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The contributions of Kasturba Gandhi to India’s struggle for Independence have not been given the critical position they deserve, argues Professor B.M. Bhalla in this seminal study, Kasturba Gandhi: A Biography. In its portrayal of Kasturba as an activist and wife, walking along with the Mahatma, first in South Africa and then in India, her story should be read in terms of the struggle of Indian women for identity, equality and selfempowerment. This biography delineates how she became an ardent follower of her husband’s great mission and how she struggled to retain her individuality in difficult situations in public and private life. Her capacity to adapt to changed conditions and circumstances, her courage to face adversity, loss and dangers matched her husband’s. By Gandhi’s own confession, his ‘better half’, this study is a vital re-assessment of Kasturba Gandhi’s position within the Indian freedom movement.



Publié par
Date de parution 20 mars 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9788194566106
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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My Parents
Soma Devi & Chetan Singh
The Kasturba – it’s in the family –
Swadesh, Kiran, Vandana, Mona.
I. Thinking of Kasturba
II. Family Background and Marriage
III. The Early Years of Self-Discovery
IV. The Uncharted Sea: Kasturba’s African Odyssey [part 1]
V. Kasturba’s African Odyssey [part 2]
VI. Kasturba and Women around Gandhi
VII. Kasturba in India, 1915–1944
About the Author
K asturba belonged to an opulent business family with properties at different locations. She had a comfortable, secure, and affectionate upbringing in the Kapadia joint family, where deep and abiding Vaishnava religious and cultural values prevailed. At the age of thirteen, she was married to a schoolboy – of the same age, the same caste, and the same Vaishnava religious persuasion – belonging to the well-known Gandhi family, which was reputed for its integrity, high public service and administrative and diplomatic competence. The Gandhi family was not rich; it was middle class. At the time of Kasturba’s marriage, its political and financial status was on the decline. The Gandhi joint family was cramped in a small dark house, to which Kasturba was brought.
Kasturba brought a rich endowment into the Gandhi family, not of wealth, but of character, courage, and commitment. Her character had been moulded by the Hindu cultural tradition where a woman’s personality and identity are shaped by great iconic mythic characters like Sita and Savitri. She was absolutely committed to her husband and his family – not to the control of her husband but to the values of Hindu wifehood. She was quite confident of her standing, calm in wholeheartedly accepting the conditions in the Gandhi family and confident in dealing with her husband. She was uneducated, but mature and intelligent in judging situations and not afraid of anything.
Kasturba’s father was a rich trader and one-time mayor of Porbandar, and Mohandas Gandhi’s father was the dewan (chief minister) of the state of Porbandar, and later of Rajkot and Vankaner. The two families had known each other for years and Kasturba was received with great affection. She started performing the household chores under the direction of her mother-in-law. She was well liked by everybody and was soon happily integrated in her new family.
But Kasturba’s marriage was actually a journey from the realm of calm to a zone of perpetual storm, all through more than six decades of her married life. The story of her life is one of how she weathered one storm after another and how successfully she fared in facing unexpected challenges, which she could never have dreamed of at that tender age.
On the occasion of the gruesome murder of the Mahatma, Jawaharlal Nehru had said:

As he grew older, his body seemed to be just a vehicle for the mighty spirit within him. Almost one forgot the body as one listened to him or looked at him, and so where he sat became a temple and where he trod was hallowed ground.
The surprising thing about India about this period was not only that the country, as a whole, functioned on a high plane, but also that it functioned more or less continuously for a lengthy period on that plane. That, indeed, was a remarkable achievement. It cannot easily be explained or understood unless one looks upon the astonishing personality that molded this period. Like a colossus he stands astride half a century of India’s history – a colossus not of the body but of the mind and spirit. 1
This exalted lighthouse of spirit which illumed the whole world for half a century was not built in a day. It involved a long, lonely voyage of great penance, relentless experimentation and superhuman discipline in the stormy sea of private and public domains, where there was only one constant – the never-failing companion of Gandhi. It was his loyal wife Kasturba who provided her own light of courage and conviction and proved to be a great support. Constant as the Pole Star, she proved to be a great example, an ideal model, a supportive mentor and the perfect co-voyager to Gandhi.
But Kasturba did not step only into the domain of storm but also into the kingdom of spirit, which was a compound of values defined with great originality by Gandhi. But the domain of spirit opened up gradually. The storm, however, was imminent soon after her marriage. She was married to a diffident, below-average, confused boy who was a strange amalgam of cowardice, negativity, ambition, assertion, truthfulness, and reformist zeal. At that stage she expected nothing more than a normal middle-class family life. Her early trial was nothing compared to the later challenges of coping with Gandhi’s grand civilizational mission. But even at that early stage they were kindred spirits in many ways. Both had imbibed certain values from their traditional upbringing and their deep religious moorings. For instance, both were deeply religious and had unflinching faith in God; both had sweet springs of compassion in their hearts; and a strong tendency and capacity of rendering service to others.
Gandhi claimed that his basic mission was religious and his involvement in politics was incidental. He therefore placed moral–ethical value at the centre of his political action and the Bhagvad Gita became his grammar of action, a daily guide to direct his mind and enforce his spirit. It is in this domain of moral–ethical values that Kasturba – an uneducated, ignorant, home-bound woman – became his equal, in some ways, and at different stages, his superior, mentor and role model. Kasturba’s situation did not allow her to initiate any action outside her home, not even within her little niche inside the four walls. All initiatives and innovations were initiated by her husband and obeying his dictates became her opportunities to learn, react and resist. It was the moral–ethical values of her traditional training that guided her in confronting her husband or in remaining steadfast in following him faithfully as part of her ‘dharma’ that ultimately made her husband realize what Kasturba stood for.
Gandhi breathed his last with the name of Rama on his lips. Ramdhun : Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram/ Patit Pavan Sita Ram, became his sheet anchor throughout his life. What sort of inspiration did he receive by this invocation every morning and evening? First of all, the compassion of Rama for the ‘patit’, the downtrodden, the marginal, the poor and helpless became his fundamental concern. His basic struggle in South Africa and India was directed to providing succour and service to the dispossessed millions, and his politics became an epic fight against the exploitative structures and systems that suppressed vast populations with the help of brute force at their command. This humanistic mission

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