Successive Viceroys, Secretaries of State and other British officials viewed Mahatma Gandhi as an enigmatic figure. Their difficulty of understanding the real Gandhi stemmed in part from the ‘cultural shock’ epitomised in the epithet ‘half naked faqir’ once ascribed by Winston Churchill to Gandhi. The West could not comprehend a political leader who wore a loin-cloth, drank goat’s milk, heard ‘inner voices’, and resorted to fasting to solve political problems. According to Syed Hossain, an Oxford-trained Indian nationalist, the most important thing about Mahatma Gandhi is not his body or what he wears, but his soul. Gandhism is simply a distinctive attitude to society and politics rather than an ideology. It was not really a difficult task to engage him in a conversation regarding his views on the caste system, for example, or the role of machinery in the Indian economy.
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