Nine Hidden Gems
Kumkum Somani
Kumkum Somani
age group: 
7+ yrs
Number of pages: 
value education satyagraha Mahatma Gandhi freedom struggle Dandi March
realistic fiction

As time goes on the memory of Gandhiji and what he stood is getting relegated to text books and the mechanical celebration of Gandhi Jayanti every year. And yet, the need to know about and understand the values he stood for is more imperative today than it ever was before. in today's day and age where leaders are self-proclaimed, where they acquire power for all the wrong reasons, where they preach but do not practice, Mahatma Gandhi's life stands out as a beacon of light. What kind of a person was he? How and why was he able to inspire millions of people to step out of their comfort zone and sacrifice their time, money and sometimes even their lives? How was he able to wrench freedom for the nation from the clutches of a powerful nation without any use of force? 

This compendium of nine little stories is a timely reminder to children who have heard of him, but not really understood him. Woven around the ideals of Bapu, as the Mahatma was lovingly called, the stories teach but do not preach. One learns of his selfless love and service for everyone - regardless of caste, community and status. 

In The One Rupee Coin, Munni wants to contribute the princely sum (at least to her) of one rupee to Gandhiji to support the freedom struggle. Her young son was killed by British officers, leaving her to bring up her orphaned grandson, Ali. She sets about determinedly to earn that money, but try as hard as she would the target seems elusive. Finally, fate plays a hand in helping her and she finds herself happily standing in the queue to hand over the money to Bapu along with other contributors, some donating as much as several thousand rupees! When her turn comes, she apologetically hands him the sum, saying, "You have done so much for all of us, Bapu. I really wish we could have given you more." Accepting the money from her wrinkled old hand, the Mahatma replied, "This coin is worth far more than a lakh of rupees."

A Marigold, is a story of Bapu's concern for the Harijan community. The story starts with a scene of friendship between a harijan boy and the young master of the house, Bapu is visiting a village where a grand reception is being prepared for him by the local zamindar. Gandhi, whilst appreciating the efforts made, informs the flabbergasted hosts and the guests assembled there, that whilst he appreciated all their love and effort, he would rather partake of his meal in the Harijan colony.

The Sharp Pen Knife is seem from the perspective of a British officer who has to stop Gandhiji's Salt March to Dandi. Just as he is about to leave from home, his darling little daughter cuts her finger with a knife. Seeing the blood ooze from her finger hurt him more than it did her. Whilst doing a lathi charge to disperse people coming in droves to the salt pans to  protest against the unfair British law on mining of salt, he accidentally hurts a little girl. Seeing the blood ooze from her tiny hand, he remembers his own little girl. Feeling remorseful, he realizes that Gandhi's philosophy of Ahimsa or non-violence was far more powerful and definitely made more sense than physical violence.

The stories are well thought out and touch a chord in one's heart.

A must read for every child!

Reviewed by Shamim Padamsee