The book “The Boy Who Became The Mahatma” by Rajesh Talwar focuses on the childhood years of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that illuminate, as never before, his relationship with his mother, father and wife.
A story of personal growth, the play discusses how Mohandas, the child, may have made mistakes but always reflected on any such unworthy actions, took remedial action where necessary and strengthened his moral fibre as a consequence.
It moves on to discuss Gandhi’s life, as a young man fighting discrimination in South Africa. The last scenes focus on how the Mahatma not only fought for freedom from British rule, but also worked relentlessly against religious divisions and untouchability in India.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
It is late afternoon, on a Sunday. Once again, the five children are sitting on a stage that is otherwise empty, except for a few tables, chairs and benches. They are meeting today to review the rehearsal of the play to be staged by them for the school’s annual day function hardly three weeks away. School is closed but the children have come to school in order to rehearse. They are not wearing school uniforms today.
Sonia: Nice to see everyone without school uniforms today.
Hari: Yes, it is.
Monica: And since it’s a Sunday there will be no one to disturb us either.
Milan: Getting back to work now, how did you find the first few scenes?
Hari: I loved the first scene which explores Gandhi’s relationship with his mother. It appears to have been really special.
Karim: His mother appears to have been a very pure, loving person.
Sonia: Yes, there was something very saintly about her, wasn’t there?
Milan: You have brought out her character well, Milan.
Sonia: And the mother-son relationship as well.
Monica: Although, to be perfectly honest, she too followed discriminatory practices against the Dalits, something we discussed in our last play.
Sonia: That is true.
Hari: However, while Gandhiji loved his mother, in respect of her prejudice against Dalits, which was so common those days, he was not persuaded by her views even as a child. He had his doubts.
Sonia: That is also true.
Monica: The following three scenes were also interesting.
Karim: For me the second scene was the most fascinating.
Hari: The one about the cigarette smoking?
Karim: Yes, it’s the kind of mistake that so many young boys and girls make.
Sonia: I do think it’s so foolish to be smoking.
Milan: Fortunately, Gandhi and his relative realised this soon enough.
Sonia: Cigarette smoking is even more dangerous today than it was in Gandhi’s time.
Hari: Why do you say that?
Sonia: It’s because of the air-pollution in our cities.
Monica: So true, Sonia. Some months in the year, the air pollution is so high, just living in the city is like inhaling a packet of cigarettes. If on top of that you smoke cigarettes you are going to end up in a hospital very soon.
Milan: That is true. Perhaps we should also stage a play on air-pollution sometime.
Sonia: That’s a great idea Milan but coming back to the present play, what I liked about the cigarette scene and conversation was that it felt very realistic.
Karim: Even that business with the seeds.
Sonia: Yes, the whole incident was very childlike.
Karim: To be honest, Gandhi became a real living person for me through that particular scene.
Hari: It’s interesting that Gandhi as a young boy made the same kinds of mistakes that any young child might make.
Milan: What makes Gandhiji different is that he learns from his mistakes.
Hari: In other words, he learns not to make those same mistakes again.
Monica: He makes new mistakes, you mean.
Milan: Very funny, Monica!
Monica: Come on, I’m only joking. I’m sure Gandhiji would not mind.
Milan: That’s true, actually. Gandhi had a great sense of humour.
Hari: Was that really the case? You’ve read up about him, Milan. Give us an example.
Milan: When he went to meet the King of England, he went dressed in only a dhoti and shawl. The English people were quite scandalised because normally people dress up very properly if they have to meet the king. All kinds of dress protocol are there.
Hari: So, what was funny?
Milan: I’m telling you. When he came out, a journalist asked him if the king had made any remark about his clothing or lack of it.
Karim: And what did Gandhi say?
Milan: He said that there wasn’t a problem because, you see, the king was wearing enough for both of them!
Sonia: That was so clever! Wow!
Monica: And funny too!
There is laughter all around for a few moments.
Excerpted with permission from The Boy Who Became The Mahatma, Rajesh Talwar, Ponytale Books. Read more about the book and buy it here.