Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is also known to the world as Mahatma Gandhi (Mahatma meaning great soul) wanted to be one with the most deprived in India. He wanted to live alone in an impoverished village in Maharashtra but was soon joined by many of his disciples and well-wishers. A Japanese monk, a Sanskrit scholar, and a professor all found refuge in Sevagram. The philosophy behind Sevagram (village of service) was that welfare was for all. It was here he continued to practice self-reliance and ahimsa(non-violence).
All duties were shared including cleaning of toilets by everyone, including Gandhiji. Meditation, yoga, household chores, spinning the Charaka or spinning wheel formed the rhythm of routine for all Sevagram inmates.
Sevagram is the setting for the story Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus with beautiful textural illustrations by Evan Turk. The book took a decade in the making. Arun Gandhi wanted to convey Gandhiji’s message of self-revelation by self-observation that could be understood by all.
The book starts with the arrival of the then almost ten-year-old Arun to visit his grandfather. He is aware that his grandfather is much revered and respected, almost God-like. Arun however, comes with a back story from South Africa where he lives. He is subject to beatings by the fair skinned colonials for being black and by the dark-skinned natives for being white. Caught between black and white he feels like the dust which shares his brown colour. He is filled with a silent rage, and anger bubbles in him as it would in a soon to erupt volcano.
He soon is part of Sevagram helping out and doing chores. When the time for his parents to leave comes they ask Arun to stay back and resolve his anger. All seems to be going well when one day he loses his cool during a game of soccer.
He comes to his grandfather confused and helpless by the anger that has overtaken him. He fully expects his grandfather to advise him perhaps through a story. His grandfather acknowledges that he too has felt anger. Arun is shocked. This saint too has felt anger? Gandhiji says that anyone who is subject to injustice will feel anger, but rather than feeling helpless it is important to use it as a tool for self-revelation.
He tells Arun unchanneled, blind anger will only devastate and yet if anger is used as a tool to better understand our inner selves it can be used to shed light for others.
Such a wonderful message to grow with. If one could rein in and channel the anger we can feel in a situation we can use it to create solutions rather than destroy the sweetness of a relation or everything around us. So often we feel anger rising within us like bile but if we can pause and use the learning it is trying to tell us we can make it part of the answer. Grandfather Gandhi is a highly relevant book in a time where violence is sought as the solver of Gordian knots.
As an extension of Grandfather Gandhi’s message, the writers are asking people to take the Life your Life as Light Pledge. The Pledge says:
The “Live Your Life as Light” Pledge
I pledge to listen to my anger, to see what it has to teach me.
I pledge to not bully or cause harm, with words or with weapons.
I pledge to look for the light, to see it in every situation.
I pledge to find my own unique tools and talents.
I pledge to forgive myself and others. I pledge to live my life as light
You too can take the pledge at the Grandfather Gandhi website.