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Last Updated 15 July 2010, 09:53 IST

Mahatma Gandhi – The Early Days
Publisher – Amar Chitra Katha
Price Rs. 30

Gandhi Speaks – The Mahatma’s Words for Children
Publisher – Puffin Books
Price – Rs. 125. 

Mahatma Gandhi. A name synonymous with the Freedom Movement, non-violence, dignity for all and self-reliance. But who was the man behind the larger-than-life persona? What was his childhood like? What were his innermost thoughts, about the subjects closest to his heart?

Here are two books that help you understand the Father of our Nation; books that almost make you feel you have met him personally.

“MAHATMA GANDHI – THE EARLY DAYS” published by Amar Chitra Katha starts with an anecdote each about Gandhiji’s grandfather and father respectively. These men were truthful, loyal and courageous – inspiring awe in the nawabs and thakores they served. Gandhiji inherited their ideals, and the ability to inspire awe.

The story, told in an easy-to-read illustrated format, goes on to highlight important incidents in Gandhiji’s childhood. We learn how Gandhiji’s mother Putliba cheerfully fasted to earn God’s blessings. We learn of a turning-point in Gandhiji’s life, when his father demonstrated the power of non-violence. As a young man, Gandhiji once helped his elder brother steal a piece of gold to repay a debt. Instead of scolding his sons, Karamchand Gandhi wept silently. Mohandas’s remorse was deep – much deeper than it would have been had his father punished him. It was his first experience with Ahimsa.

The book then takes us on a journey to England, where Gandhiji studied law and took violin lessons. We also see instances of Gandhiji facing racial prejudice in South Africa, and refusing to prosecute those who physically assaulted him, choosing to change society’s outlook instead.

The early history of the Satyagraha Movement; the return to India and various meetings with political luminaries; and the setting up of the Sabarmati Ashram are all brought to life. We learn of Gandhiji’s visit to Punjab after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The book closes with the words ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki jai’ uttered at the Indian National Congress session in Amritsar in 1919.

“GANDHI SPEAKS” published by Puffin Books, is interesting for several reasons. Since it is meant for the youth, the cover and inside illustrations are by high-school students. One painting depicts Gandhiji holding a cricket bat!

The foreword is by Rajmohan Gandhi, Bapu’s grandson. He gives us a glimpse of Gandhi the grandfather – including the fact that Gandhiji often made funny faces at two-year-old Gopu, Rajmohan Gandhi’s youngest brother! We learn that, as a child, Bapu was afraid of the dark, of robbers, of snakes and of ghosts.  He learnt to be courageous by observing his wife, Kasturba, whom he married at the age of 13.

The book contains extracts from Gandhiji’s writings in various journals and books. It covers his views on eight topics: “Parents and Family”; “Education”; “Truthfulness and Truth”’; “The Charkha and Khadi”; “Satyagraha and Ahimsa”; “The Cooperative Movement and Self-Reliance”; “Trusteeship”; and “Religion, Caste and Secularism”.
We get deep insights and ageless wisdom in a few simple, well-chosen words. Sometimes, Gandhiji provides straightforward solutions to the country’s most pressing problems. Sometimes, he talks about his personal philosophy and experiences. Always, he encourages and inspires the young citizens for whom he has written these words. Each section begins with a brief introduction by the publisher, putting the individual pieces into historical, social and personal perspective.
So, go ahead! Read – and meet Bapu!

(Published 15 July 2010, 09:53 IST)

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