Movies, books and plays have thrown light on Gandhiji’s role as a freedom fighter, statesman, mentor, husband and father; not much is know about him in his role as grandfather. Through this picture book, co-author and grandson of Gandhiji, Arun Gandhi, recounts his memories of the time spent with his grandfather at Sevagram, Gandhiji’s service village in Gujarat.
When twelve-year-old Arun arrives at Sevagram from South Africa, he is a conflicted child. He is aware of his grandfather’s towering stature and the demands on his time. Yet, like any other grandson he yearns for ‘alone-time’ with his grandfather. He is also weighed down by expectations of living up to the Gandhi name. Where a Gandhian is supposed to at peace within and without, Arun knows uneasily that he is fidgety and easy to anger. The young child’s frustration at never having enough time with his grandfather, his feelings of inadequacy and the conflict of his internalized emotions, come to a head during a soccer match when Arun gets angry enough to want to hit another child. He flees to his grandfather’s hut and confesses his failure to control his anger. How does a grandfather handle his crestfallen grandson? What is the piece of advice that Gandhiji gives Arun that defines his life?
This book, a collaboration between Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi, took years to write and the effort shows. The authors vividly bring alive a deeply personal encounter with honesty and deceptive simplicity. Few picture books cut across cultural and age barriers; this is one of them. Much like a magnifying glass that focuses the rays of the sun to start a fire, this book focuses on one incident from Gandhiji’s eventful life to bring home the greatness of his thinking.
Normally illustrations support a book; here they tell a story unto themselves. In the initial, factual part of the story, the illustrations by Evan Turk are figurative and enhanced by using khadhi to give a textural and three-dimensional effect. As the story progresses, the illustrator relies on shadows to reflect the emotions that are rife within the young Arun.
The truth of Gandhiji’s powerful homily will resonate deep within the every reader’s heart, be they young or old. This is a must-have book in your library.