Published: 02nd October 2021
Gandhi with Gen Z: This book can help you learn life lessons from Gandhi's journey. Check it out
On a Voyage with the Greats was released in August 2021 and is written by Satyendra Singh. If you're waiting for something to change your life, this book could be it
Let's begin with a hypothetical question. Imagine you are a 24-year-old Indian who is now a London-educated lawyer, practising in South Africa. You're travelling in the first-class 'whites only' compartment and this is not going down well with the other passengers and eventually, you get booted off the train. Now, here are the ways Satyendra Singh predicts one would react, "Many of us would silently bear the humiliation while some would react with aggression." But when this happened to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, such a transformation ensued within that by harnessing its power, he began to be the change that he wished to see in the world. To understand this journey Gandhi undertook, Singh himself visited the Pietermaritzburg station about four to five years ago, trying to walk in the Mahatma's shoes. Because it's all about the journey that shaped Gandhi and went on to shape our nation as well.
On a Voyage with the Greats is the story of MK Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose and Swami Vivekananda and the path they walked to lead the nation towards freedom. Getting back to the hypothetical question and Gandhi, Singh informs us that the then young barrister never took the humiliation sitting down. "Once, in Durban, when Gandhiji was attending to a case in court, he was asked to remove his turban, a symbol of pride for Gujaratis. Aghast at this request, Gandhiji wrote a complaint in the newspaper. Everywhere, there are instances of him fighting back within the provisions of the law. This is where he devised the method for Satyagraha," says this first-time author who is now based in Nigeria.
It was about four years ago that Singh, who is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Roorkee, started thinking about writing this 170-pager. The data collection and travelling for research turned out to be an extensive process. "My research even took me to South Africa where I met Ela Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi's granddaughter and a South African peace activist). I was thrilled when she accepted my request to write the book's foreword," says Singh. Letters written by Swami Vivekananda, German and Japanese archives and travel reports of those who actually travelled with Bose in that submarine — Singh read through all of them and much more to strengthen the idea of the book. Google Earth also proved to be a great friend when it came to tracing the journey Bose undertook. "Every paragraph in the book is laced with anecdotes from each of their journeys — journeys the three undertook that shaped their personality and ideology," explains the writer.
The book cover
The idea behind the book was that readers may be prompted to deep-dive into their own lives after reading these interesting incidents that made and still make the trio so revered. "There is a disconnect between our rich history and what we actually study in textbooks. Now, we study just to get jobs. It is important that we are made aware of the journey of the greats," says Singh who hails from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. As there is so much that has already been written about Gandhi, Bose and Vivekananda, this is the writer's attempt to focus on their journeys alone in the hope that we can draw some inspiration from them.
Singh also addresses the so-called trend of belittling these national icons or appropriating them. "They are selectively denigrated and instances from their life are analysed in isolation, which makes no sense. There is a certain amount of care and judgment required to analyse their lives, we must not fall prey to these malicious campaigns," stresses Singh as he adds, "The ground rule is that all those who sacrificed their life for our freedom deserve respect."
Today, we might not be able to participate in the Salt March or walk alongside the soldiers of the Indian National Army, but we can reminisce about their journey via this book, which was released in August 2021, and probably take a leaf or two out of it as well. "As a grateful nation, all these icons should be celebrated," says Singh who goes on to say that we can expect more books from him, tracing the journey of other icons too.