It was only after he finished reading the 98 volumes of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi did Pramod Kapoor, publisher, Roli Books, embark on an ambitious project to write and produce an illustrated biography on the Father of the Nation. “I had brought out Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan and Manohar Malgonkar’s Men Who Killed Gandhi, both illustrated, a few years ago. I thought of illustrating Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, but it ends in 1921. I decided to take his story forward till 1948,” says Kapoor. With approximately 300 photographs along with illustrations, letters, and newspaper clippings, Gandhi, An Illustrated Biography (Roli Books, Rs 2,495) is a labour of love.
The book begins with Gandhi’s birth in 1869 and quickly explores his early years, his relationship with his parents, siblings, and his marriage to Kasturba, and his father Karamchand’s death — the first of many turning points in his life. Kapoor faithfully chronicles Gandhi’s life but intersperses his narrative with interesting factoids and trivia about “one of the most remarkable men the world has seen”. “I didn’t write this book for scholars or academics, I’ve written it for the masses. The design team at Roli and I conceptualised the book in such a way that, no matter which page you open, there will be a story,” he says.
Apart from rare photographs, one of the highlights of the biography are the letters that Gandhi wrote as well as received from his family, friends and followers.
For some years now, Kapoor has been working on another Gandhi book, titled My Experiment with Gandhi, his attempts to decode the Mahatma. “Gandhi lived his life like an open book and there was no area of thought that he didn’t engage with. I was working on that project when I realised that it would take me some more time. And so, in the interim, this biography emerged,” he says.