Author: Paro Anand
Publisher: Harper Collins India
“Come September and out comes the bald head wig, round glasses, white dhoti, tall stick … that’s about the extent of how today’s kids engage with the Mahatma. Chandrashekhar is one such teen, bored by the annual Gandhi projects, he wonders if his teacher is being too unreasonable in asking them to “”BE”” Gandhi.
And then, his world is shaken by events that rock him to the core, forcing him to dig deep and not just find his ‘inner Gandhi’, but become Gandhi. Not for a day or two. But, maybe even, for life. This is a novel that explores, not Gandhi the man or his life as a leader, but really the Gandhian way that must remain relevant to us. Especially today when the world is becoming increasingly steeped in violence and hate.”
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Paro Anand’s ‘Being Gandhi’ was described by a 12-year old as a story that “transcends age”. It tells the story of young Chandrashekar, a typical teenager to whom a pimple seems like the end of the world. The world around him takes a tumultuous turn as the streets fill with rioters, but he remains oblivious until problems literally appear at his door. He decides to tap into an assignment from his “most boring teacher”– to live as Gandhi for a week.
His growing perception of the Mahatma changes his outlook of himself and others as his helplessness drives him towards the understanding of the question, ‘What Would Gandhi Do?’. He decides that the Father of our Nation would not “sit in a huddle of silence”. This young boy takes action into his own hands. He aims to be “gentle and fearless”, to prove that peace and revolution can coexist at the same time, and to repeat the seemingly forgotten past.
This short novel will resonate with many. This book breaks Gandhi’s image down to blocks and allows children to reconstruct their image of him. I agree with the author when she says that Gandhi has been placed too far out of the grasp of children to the point where he is considered a god. Chandra’s journey should be an inspiration to all. While Gandhi may be gone and there may be “no British to throw out”, inequality remains. This inequality must be recognized. This recognition, especially by children, is one of the ways that these issues can be solved. Gandhi’s teachings do not tell us to start our own freedom movement but to fight evil at all levels. Chandrashekar’s gentle way of shaking the world was a call to action. It speaks directly to the reader, not just to those of a particular age or religion, but to all human beings.
‘Being Gandhi’ reminds us to examine our actions and those of others. To look at your own set of problems or somebody else’s with compassion. Chandra did not have to be the best student in the class to be a great practitioner of Gandhi’s philosophy. Everybody has heard Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you seek”, but Chandra learns to live by another: “In a gentle way you can shake the world”. He realizes that power and change lie in this statement and can inspire all to become leaders.