Gandhi was a saintly man, but he was not a particularly great father. He was too demanding of his children, too controlling, too quick to push them away when they were not exactly what he wanted them to be (which was impossible).
It is sad that the man who was so kind and patient and forgiving, such a father figure to so many, could not be those things for the people who loved him the most, who most deserved that from him. But this is why we study the lives of the greats and not-so-greats–they provide us lessons, both inspiring and cautionary.
Gandhi’s great biographer Ramachandra Guha captures many of these lessons in his books Gandhi Before India, and Gandhi: the Years That Changed the World. He’s also tried to integrate them into his own life, along with the lessons of his own parents (you can listen to our interview with him on The Daily Stoic podcast). In an interview about the books with The Week from back in 2022, Guha explained:
“I am not a perfect father. If you have spent so much time on your work, you have probably not spent enough time with your children. Of course, I am attached to them, I speak to them every day when they are not in the same town. I am not an awful or negligent father. I have not ill-treated or beaten them. My father, on the other hand, was an exemplary father. He did not work as hard as me and he spent a lot of time with his children. But how I have been as a father is for my children to say. All I can tell young people is that when you find a romantic partner, do not be restricted by caste, religion, language or sex. But try and find someone who has slightly different interests than yours; it will be mutually enriching. That has been my experience.”
We just have to keep trying our best. We try our best to learn, to grow, to change. Only they can say whether we succeeded.