Forgotten Books: Mira and the Mahatma

Sudhir Kakar’s Mira and the Mahatma depicts the relationship between India’s Father of the Nation M.K. Gandhi [revered as the Mahatma (or Great Soul) in India] and Madeline Slade, the daughter of a British admiral, who was so influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy of life that she became one of his most ardent disciples, earning for herself the sobriquet of Mira, the legendary devotee of Lord Krishna who left her home and worldly comforts because of her devotion to the Lord.

Attracted after reading a biography of Gandhi, Madeline starts a correspondence with Gandhi and expresses a desire to join him in his ashram. Gandhi explains the difficulties in taking up such a course and asks her to first get used to an ascetic kind of living. Madeline does so with aplomb and soon is on her way to India. Living in the Sabarmati ashram with Gandhi and the other inmates is a dream come true for her but after a time her desire to serve the man turns into a need to be close to him all the time. As she comes precariously close to crossing the boundaries both have laid down for themselves, Gandhi tries to distance herself from her. Baffled by his behaviour, Mira is hurt and things get more complicated as the Revolutionary Prithvi Singh enters the ashram and her life. The powerful  Prithvi Singh saves Mira from a raging bull and awakens in her all her physical desires…

Kakar’s book is an interesting read in the lesser known (and more human) traits of some of India’s legendary figures but seems too hurried in the end.


First Line: It was in June 1968, during the hottest part of the summer when invitations to attend conferences and seminars in cooler climes are most welcome, that I flew to Vienna to attend a conference on ‘Asian literature in the age of decolonizaion’.

Title: Mira and the Mahatma

Author: Sudhir Kakar

Publication Details: ND: Viking, 2004

First Published: 2004

Pages: 267

Other Books read of the same author: None


The book might be available in libraries. I borrowed it from the College Library.


Submitted for the following challenges: New Authors, South Asian, Wishlist.


Entry for Friday’s Forgotten Books

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