"It’s a gift of a life time,” that is how a senior bureaucrat thanked Jyotindra Vachharajani, head -- corporate relations, Essar Energy, when the latter gifted him a special centenary edition of Hind Swaraj, a book written by Mahatma Gandhi in 1909.
Similarly, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is among some of the first buyers of a coffee-table-book, 100 Tributes showcasing tributes to Mahatma Gandhi's 100 portraits by as many contemporaries in their own handwritings.
India Inc's top executives seem to have struck a chord with Mahatma Gandhi’s writings as senior executives from groups like Essar, HPCL, Amul, Vodafone and public sector and cooperative banks among others are increasingly opting for newly designed works of Gandhi.
The publisher Navjivan Publishing House has seen orders coming from bulk corporate buyers for Hind Swaraj as well as for 100 Tributes recently.
Officials informed that in past three years they have sold close to 7,000 copies of the centenary edition of Hind Swaraj, which is priced between Rs 300-500 a piece, against an ordinary paperback binding costing Rs 10-30 a piece.
The coffee table book is even more pricier, around Rs 4,500 per copy.
Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj on board a ship while returning from Africa to India.
The book is a dialogue between the author and the reader discussing India’s freedom struggle, western forces, education and Indian society.
The book is considered to be the basic literature of Gandhi’s vision about swaraj (home rule). "Handmade paper, better layout and printing add value to the book packaging.
"But more than that what makes it a valuable gift is the fact that it is the only book printed in Gandhiji’s own handwriting in his mother-tongue -- Gujarati.
Every page bears Gandhiji’s own handwritten text accompanied by translations in three languages -- Gujarati, Hindi and English,” said Kapil Rawal, trustee of Navjivan Trust, founded by Gandhi himself.
To experts, it is a value proposition.
"This makes the gift more meaningful as well as cost effective.
"No wonder if more corporate too adopt this, as the teachings in Hind Swaraj are still relevant,” said a corporate source.
Further, recently launched ‘100 Tributes’ is a test case for the publisher. “It was a costly version.
Many people told us it will not be accepted by readers.
But here we are, with close to 500 copies sold out in just a few months.
And 90 per cent of our buyers are corporate executives,” said Vivek Desai, managing trustee, Navjivan Trust.
The book has 100 portraits of Gandhi sketched by Ramesh Thaakar -- a veteran artist from Rajkot.
He got hand written tribute to Gandhi by 100 contemporaries.
These include the likes of Madhu Limaye, N Sanjeeva Reddy, Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, K M Munshi, Pandit Ravishankar and Amrita Pritam among others.
The publisher also claimed that not only the corporate but government departments and even the chief ministers’ office has been a regular buyer of Hind Swaraj and the autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, mainly for gifting purpose to the visitors and also as mementos in the conferences.
The trend of gifting Gandhi literature is not a new phenomenon though.
The autobiography My Experiments with Truth has been a common choice for gifting among people.
Notably three years ago, the cooperative major, Amul had ordered 23,000 copies of Gandhi’s autobiography to be gifted to its distributors across India.
“The autobiography still remains in trend.
"But what attracts corporate is the packaging of the Hind Swaraj and 100 Tributes.
"So much so that even a non-follower of Gandhi would appreciate it,” added Rawal.
Commenting about Hind Swaraj in Young India, Gandhi himself had written, “According to me this is a book, which can be given even to a child.
It teaches love instead of hatred, self sacrifice instead of violence, it builds self confidence to take on the animal spirits. I recommend all interested to read it.”
Image: Mahatma Gandhi; Photograph courtesy: Rediff Archives