Mohanbhai and His Shop-on-Wheels for the Sale of Gandhian Literature

Ankur Acharya


As I am writing the introduction to this article, two names come to my
mind. Firstly, Shri T.R.K Somaiya, popularly addressed as Somaiyaji of
Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal (BSM). He is the head of Gandhi Book Centre
run by BSM. The second name is that of Shri Mohanbhai Jagandas
Anwani, popularly addressed simply as Mohanbhai of Sat Sahitya
Prachar Yatra, with his permanent home at Radhanpur in Gujarat. He
happens to be a nomad moving around different parts of the country
all round the year. These two members of the Gandhian fraternity are
fairly well–known. Shri Somaiya happens to be senior in age and
experience and volume of work than that of Mohanbhai. However, one
thing is common to both of them. They are wedded to the spread of
Gandhian teachings and thoughts through the sale of Gandhian
literature. That is their life’s mission. I may also point out here
another important difference between the two: whereas Somaiyaji
runs his books centre on behalf of a public body. Shri Mohanbhai runs
his shop-on-wheels as his personal enterprise. However, in both cases,
making profit for personal benefit is not the objective. Both are in
fact, no-profit-no-loss enterprises. If any surplus is generated, it is
ploughed back in the maintenance of the sales centres and their
upkeep. Both are vegetarian, non-smokers, teetotalers and lead a
simple life as prescribed by Gandhiji for Gandhian Social Workers.
As it is mentioned in this article, a person who inspired Mohanbhai to
engage himself in the spread of Gandhian thoughts and teachings was
late Tharumal Anwani, his paternal uncle. Shri Tharumal, in fact, was a
refugee from the erstwhile province of Sindh who had migrated to
India after the partition of the erstwhile Indian nation. As the article
reveals, he was an inward–looking person not interested in ordinary
materialistic life. He has been a strong influence on Shri Mohanbhai.
He also conducted the mission of the selling of one lakh copies of the
book of commentary on Bhagawad Gita written by the Gandhian
Stalwart Acharya Vinoba Bhave. In fact, the late Acharya had assigned
Tharumal with this mission. He completed it in 28 years, as it will be
observed from this article.
This article is the result of an interview conducted by the Assistant
Editor of Ishani, Shri Ankur Acharya. He has succeeded well in
throwing light on the personality of Mohanbhai and his major
achievements. By all standards, I find the article to be a very
interesting account of an extra-ordinary individual, nay an
extraordinary missionary. I too have known Mohanbhai from close
quarters and I am highly impressed by his dedicated work. The greatest
joy he experiences in his day-to-day life is the joy of meeting a book-
lover and telling to him the wealth of noble thoughts and directives
that are scattered all over in the books by Gandhiji and also by many
luminaries. I strongly recommend a reading of this article by all
readers of Ishani.

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