By Vishwas Heathhcliff
A new book by Joseph Lelyveld, the Pulitzer prize-winning former executive editor of New York Times, says Mahatma Gandhi, who was a great votary of celibacy, had been in love with a German-Jew architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach.
The book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India, quotes letters by Gandhiji to Kallenbach. “How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance,” Gandhiji wrote to Kallenbach, whom he met in South Africa. He nicknamed himself ‘Upper House’ and Kallenbach ‘Lower House’, and said cotton wool and Vaseline were ‘a constant reminder’ of Kallenbach.
Another letter to Kallenbach from Gandhiji quoted in the book reads: “Your portrait [the only one] stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom. The mantelpiece is opposite to the bed.”
It’s possible that Lelyveld has presented these letters out of context. But, I am not here to dispute the facts since I don’t know much about the Mahatma’s relationship with Kallenbach. So, I analysed Gandhiji’s handwriting. Here are a couple of points:
1) Does the handwriting show Gandhiji had homosexual leanings?
A writer’s sexual life is seen in the lower zone of his handwriting. The sample below shows that a homosexual person’s lower zone is sharply triangular. If you compare it with that in Gandhiji’s sample, you’ll find no similarity at all. Gandhiji’s lower-zone letters in the sample above are round. But before you make up your mind, read the next point.
2) Comparison with the handwriting of homosexual Oscar Wilde
- Oscar Wilde’s handwriting (Click on the image to enlarge)
It is well known that Oscar Wilde served time in prison for homosexual activities. Interestingly, there is some similarity between his handwriting and that of Gandhi. In the lower-zone letter, of course. In Wilde’s handwriting, look at the tails of y’s in “by and “you”. Normally, the tails take left turn and come up to the baseline, indicating a normal sexual preference. But in this sample, they turn right, reflecting some confusion as far as sexuality is concerned. Similar inverse tails of lower-zone letter g is found in Gandhi’s second sample (below). Look at “against” and his own signature “mkgandhi”.
The two samples of Gandhiji’s handwriting here are totally different. In the first one, there is no sign of any homosexual preference. But in the second, there is. So, what’s the conclusion, you may ask. I know you would like me to take a stand here and make clear whether Gandhiji was a homosexual or not. But in this case, I will sit on the fence, and would want to swing both ways.