Graphic novels make for compelling reads. And a book on the Mahatma is no exception.
Who was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi? Today, we know him as the Mahatma, the Father of Our Nation. We remember his memorable quotes and read textbook passages on his greatness. Watchwords like Satyagraha, Ahimsa and Swaraaj surround and complete the picture of a man we’ve been taught to love, respect, remember. But do we know who he really was? Before he became a symbol, a saint, Mahatma Gandhi was a human being; a man who lived by example, a man’s story who can, even today, inspire and encourage. Perhaps this is the biggest purpose of Campfire’s graphic novel, Gandhi: My life is my message. Written by Jason Quinn and illustrated by Sachin Nagar, Gandhi:... brings to life a journey that is surprisingly humble, and immensely humbling.
A story told
Gandhi’s life feels rich, colourful and aptly contained in the graphic format. The illustrations, gentle and easy with light, sure strokes, feel perfectly suited to paint the portrait of a life that was at once both gentle and firm. The dialogues could have easily become stilted and out of place but are instead in complete and easy harmony with the story. The language, simple and effortless, makes the book an accessible, easy read.
Quinn’s careful and detailed research is apparent, peppering the book with previously unheard of anecdotes. Gandhi’s early mistakes, his follies and his uncertain experiments with his identity and nationality are laid out in the 200 page long biography. We read of Gandhi as a boy, eating his first, unwilling morsel of meat, influenced by peer pressure and friends. We see his reluctance to accept and internalise the caste system, and his loving, kind nursing of his invalid father. We see Gandhi transform from a shy lawyer who lands in Southampton wearing the wrong clothes and surviving on boiled cabbage to a national leader who could motivate and inspire millions.
Usually taught as concepts and ideas, it’s interesting to see when and how the seeds of Ahimsa, Satyagraha and Swaraaj were planted in the Mahatma’s mind, and easier to understand his motivations and actions, explained not through dry facts but illustrated panels.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the book is the section that details Gandhi’s time in South Africa. Usually skimmed over, this transformative period in Gandhi’s life is covered in careful detail, complete with his own awakening to the ideals that would stay with him for the rest of his life. We see how Gandhi, before Durban, South Africa, was only a shadow of the self he would become.
Small incidences, usually ignored by textbooks, are painted in full colour and detail in the book, and Gandhi’s encounter with indentured slavery, his first real public speech to the Indian community in Pretoria give the readers and insight into making of a Mahatma.
With no long passages dedicated to eulogising his greatness, the book becomes a personification of Gandhi’s own quote— “my life is my message”.
Though a factual, anecdotal account of his life from his birth in Porbandar on October 2, 1869 to his assassination on January 30, 1948, this book, by laying out Gandhi’s life in images, colours and conversations, manages to impart the wisdom, honesty and courage that symbolised and immortalised the Mahatma.
GANDHI: MY LIFE IS MY MESSAGE by Jason Quinn and illustrated by Sachin Nagar, Campfire, Rs. 399