Mahatma Gandhi’s friends called him a baniya, a shrewd businessman, recounted author and publisher of Roli Books, Pramod Kapoor, on the launch of his book, Gandhi: An Illustrated Biography, on Monday. Filmmaker Shyam Benegal and writer-journalist Anil Dharker engaged with Kapoor in conversation.
“His biographer, Louis Fischer, once asked Gandhi to sign his own photograph which Gandhi used to raise funds for the Harijan movement. He demanded 20. Fischer said, ‘I’ll give you 10.’ And it was done. Many years later when Fischer told Devdas, Gandhi’s son about it, Devdas said, ‘He would have done it in 5.’” The audience broke into laughter.
Kapoor regaled his audience with such anecdotes on Gandhi’s life -- a prominent feature of his illustrated biography of Gandhi. Benegal described the book as simply written with a rare set of photographs making the book an accessible read, specially for the young.
Calling Gandhi truthful, transparent and a great tactician, Benegal and Kapoor spoke of why he inspires reverence and was open to differences. Be it Bal Gangadhar Tilak or Subhas Chandra Bose, it was agreed to disagree in those times, said Benegal.
Answering why Gandhi is relevant today, from a member of an audience, he said, “It is not about tolerance or intolerance. It was the word acceptance which he used in relation to people.”
Kapoor agreed. “People can say Gandhi slept with his grand niece and nobody would throw stones at you. He had so strongly embedded the idea of non-violence.”
Kapoor spent six years researching for the book. After a series of questions on his relationship with Bose, Ambedkar, and his family, Kapoor said, “I feel the analysis of Gandhi changes every 10 years with each generation interpreting him differently.”