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Autobiographies

Last to last month, I started on a book named Mr. Nice, lent to me by my colleague D, who currently enjoys her vacation in Hyd. The reason I picked up this particular book had more to do with the complete list of options available with me then, than my taste for autobiographies itself. I haven’t had much inclination towards pure fictional stories, especially the ones that weigh more on the pulp side of the fictional category. Every other book that D had, was a fiction. And besides what Ms. D had to offer, I really didn’t have any other choice of books. My footpath search for a good book-store in Bhubaneswar had already failed.

Thus I began, crawling through the pages of Mr. Nice, an autobiography of someone who sounded very interesting as I began reading it. After all, Howard – the ex drug peddlar, who had written the book had 43 aliases and 25 companies, all laundering money from dealing cannabis during the mid-1980s. Characters like him are mostly found brightening the pages of fictional stories and glamorous movies. So it was, but natural for to me, to expect an interesting read.

Alas, the book failed all tests of my patience. It was boring, lacked thrill and more than that, left no impact on me. No wonder, I never completed it.

Even before I had not entirely decided to give up on Mr. Nice, Rashmi, the author of Stay Hungry Stay Foolish had already sent me a copy of her book. As and when I didn’t feel like reading Mr. Nice, I would give time to Rashmi’s book. In spite of a not so tight control over language and errors (typo / grammatical etc.) here and there, her book of 25 stories on entrepreneurs of various kinds, carried a spirit that touched my heart. I think there are five stories still to be finished (I never read the book in a particular order), but almost all the other twenty stories that I read, left a deep impact on me and my thinking. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that while going through each story, at least at some point, the heart felt real joy and eyes turned moist. I would describe her book as device that, by way of showcasing passion of others, triggers that in the reader herself.

I must surely have completed reading all 25 stories, and in some time, I shall indeed do that. What lead to the interruption was my discovery of a gem of a book, on my last day of vacation at home. I was packing my bags when on one of the shelves in the drawing room, I saw lying an English transaltion of Gandhi’s autobiography – The Stories of My Experiments with Truth. As I started reading the book, I fell in love with the narrative. The honesty with which Gandhi had written the book, frequently reminded me of my own writing, the way I have expressed myself and my thoughts, now and then, on this blog. I could connect to Gandhi a lot and could relate to the confusions and dilemmas of life that he went through.

There are quite a few things though that I do not yet agree upon. Before I started upon this book, hadn’t known more about Gandhi than most of my friends. The knowledge so far had been mainly from the history books that were a part of the text book syllabus till Xth. Few stories here and there in English and Hindi books had also helped in forming an opinion. When for the first time, I heard few friends in class XI abusing Gandhi, I was introduced to this new school of thought which hated him, holding the guy responsible for giving money to Pakistan. It was a surprise because until I had heard these abuses, I had always believed that Gandhi was respected and loved everywhere. I had no idea what so ever, about this money lending business, and to date, I haven’t had the chance (or the will) to read up on this bit.

I realize at this moment that this post is getting longer, and at the same time, also starting to lack a concrete direction. And yet I feel a certain joy in describing the changes in my perceptions about Gandhi to my readers, without being constrained with a word limit, and firmly believe that my readers will experience similar joy as they read along. With this conviction, I continue.

Soon I realized that most of them who spoke ill about Gandhi, spoke so on hearsay, and not based on good reading of history. Making fun of Gandhi, appeared to me, more of a new fad amongst my friends, than an earnest conclusion of thorough readings. I could often hear someone or another saying something of this effect – Gandhi stole the credit for securing freedom of our country from the million martyrs etc. etc.

I do not remember ever having entered into any serious arguments regarding how good or how bad Gandhi was. My knowledge on him was limited, and even today, besides having finished reading 80% of his autobiography, I do not claim to have become an expert on the Mahatma. Yet, the one thing, that comes out as clear as crystal, as you read the description of his life from his own pen is that he was as normal a human being as most of us. The way he accepts his lust for his wife (remember that he was married only when he was thirteen years old), and the way he describes the numerous instances when he lied, deceived others / himself, etc. make you feel good about yourself. We, the human beings are born with faults. And yet, we the have the extraordinary power to control ourselves, to see what our faults our and cure ourselves of them. We have the power to let the God inside us control the physical part of us.

Surprisingly I found Gandhi to be more religious that what I expected him to be. But even on that front, the way he turned religious over the years was interesting. I leave it upto the reader to find time to read this wonderful book. My calling it wonderful has nothing to do with the fact that Gandhi wrote it. I call it wonderful based on the honesty of the author in taking the reader through the journey of his life, trying to be as honest in the process as possible, without caring much about his reputation of that of a Mahatma.

If you have ever read Amitabh Bachchan’s blog, you will certainly be reminded of the same humbleness that you find there, in Gandhi’s autobiography.

On a personal front, health is recovering. I have given up on cough syrup and have left the fighting back completely to my immune system. Regular eating (three times a day) and a regular work-schedule is letting me gain the weight that I had apparently lost, while at home. I haven’t started running yet but yesterday I did lift some weights, just to test the strength of my biceps. They work fine. With health, I am gaining mental peace too and soon would like to see myself shift to the humorous state that not long ago, was my regular avatar. Till then bear with my seriousness and take care of your health.

Stay connected and do good.

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