Rediscovering the Mahatma
- November 1, 2005
I have been hopping from one city to another for the launch of an audiobook adaptation of Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’.
There was a lot ‘INTENT’ everywhere, considering Shekhar’s was the voice of Gandhi and mine that of the narrator!
The tagline read- ‘Rediscovering the Mahatma’- and it truly was that for me. Throughout the recording sessions for this audio book and thereafter the launch events, it was a personal journey of rediscovering Gandhi and finding new meanings in his words. I had read the autobiography which was presented to me by my maternal grand father who was part of the National Movement and was very close to Gandhi himself. In fact, my grand mother was with Kasturba in jail and taught her English so that she could read her name written by Gandhi on the envelope that came all the way from South Africa. But reading the autobiography now had a much deeper meaning for me. I guess all the experiences, dilemmas, struggles and some amount of insights through the years have added to deepen my understanding of what Gandhi talked about.
During the launch events, I was often asked if I prepared for the narration or what kind of challenges did it pose in front of me. Well, I have no dramatic story answers as I am simply a narrator, a sutradhar. But what was special was how the process reaffirmed my beliefs and was a gentle reminder of the many things one often forgets in the crazy world we live in. I remember while recording, Shobha (one of the scriptwriters and directors for this project) and I would get into long discussions, forgetting the recording task at hand. We would often be overwhelmed by the fact that such a person did exist and was really so special. I couldn’t help wishing that I was born at that time. Going by the re-incarnation theory, may be I was!
We may have done a disservice by putting him on a pedestal, and distancing him from us such that we find it difficult to be like him. An ordinary young man who was a poor student, then a mediocre lawyer who had desires like everyone else to fit in to the English society by being a pucca Englishman, evolved into an extraordinary human being, who used all his experiences to polish his soul, question his motives and commit to the values he held dearly. The power he wielded through his uncompromising conviction in the values of truth, non-violence and love is the reason why thousands and thousands of people followed him. The ordinariness and greatness almost begs us not to merely make an idol of him but to become him.
In the course of the launches in various cities, I met quite a few people who have been silently and dedicatedly carrying on Gandhi’s work on a very large scale. It is sad that they are not our celebrated heroes and their work goes unnoticed. May be it’s because we have become way too ‘celebrity centric’, where the media blames us for wanting it and we blame them for giving it.
The launch at Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad was almost a spiritual experience. It is a serene place and the evening atmosphere with the Sabarmati flowing silently and the chirping birds filling the sky to return to their nests was almost a surreal image. The speakers were mostly Gandhians and a large part of the audience comprised young school and college girls.
I have always felt that Gandhi’s philosophy is more relevant today than ever before. The various interactions reaffirmed the desperate need for us to trust in the possibility of truth, non-violence and compassion; and believe they hold the key to everything that we yearn for. Knowing and doing are two entirely different things, so the challenge really is to go beyond the knowing and truly imbibe the values that Gandhi lived and died for. That would be our humble tribute to him.
I feel honoured to be part of the audio book and hope that it can in a small way remind us of the Gandhi we have forgotten. Since reading habits are declining, the attempt is to create a simultaneous audio experience which almost takes you back in time. The soulful music and background score by “3 Brothers & A Violin”, which features some of Gandhi’s favourite songs and verses, makes the CD even more special.
All in all, it is a wonderful way to begin a rediscovery of the Mahatma. The audio book is available across major retails stores in India and also available online at