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Gandhi Speaks (The Mahatma’s Words for Children)

Gandhi Speaks (The Mahatma’s Words for Children)
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Item Code: NAJ388
Author: M.K. Gandhi
Publisher: Puffin Books
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9780143330479
Pages: 122 (4 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8 inch X 5 inch
weight of the book: 105 gms

About the Book

 

Mahatma Gandhi’s words have been recorded in countless books and studied by many scholars. His writings and speeches about family, education, economy, religion and truthfulness hold as much relevance as they did during his lifetime and today, more than ever, they need to reach out to a new generation.

 

What did Gandhiji think about his own family and school life? What were his thoughts on the role of the youth in a nation’s life? What was his philosophy of Satyagraha, non-violence and truth? Can we emulate his actions and thoughts in the modern world? Children will find Gandhi Speaks inspiring, thought-provoking and pertinent. It is the perfect introduction to the thoughts and dreams that went into creating a self-reliant, independent India.

 

About the Author

 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) was a thinker, politician and leader. He shaped India’s freedom movement and led the country to independence in 1947. His ideas of non-violence and Satyagraha influenced resistance movements all over the world.

 

Foreword

 

I was twelve when Mahatma Gandhi, my grandfather, was killed in Delhi, the city where I lived with my parents, sister Tara, and two brothers, Ramchandra or Ramu and Gopal or Gopu. Though Delhi was not Gandhi’s home (in fact for much of his life he had no ‘home’), he spent many months in India’s capital in the final phase of his life.

 

Often he stayed with the ‘untouchables’ (he called them Harijans or Children of God) of the Balmiki community in their colony next to St. Thomas’s School on Mandir Marg. At other times he lived as a guest of Ghanshyam Das Birla in Birla House on what is now called Tees January Marg-a new name given to the road after Gandhi’s assassination there on 30 January 1948.

 

My siblings and I were often with him in the Balmiki colony or on the grounds of Birla House, especially for his open-air prayer-meetings, which were held at 5 p.m. On that fateful day, 30 January, however, a sporting event in my school (Modern School) prevented me and my brother Ramu (he was two years younger than me) from joining our grandfather. Returning home from the event, we learnt that he had been shot. Taken to Birla House, we had to fight our way past the large crowds that surrounded it.

 

We heard before reaching his room that he was dead. Surrounded by flowers, his body lay on a white sheet on the floor. My father Devadas, who was Gandhi’s fourth and youngest son, was sitting next to the body, as were my cousins Abha Gandhi and Manu Gandhi, on whose shoulders the Mahatma’s arms had rested while he walked to the prayer-site and met the bullets. Also near the body sat Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister, Vallabhbhai Patel, the deputy prime minister, and Lord Mountbatten, independent India’s Governor-General.

 

Everyone was shocked and grieving and yet quite calm. Prayer songs filled the room.

 

In that room, Bapuji (as I and most Indians of the time called my grandfather) had frequently teased me and my siblings. There he and my youngest brother Gopu, then two, had often made funny faces at each other. Once (this was in Balmiki colony) Bapuji had spotted a new pair of spectacles that I was wearing and asked whether I needed a new frame as well as new lenses. (I was hoping that he would not notice the new glasses but few things escaped him.) Fighting back, I said that he knew my eyes were bad. I think it was a good if incomplete answer.

 

We were seldom alone with our grandfather. People facing hardships linked to the Partition, and India’s new leaders facing daunting responsibilities, had a greater right to his time, and were often with him when we showed up. Though brief, our times with Bapuji were punctuated by hearty laughter from him. He was old and often fasting but his thumps on my back as I bowed to greet him or say goodbye were strong. I recall them to this day, when I am seventy-three.

 

Narayan Desai, ten years older than me, is the son of Mahadev Desai, who was Gandhi’s secretary and companion for twenty-five years. Unlike me (and most of the Mahatma’s grandchildren), Narayan spent a lot of time with Bapuji, first in Sabarmati Ashram (near Ahmedabad) and then in the Sevagram Ashram (near Wardha).

 

One thing that Narayan noticed was the Mahatma’s delight in being with children. Putting his hands on the shoulders of the boys, he would lift his feet off the ground and let the youngsters carry him for a while. And if someone had experienced grief, Bapuji would embrace the person ‘as if he was absorbing their agony into his own heart’.

 

His enjoyment of children has been captured for all time in two glorious photographs. One is of him kissing little Nandini, the niece of Pyarelal Nayar, who was also Gandhi’s secretary and companion. The other, aptly titled ‘The leader led’, is of Gandhi running to catch his grandson (and my cousin) Kanu, then about twelve, on the sands of Juhu beach.

 

Gandhi absorbed others’ sorrows and made them his own, and had his own deep disappointments, but he refused to dwell in gloom. A sparkle and a chuckle are inseparable from my images of him.

Why was he able to smile and laugh amidst sadness? Because he was convinced that our universe has been made by the Creator for goodness, happiness, beauty and justice. No doubt we often see badness, sadness, ugliness and injustice, yet these realities are weaker and less durable than their positive opposites. It was from daily experience that Gandhi concluded: ‘In the midst of death, life persists; in the midst of untruth, truth persists; in the midst of darkness, light persists.’

 

It would be an interesting exercise for youngsters (and, grown-ups) to ask, what was Gandhi’s greatest achievement? He led India to independence, many will say. He certainly did that. British leaders who tried to preserve their country’s Empire have acknowledged Gandhi’s critical role in its demise.

 

Jawaharlal Nehru gave a somewhat different answer. Gandhi, he said, removed fear from the hearts of Indians. Others have drawn the same conclusion.

 

Yet Gandhi was not fearless as a boy. He has told us that he was afraid of the dark, of robbers, of snakes, of ghosts. He has also told us that, by contrast, his wife Kastur (the two were married very young, as was the custom in those days) was naturally brave and quite calm about the things that frightened him.

 

The discovery that his young bride was braver than him was a big blow to Mohandas Gandhi’s male pride. But even in his boyhood and youth Gandhi possessed one remarkable quality: he observed himself. He recognized that he was afraid.

 

To recognize a weakness is to overcome much of it. He acted in spite of his fears, not because he felt no fear. There were steps he felt he had to take (such as presenting a written confession about theft to his ill father). He would take the steps because they were right, not because they felt easy or comfortable.

 

By monitoring himself, Gandhi was able to do formidable things. While honest about his weaknesses, Gandhi refused to lower his aims. He was confident that God and his compatriots would provide what he lacked but needed to reach his goals.

 

Because one man who was not naturally fearless obeyed his conscience, the backs of a whole nation were straightened, and their heads were held high.

 

Though not brave by nature, the boy Mohandas was unusual all right. His autobiography, where Gandhi refers to his timidity as a boy and to episodes of trembling before audiences, is misleading because it does not mention either his strengths or his convictions as a boy.

 

Those who examine Mohandas’s years in Rajkot before he went, as an eighteen-year-old, to study law in England will find that even the teenage Gandhi was troubled by four things: India’s subjection to Britain, the Hindu-Muslim divide, the injustice of untouchability, and the hardships of poor Indians. They will find, too, that Mohandas was something of a leader of the students of Rajkot.

 

Gandhi excludes these aspects of his boyhood from his famous autobiography. If we recognize these features, can we also see them as traces of the future Mahatma?

 

I do not know. Yet Gandhi seems to have had inklings, even as a boy, of difficult and possibly crucial demands on his life.

 

One thing is certain: Mohandas was given great love by both his parents. This love, and the trust they had in him, helped produce the confidence that enabled the older Gandhi to confront every threat and challenge.

 

So the Gandhi story is, among other things, an example of the impact parents can have, apart from also being an example of what an individual who makes up her or his mind can accomplish.

 

The youngsters who read these pages belong to a world which in many ways is very different from the one of the 1880s that Mohandas faced as a youth in Rajkot and London.

 

Yet some things are surely similar. Today’s youngsters also face troubling realities. Who knows what they will accomplish if they are ready to monitor themselves, if despite weaknesses they are willing to take on large goals, if they are able to make up their minds? May they be inspired by the Gandhi story and by his words in the pages of this book!

 

Contents

 

Publisher’s Note

vii

Foreword by Rajmohan Gandhi

ix

Parents and Family

1

Education

12

Truthfulness and Truth

29

The Charkha and Khadi

38

Satyagraha and Ahimsa

54

The Cooperative Movement and Self-Reliance

73

Trusteeship

84

Religion, Caste and Secularism

90

 

Sample Page


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