The Book That Changed Your Life: Ujjal Dosanjh

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      The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2016 edition with a massively inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 21 to 25.

      We asked a group of these much-admired writers to tell us about their finest reading experiences. Which books put a stamp on their imaginations early on? Which ones revealed to them the full powers of the written word?

      Here’s what former B.C. premier and federal minister of health Ujjal Dosanjh told us. Dosanjh recently released his memoir Journey After Midnight: India, Canada and the Road Beyond. He’ll read from the book at 1:50 p.m. on September 25, on the fest’s Community Garden stage at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      In the mid 1970s, contending with complex legal principles as a student at UBC law school, I became an easy prey to the distraction of a Canadian general's book collection in the graduate-student centre library. There, for the first time in my life, I read in its entirety The Story of My Experiments With Truth, Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography, authored with elegant simplicity in the 1920s—upon his return to India, as he assumed the leadership of India's freedom movement after many years of struggle against racial discrimination against Indians in South Africa.

      By then I had already had a passing encounter with the radical Canadian left that had argued for violent political change in the world. Despite its strong attraction for a young Third-World immigrant, I had quickly realized the dangerous futility of political violence—without yet having settled on an alternative. Gandhi's “nonviolence is truth” and “truth is nonviolence” went straight to my political soul. Martin Luther King's peaceful struggle for equality for blacks in the U.S. had already proven the potency of nonviolence as weapon for political change. I became a lifelong votary of peace and nonviolence as a way of resolving fundamental challenges in building a more just, egalitarian, and compassionate world. The West's violent forays into Iraq and Libya are just the latest proof the world needs less bullets and guns, more Kings and Gandhis.

      Ujjal Dosanjh.