“The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar

While there is so much written ( including many books) about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, respectfully called the ” Mahatma ” and the “Father of the Nation”, relatively less is known about his wife, Kastur. We get glimpses of the life of Kasturba Gandhi (1869-1944 ) through a recent book titled, “The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar.

Born Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia, in a wealthy family in Porbandar, in then British India, she was ( as was common in those days) married off at the young of 14. The bridegroom, who was a year younger than her, was Mohandas Gandhi. They remained man and wife for over 60 years and had five sons. The first son died shortly after his birth, but the others Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devdas outlived her. As the book reveals, quite often in their lives there was tension in the family because of the way Gandhi wanted the boys to be brought up. He had his own ideas of the kind of education they should have and the principles and life style they should follow, which was irksome to them and to Kasturba at times. The fact that the eldest surviving boy, Harilal became totally wayward was a direct result of the frequent conflicts he had with his father. The mother was torn between the two all her life.

Kasturba played a major role in Gandhi’s life and he could not have asked for a more suitable or devoted wife. While the world admired Gandhi for his deeds, the book describes the difficulties faced by his wife and children while he sought to conquer his inner desires and lead a life according to his own tastes and choices.

It was clever of Ms Adhar to have written the book in the first person singular as Ba. This has been done brilliantly. We can therefore see things through Kastur’s eyes, first as a teen aged bride, then as a young mother, and later as the revered mother or Ba as she was called  universally. The flip side is that since it is established that Ba had not penned her autobiography ( she was barely educated, in any case) the very title of the book is questionable.

It is a good read though and is well written. You will enjoy it, if like me, you are fond of Indian history, and biographies. The book is full of detail of the lives of the Gandhi family over many decades. It even goes beyond Ba’s death in 1944 to the time when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948. I feel that some notes of what became of the sons could have been added in the post script.

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“Freedom At Midnight” by Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins

As we are in the month of August, the conversations in India often turn towards Independence Day coming up on August 15. We talk of the Freedom Struggle; of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and Sardar Patel; of Lord and Lady Mountbatten; and the horrors of Partition. I recently re-read ” Freedom At Night” by Dominque Lapierre & Larry Collins, which I had read decades ago. You may recall that this book was first published in 1975, less than twenty years after Independence. I re-read the same book in 2019, by which time so much had changed in the world around us. Yet, the haunting memories of Partition continued in the minds of thousands of families affected by that tumultuous  event. The conflict over Kashmir which continues till today is an old wound from that time which still festers. Continue reading ““Freedom At Midnight” by Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins”

Freedom Of Speech

The General Elections are on in India and in the heat of political campaigning, leaders of political parties sometimes get  carried away and say things they ought not to. Yes, we do have the freedom of speech and expression but that does not give an individual an unfettered right to say whatever comes to his mind, more so if it is detrimental to his political opponents .

I am reminded of our lecturer, Mr Clarence Motha who taught us Political Science. He used to tell every batch the same story every year : ” I have the right and freedom to swing my umbrella as I walk,” he would say, ” but that right  and freedom ends where the finely chiseled nose of my young friend here begins!! ”

In the space of the last few weeks, in my view, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi no less, has been guilty of breaking the law with regard to the freedom of speech. He recently implicated the Supreme Court when he suggested that they too supported his political campaign  and endorsed his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” line of attack against Prime Minister Modi. Only a few days ago the highest court of the land was not satisfied with the regret expressed by Mr Gandhi and asked his lawyer to file another affidavit with a proper apology.

If that were not enough, Mr Gandhi in a political rally in Jabalpur, used the expression, “Murder Accused” against Mr  Amit Shah, the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party several times in his speech.  It is no surprise that a defamation suit has been filed against him in an Ahmedabad court as facts indicate that Mr Shah, was acquitted in 2015.

Politicians are guilty of gross exaggeration in their speeches. I was shocked to hear Mr Rahul Gandhi claim that Mahatma Gandhi ( no relation to him whatsoever) had  been in solitary confinement for 15 years during the Freedom Movement. This is untrue. The details of Gandhiji’s imprisonments, first in South Africa and later in India are listed in this comprehensive website about him.  Also, it is widely accepted that unlike the common political prisoner, the British treated Gandhi and Nehru with kid gloves. They were typically kept under arrest in reasonable comfort and not thrown into some dingy cell and made to do hard labour like the convicts depicted in the old Hindi movies.  The Mahatma, for example, was interned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune in 1942.

In another case, the Savarkar family have filed a case against Mr Rahul Gandhi for casting aspersions on the character of Veer Savarkar, a freedom fighter, while glorifying Gandhi and Nehru.

Mr Gandhi is not the only politician  guilty of this. Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the IIT educated Chief Minister of Delhi was sued in a criminal defamation case for the remarks made by him against the country’s Finance Minister  Mr Arun Jaitley. In that case, he was compelled to render an apology in the Court which was accepted by the complainant.

I believe there has to a salutary punishment for defamation. If the accused is allowed to get away with a written apology, as happened in the case of Delhi Chief Minister following his remarks against Finance Minister Jaitley, what is the deterrent to prevent him from doing such a thing again?

In a recent case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court fined singer and composer Vishal Dadlani and political activist Tehseen Poonawalla, Rs 10 lakhs each for hurting the religious sentiments of a Jain monk Tarunji Sagar through their tweets.

Now, that is a deterrent. I am sure they will be more careful when they tweet next time!

 

“Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst

The title is arresting and I had to read this book though I had never till now heard even remotely of the author, Dr Koenraad Elst. I am glad that Rupa Publications have published, “Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” in 2018. It is a balanced account of what motivated Nathuram Vinayak Godse to assassinate Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. On that January evening in Delhi in 1948, barely a few months after India became an independent nation, Godse shot Gandhiji at point blank range. You may agree with Nathuram Godse or you may not, but this book makes you consider issues from his point of view and explains why he opposed the Mahatma, going so far as to kill him in cold blood and make no effort to escape.  Continue reading ““Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst”

“India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha

Although this book was published in 2007 by ECCO, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, I must confess rather sheepishly that I just read, “India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha-in October 2016. The by line is an apt description of the book, “The History Of The World’s Largest Democracy.”

The hard bound edition ( which my friend Divakar Kaza said would improve my biceps before I was done with this tome) runs into 759 pages, followed by nearly 100 pages of well-researched notes.  The cover flap says, “massively researched and elegantly written, India After Gandhi is at once a magisterial account of India’s rebirth and the work of a scholar at the height of his powers.” I would agree. It certainly is extensively researched and most elegantly written though I would have said, “height of his prowess” speaking of the author’s talents rather than his “powers.”  Continue reading ““India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha”