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The woman behind Mahatma Gandhi

Kasturba Gandhi is long dead, but she continues to live through her writings. Renowned author Neelima Dalmia Adhar tells the world what it means to be Kasturba Gandhi, wife of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – in a firmly held tale of unconditional love, passion, sex, ecstasy and the ultimate liberation that every woman seek. The Secret Diary of Kasturba forces the readers to take the Mahatma down from his pedestal. With him she spent sixty–two years of her life, juggling the roles of a passionate woman, a devoted wife, a sacrificing mother and an emerging feminine, who got buried under the unsung leaders of her time.

Every time we talk about 'Bapu', we discuss his greatness, teachings and the sacrifices he made for the nation. But how much do we know about the man as a husband and father? No one could tell us that better than his wife, Kasturba Gandhi. At the age of 13, she became a Gandhi. Kasturba writes in detail about her early months of marriage, days of agony and ecstasy. But also early years of long absences from her husband, as he pursued a law degree in England and later taking up work in Durban.

One of the famous incidents where he was thrown off the train in South Africa, he started fighting against racism, which launched him into a leadership role. Although initially, he had gone for a year – leaving behind his young wife and sons but in history, we read simply that he extended his stay.

In her diary, Kasturba writes movingly about her anticipation of his return, as a wife and mother, and her extreme disappointments, insecurities and sense of being let down at his unilateral decision to stay on. Similarly, with his celibacy too, the decision was made without any consultation with the person most impacted, without apologies or an option of reversal.

Gandhi's relationship with his troubled son Harilal, his rigid stand on denying his son's education.  Even when Kasturba was dying, he asked doctors to refrain from using 'evil' penicillin for her pneumonia, because that would prolong her suffering.

As a diary what's shocking is that the early chapters end with threatening messages of momentous events. In a diary format, it's like foretelling the future. The Secret Diary of Kasturba is a shocking read through which author introspects feminism and which finds relevance to almost every household in India even today.
Radhika Das

Radhika Das

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