inspires us to become internet satyagrahis. It is for the reader to judge the credibility of the manifesto provided, of course, he possesses the patience to go through the book.

The author explains of how he, like any of his generation, was introduced to the Mahatma and claims, unlike many more of his generation, how he became an early convert and not just a student writing an essay on the Mahatma to establish his sincerity to school activities. But for this book there is little doubt that the author has done a very exhaustive study of the man, his tools and means and his philosophy.

Without this it would have been impossible to attribute the multi-dimensional traits to the humble charkha. One always thought that this ordinary but potent tool of the freedom movement was instrumental only in bringing the Nehrus and the Ghissoo Rams on the same platform, without the former flaunting his riches and the latter ashamed of his poverty. But Kulkarni has added new dimensions by claiming that this charkha was the precursor of the internet. His assertion is, raved about by prominent people and flaunted in the book on its first five pages, even before the contents are displayed. It is also the hardest to accept for the author turns a blind eye to the baneful use that internet in particular and technology in general can be put when misused, whereas the same cannot be said of the charkha. The painstaking attempt of the author to trace the origins of not only the internet but also biotechnology, nanotechnology etc in the charkha can be a little embarrassing to even the most diehard apologists of Mahatma Gandhi and his creed. The fact that these assertions have apparently found favour with a galaxy of luminaries can be daunting and intimidating for the lesser mortals. In all honestly, in the face of these sweeping statements, first and foremost the first question that needs to be asked is that why has the author ventured into a subject who has been the object of contempt bordering on hatred among the Sangh Parivar? The author has dedicated the book to the "Poet Prime Minister" Atal Behari Vajpayee, to whom is attributed the credit of ushering in the computer age in India, it would be natural to be suspicious of the motives. People without amnesia would recall the first decisive steps of the country towards the 21st century under Rajiv Gandhi and the ridicule he was subjected to by, of all the people, Atal Behari Vajpayee. One notices that he has sought to place Deen Dayal Upadhaya, an ideologue of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, in proximity to the Mahatma. He also draws upon the authority of Mohan Bhagwat to propagate the good work of an organisation. It makes one believe it is a not-too-subtle attempt to appropriate the Mahatma and his legacy.