Art

The man behind the Mahatma

Vikram Sridhar will present different aspects of Gandhi and the people close to him in a storytelling session, Mohandas to Mahatma Gandhi

Did you know that a tree planted by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi nearly 90 years ago still provides shade to people at the RBANMS school grounds in Halasuru? Or that the Mahatma travelled across India? “He signed his name in the regional language of the place he visited,” says Vikram Sridhar who will be presenting a one-hour storytelling session, Mohandas to Mahatma Gandhi online on April 18 at 6 pm.

For Vikram, an oral performance storyteller, speaking about Gandhi “need not be associated with a commemorative date or event. History has so many facts about Gandhi. Every Indian has a connection to Gandhi — some love him, some hate him and others have a love-hate relationship. There have been situations and people that have been special to Gandhi and had a positive impact on his thinking.”

Vikram has travelled to many of the ashrams Gandhi was associated with, including those in Baroda, Nagpur and Ahmedabad over the last one year. “Compared to Sabarmati, Gandhi spent more time at Porbandar, Nagpur and Sevagram,” he says. “I would like to share aspects of my study with people.” Vikram’s interest in Gandhi sparked when as a student he watched Kamal Hassan’s Hey Ram. “I have been to most of the places that Gandhi visited in India.”

Vikram has also researched some of the people close to the Mahatma including his personal secretary, Mahadev Desai who spent 30 years with him. “Academicians may know about him, but not the general public. In his diary Desai has documented interesting anecdotes about Gandhi including his food preferences. There are rare photographs as well. The diary in Gujarati records Gandhi’s concern for others. ‘When Gandhi woke up late in the night, he used footwear made of soft material so as not to disturb others’.” Desai was buried alongside Kasturba Gandhi at Aga Khan Palace in Pune in 1942.

When Gandhi met the Queen of Travancore, Rani Lakshmi Bai, he appreciated her simplicity. ‘“I am learning to be simple,’ he told her. This is referenced in Manu Pillai’s book as well.”

Thillaiyadi Valliammai was a teenager from South Africa who fought for India’s Independence. “Valliammai’s grand-parents were from interior Tamil Nadu and were migrant workers in South Africa. Although she had not lived in India, she always told Gandhi that she will fight for her motherland. In London, Shyamji Krishna Varma was responsible for Gandhi considering other schools of thought with regard to social and women’s equality. “There is a museum on Varma in Kutch.”

Gandhi’s care of Sevagram teacher, Parchure Shastri who had leprosy, went a long way in removing the social stigma attached to the disease. “Gandhi’s attitude transformed thought and paved the way for a leprosy hospital at Wardha near Nagpur.”

Vikram says he always asks children to observe and read about people and situations they grow up with. “Just as there were people who supported Gandhi in his journey, there could be a person who could enrich your life.”

Vikram is a corporate professional as well as a theatre practitioner. “My interests stretch from Ethnology to social work,” says Vikram who took to storytelling by chance. “During an official trip to Atlanta, we had a workshop on storytelling with a host of references to India and its folklore. On my return I shared a story from the perspective of a theatre person. That was the beginning of my exploring the art form.”

The one-hour storytelling performance on Zoom will also be available as a recording to registered participants for a day for ₹150. About the safety concerns on Zoom, Vikram says, “There is a password that would be shared with people who register.”

Mohandas to Mahatma Gandhi by Vikram Sridhar is on April 18 from 6 pm. For registrations, visit bit.ly/MohandastoMahatmaStorytelling.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 9:19:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/vikram-sridhar-will-present-different-aspects-of-gandhi-in-a-storytelling-session/article31366960.ece

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