For many of us, India’s freedom movement speaks markedly of Mahatma Gandhi, a man who took upon the responsibility upon himself and freed the nation from the British rule. But how about the other half of Mohandas Gandhi, Bapu? Any idea on that one?
Well, there’s say that goes in the breadth as, ‘Behind every successful man, there’s a woman’. It doesn’t get any truer than here. Mohandas Gandhi, Bapu also had his better half supporting him throughout his life. This blog is a dedication to the lady behind the father of the nation. Kasturba Gandhi.
In the early years of his marriage, Gandhi’s attempts to control Kasturba bore no fruit. Historian Vinay Lal writes, “Kasturba never acceded to her husband’s wishes easily, and Gandhi’s autobiography itself furnishes a remarkable testimony to her tenacity and independence of judgement and the sharp disagreements she came to have with him when, in the first two decades of their marriage, he unreasonably sought to bring her under his control.”
She had great courage, both physical and moral as can be seen from the grave illnesses she suffered and overcame, the hardships of her early days in South Africa and during her imprisonments. In fact, she was a source of strength to her fellow women prisoners.”
Gandhi in his own biography spoke about it, ”According to my earlier experience, she was very obstinate. In spite of all my pressure, she would do as she wished. This led to short or long periods of estrangement between us. But as my public life expanded, my wife bloomed forth and deliberately lost herself in my work.”
When the Quit India movement began gaining ground Gandhi was imprisoned before he could address a public meeting in Shivaji Park near Bombay. Gandhi wanted Kasturba to take his imprison her too
As a wife, Kasturba’s sacrifice is commendable. She opened her house to the nation and the freedom struggle and supported her husband in his efforts. It would never have been easy on her. She fasted when he was in prison, gave up on things she liked – good food, her religious beliefs and even her jewellery. Most importantly she did not object to his vow of brahmacharya.
Though she was a dedicated wife, she was far from submissive. She could hold her own and did make herself heard even if it was Gandhi at the receiving end.
Had argument on Untouchability
Kasturba Gandhi had a stiff rage with Mohandas Gandhi on ‘untouchability’. Mohandas Gandhi urged her to do all the chores of the house and skipping the untouchable servant from the house. The couple had a ward off on the topic.
Supported Gandhi’s stance on Celibacy
It was in 1906 that Mohandas Gandhi took a lifetime oath of celibacy and chastity. Kasturba Gandhi whole-heartedly supported her husband’s stance and obeyed by the move. The couple abstained from any sexual relationship after the oath.
The story behind her title ‘Ba’
Kasturba Gandhi returned to India in 1915 with her husband Mohandas Gandhi. She helped Gandhi form the Sabarmati Ashram where she was referred as ‘Ba’ which means mother. The word ‘Ba’ became her referred title all her life.
On the evening of 22nd February 1944, she breathed her last at the Aga Khan Palace Detention Camp on Bapu’s lap and was cremated in the compound of the Detention Camp on 23rd February 1944. Her husband sat watching the funeral pyre till the end and when asked by someone to go rest, he remarked, “This is the final parting, the end of 62 years of shared life. Let me stay here till the cremation is over! That evening, after the prayer he remarked, “I cannot imagine life without Ba.”