Exhibition-cum-sale on Gandhi's works, at Hutatma Chowk, ends today

A week-long book exhibition-cum-sale organised at Hutatma Chowk by Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, which ends today, proves that Gandhiji’s teachings are still relevant today

In this digital age, it is a known fact that books are experiencing a slow death. But the scene at Hutatma Chowk, the business centre of the city, has been different since January 27. During office hours people stopped by at the temporary stall, erected here by Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, and took notice of the paintings, books and quotes on Gandhiji.

Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal’s book stall at Hutatma Chowk. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal’s book stall at Hutatma Chowk. Pics/Bipin Kokate

To commemorate the 66th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, Gandhi Book Centre and Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal jointly organised an exhibition-cum-sale to make Gandhi accessible to all. The exhibition which takes place every year for a week, leading to Gandhiji’s death anniversary, will display books until today. More than 250 books, written by Gandhi himself and on him, and books by Vinoba Bhave and B R Ambedkar are on sale.

Bapu’s admirers go through books written by him and on him
Bapu’s admirers go through books written by him and on him

All the books offered are available in four different languages Hindi, English, Marathi and Gujarati whereas Gandhiji’s autobiography is available in eight languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Urdu, at the stall. According to a representative at the Gandhi Book Store, 5,350 books worth Rs 3.67 lakh were sold within three days of the exhibition and Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of my Experiments With Truth, has sold more than 1,800 copies in all languages, but majority in Marathi.

At the stall, people read about Gandhi’s life
At the stall, people read about Gandhi’s life

The stall’s manager, Prem Shankar Tiwari, says that since the last 20 years, the number of youth buying Gandhi’s books has been consistently increasing. “If Gandhi’s teaching were not relevant, we wouldn’t be seeing growing number of sales of our books, especially with the youth. His teachings and lessons are clearly applicable in today’s day and age.

Teachers Gajanan Shimple (L) and Madhukar Shinde
Teachers Gajanan Shimple (L) and Madhukar Shinde

We do these exhibitions every year, with the aim of spreading Gandhiji’s message. We want to reach maximum number of people; hence we sell the books at a discounted price. This is done to facilitate those who otherwise could not afford the books. Even 66 years after his death, people are curious to know about his way of life, people are open to learn and more importantly people are tired of the current atmosphere of the country and are desperate for a change,” he says.

Stall manager Prem Shankar Tiwari
Stall manager Prem Shankar Tiwari

Walking past the stall, lawyer Deepak Pande, who had previously never bought a book by or about Gandhi, says, “The only time I read about Gandhiji was during my history class in school. Today I have bought a book on village industries and I am hoping to learn a great deal from it. With the corporate environment that we work in, there is no satisfaction. I was always interested in cottage industries but either books on it were not available or were highly priced. I feel Gandhi’s teaching makes more sense and it is very simple and easy.”

Shahid Sheikh, a commerce student from Maharashtra College, feels that it’s wrong to think that youth are not interested in the Mahatma’s teachings. “Everyone says, ‘Ismein toh jawani ka josh hai, yeh nahin samjhega Mahatma ki baat’ (he is a young blood and he will not understand the Mahatma’s teachings). The fact is we are not given opportunities to understand his teachings. In this city, where corruption is everywhere, I don’t know how one can use Gandhi’s teachings without getting mocked.”

Andheri resident Preeti Shah, a mother of two, says, “Mahatma Gandhi’s life and philosophy interest people even today. But I don’t know how useful it can be in today’s dog-eat-dog world. I would prefer my children to be street-smart, than lead a simple life without materialistic things. Before this I hadn’t bought a book on or by Gandhi, the only Gandhi connection I have is khadi. Though I am not a Gandhian, I do hope he is not forgotten.”

Primary school teachers Gajanan Shimple and Madhukar Shinde jointly believe that in today’s culture, only with movies like Lage Raho Munnabhai can Gandhi’s teachings reach a larger audience. Shimple says, “We buy the books to learn and we eventually pass on the information to our students. But students should willingly come forward and ask questions about Gandhiji, and that is when we will see the change.

With movies like Lage Raho, the phenomenon of Gandhigiri catches on and children would want to rediscover Gandhi.” Shinde adds, “Hence we have to make the information-telling more interesting. Movies and documentaries are the best way to teach someone. If the youth are always on the phone, there should be a Gandhian values app or game. It’s not traditional but it will have an impact. Only then can we keep Gandhi alive, or else I feel he could soon be extinct.”

For more information:

From prisoner to preacher
According to TRK Somaiya of Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, Laxman Tukaram Gole’s life story is an example of how Gandhi’s teaching can affect and change somebody. He says, “Gole had been convicted in 18 cases ranging from extortion, half-murder, life threat and possession of weapons. While serving his sentence at Arthur Road Jail, he came in contact with workers from the Mandal, who provided him with Gandhiji’s autobiography.

After being influenced by the book, Gole confessed to his crimes in a letter he wrote to the court. Though Gole had already served a major portion of his sentence, after a penalty was paid by the Mandal and considering his good conduct, his sentence was curtailed and he walked a free man in February 2008. Soon after his release, he joined the Mandal and started teaching Gandhian values to prisoners.”

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