In the 1940s, he left Columbia University to live a lifestyle that was congruent with his values. He settled in India, simplified his life to a bare mininum, and dedicated his life to service. Son of the reknowned Jhaverchand Meghani, his mission in life soon became clear: produce inspiring content, make books affordable, and in turn, alter the cultural narrative of our times.
On Wednesday, August 1st, it is our privilege to host this 85-year-old Gandhian activist, as he shares readings and stories from his life long service to mankind. Everyone's invited! This event is hosted in our home and there is no cost to attend; please RSVP for more details (unfortunately, we can only accommodate the first 80 RSVP's).
Books For A Penny!
Son of the reknonwed Gujarati litterateur Jhaverchand Meghani, Mahendra was born into a legacy of literature. Although his community of Gujaratis were reputed to be reluctant readers, Mahendra simply didn't believe it. So he set out to prove them wrong.
To create inspiring content, he first scoured the world for good literature and translated it into the local language. To keep readers updated routinely, he become the editor of Reader's Digest-like, 50-page monthly called 'Milap'. To make the books affordable for the "common man" in India, he became a publisher. To provide distribution for those books, he setup a shop in his own community.
In the spirit of service, he's done it all -- translator, editor, bookseller, and publisher. And after decades of selfless service, he's made a major dent in the shifting the cultural narrative.
Today, Mahendra Meghani has himself translated and written dozens of books, ranging from 'Seven Years in Tibet' to Gibran's Prophet. 'Milap' ran for 28 years. Many other authors joined the crusade. Lok Milap, their bookstore, now carries more than 5100 titles, and their books are bought in the hundreds of thousands!
But here's the punchline -- starting price for books is a penny! Literature in the local vernacular is now accessible to the everyday Joe in India.
How do they pull it off? "We do just the opposite of what all publishers do. We announce the theme of the book we plan to publish and only after we get orders do we start printing. Before starting out, we appeal to those interested in literature to give us interest-free loans. We don't want much and request a loan of Rs 100 (~ $2) from each reader. Later, we announce that we will print 75,000 copies if we get as many orders. And we usually get the orders," Mahendra says.
It's practically a reader's cooperative. And from a Gandhian like Mahendra, one would expect nothing else.
When you read about the work of Mahendra Meghani, you might be tempted to consider him a literature enthusiast. But what you will find is much more than that -- here is a man who was inspired by Gandhi to lead a life of voluntary simplicity, who was moved by his deep, inner work to dedicate his life to service, and who carried forth his father's legacy to shift the cultural ethos of his community.
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