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2,00,000 experiments with truth sold a year

As the world marks his 60th death anniversary, thousands are still buying his autobiography to try and get an understanding of the man who went from becoming MK Gandhi to simply the Mahatma.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2008 13:35 IST

Sixty years after he was assassinated, Gandhi lives. Not just in textbooks and speeches but also through his autobiography "The Story of My Experiments with Truth" which continues to sell an incredible 200,000 copies a year.

As the world on Wednesday marks his 60th death anniversary and remembers the man who lived and died for his mantra of nonviolence, hundreds of thousands of people are still buying his autobiography to try and get an understanding of the man who went from becoming Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to simply the Mahatma - or the great soul.

"Love for Gandhi and his ideology has not faded even 60 years after his death. Every year we sell about 200,000 copies of his autobiography," said Jitendra Desai, managing trustee of Navajivan Trust, copyright owner of all his works.

"His autobiography was a bestseller, is a bestseller and will be a bestseller in the coming years," Desai told IANS.

Interestingly, Kerala accounts for nearly half of all the copies sold in India.

"Nearly 100,000 copies are sold only in Kerala every year, followed by Tamil Nadu. The credit goes to the high literacy rate as compared to north Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar," added Desai.

The first edition of Gandhi's autobiography was rolled out by the trust in 1927 in Gujarati. It is now available in Assamese, Bengali, English, Hindi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Urdu and Punjabi.

Indian language versions of the 452-page work are offered at Rs.30. The hardbound version costs Rs.120.

The book is widely sold across the globe as well with various publishing houses possessing copyrights. China and Russia are among the exceptions, Desai said.

The royalty from global sales goes to the Navajivan Trust according to Gandhi's wishes.

"His family has not at all profited from the royalty. If they publish something regarding Gandhi they give the money to the trust," Desai said, adding that the Navajivan Trust gives 35 percent of royalty money to the Hari Sevak Sangh, which looks after the welfare of the underprivileged.

Given the enormous popularity of Gandhi's autobiography, it is evident that the youth are following Gandhism more than perhaps their elders did, say experts.

"The youth is finding Gandhi's principles more relevant today to combat modern day problems like violence. For instance, thousands of young boys and girls are working with me in spreading the message of peace," said Nirmala Deshpande, a noted Gandhian and a social activist.

Vinod Tyagi, a reader in Delhi University and a former member of the Gandhi Bhawan Committee, agreed: "Apart from his autobiography being a bestseller, the overwhelming response from students to the newly introduced course - Reading Gandhi - says it all."

"The truth is that we hesitate in utilising Bapu's ideologies practically, but the youth do not," added Anil Dutta Mishra, director of the National Gandhi Museum.

He said Bollywood had contributed in a big way in revitalising people's interest in Gandhi.

"Director (Richard) Attenborough's 'Gandhi' increased his global visibility, while films like "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara", "Lage Raho Munnabhai" and "Gandhi My Father" keep the interest of the audience alive."