Meeting the Mahatma

Updated: 15 August, 2020 11:56 IST | Sukanya Datta | Mumbai

An online storytelling performance this Sunday traces the encounters and people who shaped the journey of the Indian icon

Gandhi with his secretary Mahadev Desai. Pic courtesy/Maps of India
Gandhi with his secretary Mahadev Desai. Pic courtesy/Maps of India

According to Vikram Sridhar, a 36-year-old storyteller and theatre practitioner based out of Bengaluru, Mahatma Gandhi is everywhere. "He's one of the very few Indians who's relevant across the country, spanning generations. He's in markets and roads named after him in most towns in India, in statues at crossroads, in our history books, and in our pockets," points out Sridhar. He adds that he found that the political icon had a local connect wherever he would travel, be it a school in Bengaluru or a museum in Kolkata. It is this localisation of the national figure that Sridhar will explore in his online storytelling performance, titled Mohandas to Mahatma Gandhi, on Sunday.

We've all grown up calling him the Mahatma, and, know of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's life from textbooks, films and biographies — from his advocacy for civil rights in South Africa, to the Non-cooperation Movement for self-governance and his fight to make available proper treatment for leprosy. But the people who make him the Mahatma are lost in the footnotes, shares Sridhar. "There is so much of him that was documented. And yet, we don't know of the encounters that he had with the people who influenced his life," adds the storyteller.

Vikram Sridhar
Vikram Sridhar

In his performance, which is facilitated by Art Khoj, Sridhar will trace Gandhi's journey through stories of these lesser-known people. "For instance, there is Parchure Shastri, who was suffering from leprosy, and whose condition inspired the establishment of the first leprosy hospital in India. Then there's Baba Amte who carried forward his fight to provide care for leprosy patients; and Mahadev Desai, his secretary [and often, known as Gandhi's Boswell], among several others who left a mark on his life," says Sridhar, who first performed the piece around four years ago.

Over the past few years, he has performed it only a few times, with a different version emerging every time. He adds that apart from delving into books and the Internet, he has sought out places the freedom fighter visited and gathered anecdotes from people like his former principal who met Gandhi. "Everyone seems to have a memory associated with him. And that's what makes him a folklore," shares Sridhar, who specialises in performing classical stories which include folklores, mythological tales and heritage narratives.

He will also be showing some audiovisuals of Gandhi, singing the song Vaishnava janato, playing the chodaki, and interacting with the audience through the chat option during the online show. "It's not a history class; I would like the viewers to question, learn more about him, and through all of this, be able to find the Mahatma in them, and around them," he hopes.

On August 16, at 7 pm
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Cost Rs 230

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First Published: 15 August, 2020 10:23 IST

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