Pramod Kapoor’s book is full of illustrations and photographs which transport the reader into the world of Mahatama Gandhi and his ideologies.
Let me make a confession here which may not be very well taken by some members of the society. Yet, I’d like to be completely honest here. I am not a big fan of Gandhiji. Yes, I have read about him and I admire his dedication, devotion and service to the nation. But that’s where it ends. So, when I received an illustrated biography on Mahatma Gandhi, I wondered what was new. After all, we have read so much about him all our lives that I believed that there was nothing new to learn.
I sat down to examine the illustrated biography which had been written and curated by Pramod Kapoor, the publisher of Roli Books. The first thing that I noticed was the thickness of the paper and the collection of photographs. The book begins with a photograph of Gandhi. On the next page, is a colourful photograph of a pamphlet printed in the pre-Independence era which showcases a non-violence tree with the faces of important leaders of the time. On the subsequent pages, a timeline of Gandhi’s life is given.
As I was reading the book, my 13-year old daughter came into the room. She wanted to look at it. ‘Wow, the pages are so thick,’ she said. As she explored the book further and saw the photographs, she sighed, ‘ I wish they could give these kind of photographs in our school books. Then the lesson on Gandhiji would have been become so interesting.’
I agreed to her point of view. The photographs in this book are probably the lifeline of the book. They transport the reader into the world of dandi marches, handwritten elaborate letters, satyagraha and the era of Gandhi. The letters have all been photographed and reproduced in their original form. Almost all of us have learnt about these letters at some point in our education about the father of the nation, however looking at them in their original format is an insight into the language used in those days. The interesting part of most of these letters whether the one written to Adolf Hitler, urging him to stop the war or the one written to his own father were that many of them were typewritten. While browsing through the book, I discovered a diet plan that Gandhi had sent for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose wherein he had talked about how he believed drinking tea or coffee was not important for good health, instead he considered fresh, unboiled milk from the cow as the best food. He also wrote to Bose that garlic and onions were good for his health.
The book is punctuated with anecdotes from Gandhi’s life and also talks about women and men who followed Gandhi. The list of women includes Dr. Sushila Nayyar, Esther Faering, Millie Graham Polak, Margarete Spiegel amongst many others. However, the book though traces the life of Gandhi but it does not look to sell the Gandhian ideology to anyone.
Reading this book is not difficult particularly because it is photograph and illustration intensive rather than being text intensive.
The point is you may or may not like Mahatama Gandhi but you cannot ignore the man since he is considered the father of this nation. This book seems to be a product of Pramod Kapoor’s penchant for publishing ‘larger than life’ books where he spares no effort in creating a book which can be time and again taken out from the library for conversations about India, Gandhi and the past.
However, there is something that I have always wondered. Pramod Kapoor himself has said that Gandhi was a great problem solver and in fact Raj Kumar Hirani’s movie ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ was based on ‘Gandhigiri’. Why is it then that no one has written a book about how to solve problems the Gandhi way? It is great to keep revisiting history but why cannot someone use lessons from the history to enhance the future of the nation, which I am sure Gandhi would have loved, had he been alive today.
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All images courtesy Gandhi: An Illustrated Biography, Pramod Kapoor, Roli Books.
This article was published in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit section on 23 November, 2019