I read Gandhi: a Manga Biography by Kazuki Ebine on a lark. I didn’t even realize it was a comic book before I ordered it. What a pleasant surprise, both in format and content.
The book covers the major events that shaped Gandhi’s life and earned him the reputation as one of history’s great leaders. As a new writer, I constantly get the feedback: “show don’t tell.” Kazuki Ebine’s art shows. It shows the emotions behind the stories (the distain on the face of a South African train conductor stands out in my mind). Before reading the book I thought of Gandhi in terms of slogans; now I think of him as a person.
And what drove Gandhi the man? It wasn’t a vision of an independent India. Rather, it was a value system that made human happiness and human dignity the highest priority. And it was these convictions, married to his stubbornness and genius for political tactics, that shaped the man who changed the history of a nation. In fact, in 1922 he discontinued a boycott of British goods when it led to a series of riots, saying “I am not advocating non-violence as a political tactic, and I am not wishing independence stained with blood.” He chose what was likely a slower path to independence in order to stay true to his values.
Nowhere were Gandhi’s values more evident than through his fight against the Indian caste system. As a young man he broke with the constraints of his caste by traveling to England to study law. And when he got older he urged the Indian feudal lords to give up their wealth and privileges as a means to undermine the British and set up a more equitable society.
As good as this book is for adults, I think it is even better for kids.
I asked my precocious eleven-year old daughter to read the first ten pages. She read the whole book in one sitting. Here is what she had to say: “I didn’t know much about Gandhi before, and it was interesting to learn about his life. He was a pretty cool dude. He kept using peace even though a lot of people wanted to use violence to fight violence. He risked his life several times to fight for what he believed in. They beat him up and put him in jail. And he went on hunger strikes a few times even though it could have killed him.”
I think she got it. And I did too.
Greg Marcus, Ph.D. is a modern-day Abraham who smashes corporate idols to help the chronically overworked find a more fulfilling life. At Idolbuster.com, Greg explores the relationship between values and priorities. You can follow Greg on LinkedIn or Twitter.