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Voicing an old truth

HEARTWARMING RESPONSE The audiobook, published by Charkha Audiobooks, an imprint of Karadi Tales, is the company's second venture in this new genre

HEARTWARMING RESPONSE The audiobook, published by Charkha Audiobooks, an imprint of Karadi Tales, is the company's second venture in this new genre  

When I first heard about the launch of the audiobook, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, I expected a predominantly Gandhian crowd. In my mind, I had already created an image of a gathering of khadi-clad septuagenarians, dotted with a few faces from the media. After all, from what I had seen around me, not many people seemed to still find relevance in the man dubbed the Father of the Nation.

When I arrived at the event, however, the number of faces that showed the presence of baby teeth pleasantly surprised me. Most of the chairs at Sapna Book Stall had been filled by dutiful parents and their mildly interested children. Still more surprises were in store through the event, all of which led me to believe that there was still hope for the Mahatma's message.

The audiobook published by Charkha Audiobooks, an imprint of Karadi Tales, is the company's second venture in this new genre. Having received enthusiastic responses for their first book, Wings of Fire, the company decided to plunge into this unexplored area with the obvious choice of Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography. The book is narrated by actor Nandita Das and features the voice of Shekhar Kapur as Mahatma Gandhi.

The launch was attended by Nandita and S. Satyavrata, President of the Gandhi Peace Foundation. As was expected, Mr. Satyavrata disseminated reams of examples on the greatness of the Mahatma. Nandita too did her part, recounting stories of how she had grown up under the influence grandparents who were contemporaries of Gandhi.

A couple of things threw me off guard though. The first was the unwavering silence that the crowd offered Mr. Satyavrata. Even little children, who I would not expect to sit still for more than a minute, sat bright-eyed for nearly a half-hour. The second, and more unusual, was his description of Gandhi as a film star. In a polite aside, he acknowledged Nandita's fame and the hordes of adoring photographers in her tow. But Gandhiji had gathered crowds numbering in the millions and was, in that sense, one of the greatest celebrities of the nation, he pointed out.

It is this same newness that I found appealing in the extract of the audiobook that was played at the launch. One of the common complaints that I have heard about the original autobiography is that it is "too dry" for the impatient young. The audiobook seeks to overcome this by summarising the original and adding sound and narration, creating textures that make the subject come alive. In the extract, the superior sound quality and excellent voice talent shine through. The excellent writing makes the first chapter, the assassination, so palpable that I can see the scene replaying before me. However, clarified Mr. Satyavrata, the summarised version is also a true rendering of the original work, and has not deleted or misrepresented any portion of it to create drama.

Nandita spoke of the need for reminders that might provoke changes in the way we live our lives. Perhaps, The Story of My Experiments with Truth has the potential to be such a reminder.

RAKESH MEHAR

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