By Reya Mehrotra,
“I don’t see the point of celebrating one man, one leader, year on year,” a 13 year old Chandrashekhar, agitated by the re-introduction of the nation’s father every year in academics, thinks. Out of perhaps a thousand books on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, analysing the man, exploring his life and immense contribution in driving India to freedom.
Paro Anand’s Being Gandhi caters to as much as the young readers as it does to the adults. Paro’s story encaptures the growing relevance of Gandhian philosophy and the need to revisit it with each decade’s passing and with each plague of social and political divide.
When we sat down to re-read the 2019 book published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2021 at Neev Literature Festival’s Reading Challenge for Junior Readers aged between 10-13, we reacquainted ourselves with the national leader’s ideology. Set during the time of the 1984 riots, the book sees a burning country from the eyes of a young teen.
There is something unique in the way Paro Anand approaches the book. This is not just another Gandhi book but a coming-of-age book on the Gandhian way of life – that forces the young readers to think what Gandhi would do if he were in place of them, just like the protagonist thinks.
Chandrashekhar steps into Gandhi’s shoes unconsciously and transforms from a new teen into a responsible, sensitive teen-adult who cares about those close to him.
It is that part in the book where he gives up his favourite ice cream for his mother, when he wants to save the neighbours being attacked by the mob, thinks of calling up his school friend Daman, who is a Sikh to check if his he and his family were okay during the time of the riots, that one realises the birth of Gandhi in his adolescent mind.