Published: 01st October 2019
Gandhi Jayanti: Why Paro Anand's Being Gandhi is the bit of inspiration every young Indian needs
Famous children's author Paro Anand launched her new book Being Gandhi at the third edition of Neev Literature Festival 2019 and the response has been stupendous till now
My life sucks! Don't be shocked by these words, it is simply the title of the first chapter of Paro Anand’s new book, Being Gandhi. You might be wondering how contradictory the title of the chapter and that of the book are but, let me tell you, so are the book and your thoughts about it. Let me explain. Unlike most books for children that narrate stories of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi AKA Mahatma Gandhi's childhood, his freedom movement, politics and so on, Being Gandhi is a story of a teenager who ends up becoming Gandhi. Bottom line, it is not your typical book on Gandhi, it is so much more.
Take, for instance, the plot. The protagonist of the book Chandrashekar is easily irritated and for him, even a pimple would feel like the end of the world. That's why the first sentence of the chapter starts with 'The teacher is boring...'. He is bored with everything, especially the projects on Gandhi that his teacher allocates every year. But soon, he finds his tiny world shaken up by events that force him to find out more about the Mahatma. While digging deeper to learn about Gandhi, he finds one in himself. As a young boy, he asks himself if he wants to hate or love the people around him. He chooses to take the non-violent path instead of the divisive one.
Paro Anand feels that the principles of Gandhi are more relevant in the current times than in the 1940s. Talking about how she never thought about writing a book on Gandhi, she says, "Honestly, it was not my idea to write a book on Gandhi. Tina Narang, a publisher at HarperCollins Children's Books, approached me and asked if I would write one. My first reaction was a clear no. I told her that there is a lot of material on Gandhi out there already and there is nothing new that I can add to it. But her faith in me was so strong that she was sure of the fact that I could write something different. I thought of writing this book for a much younger audience. One day, I sat down and kept thinking about what I could write on Gandhi and suddenly, I had this aha moment."
Time to read: This book can help you adopt some of Bapu's principles even in the 21st century
Anand was sure that the book would not be about Gandhi, the man, nor would it be similar to what children are taught about the Father of the Nation. She explains, "I wanted to talk about what Gandhi said because that's what remains relevant even today. The story is a contemporary one, set in the 1980s where the politics of his times and Gandhi himself are long gone. But what he said needs to be imbibed in children now and in the future. According to me, this is a call-to-action book based on Gandhian thought and principles. It is not just for children, it’s for all the citizens of India and the world. I want people to think of the power of being a citizen and act accordingly."
When we asked Anand if any particular principles of Gandhi can be applied aptly to the current era, she says, "Absolutely! I always recall the quote by Gandhi, 'The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer'. Here, the act of kindness can refer to anything that we do. It might be refraining from throwing an empty chips packet or plastic bottle on the road and instead, disposing of them in dustbins. By doing so, you are keeping the roads and streets clean. If everyone follows this, then there will not be any garbage strewn about out there."