Anger is good and other lessons from Bapu: Book review of Arun Gandhi’s new book

 

The author shares the experience of being raised at the iconic Sevagram Ashram in Maharashtra, where the Mahatma lived from 1936 till his assassination in 1948. Arun Gandhi’s charming memories of his grandfather are engaging and often surprising. His anecdotes provide a rare insight into Gandhi the man and not just Gandhi the mass leader.

These are memories of the two years that Arun spent with Bapu. As Mahatma Gandhi went on making changes on the world stage, the author learnt to make changes in himself and overcome his own emotions.

Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Arun is the fifth grandson of the legendary leader. Growing up under the discriminatory apartheid laws of South Africa, he was beaten by “white” South Africans for being too black and “black” South Africans for being too white. This was the period when he was frequently angry and sought “eye-for-an-eye justice”.

Arun Gandhi was just 12 years old when his parents dropped him off at Sevagram. To Arun, the man who fought for India’s independence and was the country’s beloved and pre-eminent philosopher and leader was simply a family member. He lived there for two years – until Gandhi’s assassination.

Even as Bapu was imparting lessons to him, the author says he lost his cool all the time. In one instance, he was so furious after a boy purposely tripped him while playing football that he grabbed a rock to throw at the miscreant with all his strength. But then he heard a small voice in his head, “Don’t do it.”

When the author shared this incident with his grandfather, the lessons on anger began. In the months to come, as they both spun cotton on the spinning wheel, the Mahatma Gandhi imparted his wisdom on the subject to his grandson.

The author was stunned to find out that the man revered so gloriously in India and around the world hadn’t been born even-tempered. In his childhood, Mahatma Gandhi stole money to buy cigarettes and frequently got into trouble with other kids. He often shouted at his wife (Kasturba) and once even tried to throw her out of the house.

“But he didn’t like the person he was becoming, so he began to mould himself into the even-tempered, well-controlled person he wanted to be,” writes Arun Gandhi. The words of Bapu, he says, reignited his spirits and he understood if Bapu could overcome his anger and use it as a positive force, so could he.

Apart from anger, the book contains lessons on other equally important subjects, such as self-discovery, identity, dealing with depression, loneliness, friendship, and family. While each chapter contains a singular, timeless lesson, The Gift of Anger also takes its readers along with the author on a moving journey of self-discovery as he learns to overcome his own failings, to express his emotions and harness the power of anger to bring about good.

He learns to see the world through new eyes under the tutelage of his beloved grandfather and provides a rare, three-dimensional portrait of this icon.

Arun Gandhi has written several books before The Gift of Anger. The first, A Patch of White, is about life in prejudiced South Africa; then, he wrote two books on poverty and politics in India; followed by a compilation of Mahatma Gandhi’s Wit and Wisdom. He also edited a book of essays on World Without Violence: Can Gandhi’s Vision Become Reality? And The Forgotten Woman: The Untold Story of Kastur, which he co-write with his late wife Sunanda.

 

 

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