On 10-Apr-2017 In People & Politics
Behind every successful man is a woman and it doesn’t get truer when we talk about Kasturba Gandhi.Kasturba Gandhi was the woman who bestowed courage and support to her husband Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi whom we call Mahatma. Kasturba Gandhi was married to Mohandas Gandhi in 1882 when she was just 13 years old and together they had four sons - Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devadas. Here are some amazing facts about Kasturba Gandhi or ‘Ba’ as she was fondly referred to.
Kasturba Gandhi was born on April 11, 1869, in Porbandar to Gokuldas Makanji and Vrajkunwerba Kapadia. Gokuldas, the father of Kasturba, was a merchant and a good friend of Karamchand Gandhi, the father of Mohandas Gandhi.In those times, the social norms called for early marriages so Kasturba got engaged to Mohandas when they were both seven years of age. They married at the age of 13 in 1882. They used to play together and became good friends as they were far too young to understand the responsibility of marriage.“For us, marriage meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets, and playing with relatives,” Mahatma Gandhi had said once.
Gandhi left for London in 1888 and Kasturba did not accompany him. Kasturba had already given birth to their first son Harilal and single-handedly took care of the toddler, as Gandhi was away for long periods. Kasturba could read or write little, and therefore could not write letters or exchange any information.
Kasturba was a dedicated wife and her sacrifice is commendable. She supported her husband's call for freedom struggle with full might.When Gandhi was imprisoned Kasturba took to fasting, she avoided wearing jewellery, and stopped taking lavish food. It was Kasturba who taught Gandhi the importance of ‘brahmacharya’ and supported Gandhi in this endeavour after he took a vow of celibacy.Kasturba’s handwriting was like that of a little child. She wrote each alphabet separately and the spacing between the letters was irregular. Gandhi tried to improve this and advised her to practice writing. Once, when Kasturba asked for notebook, Gandhi gave her a loose sheaf of papers and told her that she could have a notebook when her writing improved. She was deeply hurt. Freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu sent her a notebook but she refused to take it. Everyone, including Gandhi who realised his mistake, tried to persuade her to write in the notebook but she said, “What do I need a notebook for?”
Gandhi was known to be strict and even neglected his children while Kasturba found joy in her children.“If there was anybody with whom I felt at ease, it was Ba. She talked to me sweetly in her broken Hindustani and looked after my needs. With all her greatness, she had a mother’s heart and her motherliness pervaded the atmosphere around her," Sushila Nayar who spent many years with Kasturba wrote about her. Sushila Nayar was the daughter of Mahatma's personal secretary Pyarelal Nayar.
Kasturba supported Mahatma Gandhi's call for independence. She felt deeply about it and was committed to the cause. When Gandhi was imprisoned before he could address a public meet he wanted Kasturba to address the meet. But Kasturba realised that she too could be stopped and imprisoned therefore dictated her message to Sushila Nayar who addressed crowd of more than one lakh. There is another instance.“I have a feeling I will not come out alive”, Kasturba had said to Sushila when she was taken as a prisoner. Kasturba was put in a dirty cell in the Arthur Road prison and she fell ill. She was then taken to Aga Khan Palace in Poona where Gandhi was imprisoned.
In South Africa, Kasturba actively participated in movements to improve conditions of working Indians. She was jailed for three months for protesting against the South African government.In 1932, Kasturba was imprisoned for the first time and was sentenced to six weeks of imprisonment. The second time she was arrested, she was imprisoned for six months. Kasturba Gandhi was again arrested in 1933 and was jailed for another six months.
Kasturba breathed her last on February 22, 1944, at the Aga Khan Palace detention camp on Bapu’s lap. She was cremated the next day in the same compound. The death of Kasturba Gandhi marked the end of her 62-year-old relationship with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi stood at Kasturba’s pyre till the end as it was their final parting and in the evening after prayer, Gandhi remarked, “I cannot imagine life without Ba.”
When Kasturba returned to India with her husband Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1915 she helped Gandhi to set up Sabarmati Ashram and it was there that Kasturba was first referred as ‘Ba’ which means mother. Whenever Gandhi fell ill, Kasturba did not shed a single tear or lost hope or courage but prayed to God. Kasturba Gandhi in its true sense is the symbol of Indian womanhood.After Kasturba’s death, Gandhi wrote that she was not behind her in any respect. "She stood above me," Mahatma had said about Kasturba.