Life of Gandhi and his contribution to human empowerment has been discussed a lot but the sufferings of his wife – Kasturiba – has not been given the same importance. She bore all the burdeeen of the house as a typical traditional housewife and her contribution towards the family and society should not be under- estimated. On the 74 th , death anniversary, it may be worthwhile to recount her silent resilience and unexpressed ambitions and as a sidelined leader whose identity went far and that beyond her husband.
Kasturibai ‘ Kasturiba’ ( Kasturibai Makhanji Kapadia) was born on 11April 1869. Little is known of her early life. She was married to Gandhi at the early age of 14.. She was forced to choose the life of a freedom fighter at an early age after marriage. She had to come out of traditions associated with housewives in bania families. As Gandhi recorded in his ‘ My story of experiments with truth’ , she was from an economically sound and reputed family of the cost city of Porbandar. The first few years were patriarchal bond as she had to look after the home with her sons while Gandhi was away working for longer periods of time.
She did not receive formal education but was a fast learner all her life. Aparna Basu in her book ‘ Kasturiba Gandhi’ narrates an incident depicting her stern character. Gandhi told her that he would not give her notebook unless she improves her child-like writing. She refused to write in a notebook all her life. Gandhi paid tributes to her resilience and confessed that he would dominate her on several occasions.
Her long periods of loneliness when Gandhi was working in south African politics gave her strength to hone her leadership skills. Her commands were gentle but she was headstrong in getting them implemented. Her reputation of ‘ Universal Ba’ made people follow with reverence.
She was front – liner in following Gandhi in his Civil disobedience and quit India agitations. She would lead the movements when he was detained. She even wrote a powerful speech asking women to join quit India movement.
She looked after Sabarmati Ashram for the large part though it has been attributed to Gandhi.
Her freedom struggle began in South Africa itself. In 1913, she was sent to three months imprisonment for protesting against Indian workers conditions in South Africa.
She participated in many movements. She was arrested for the last time due to her role in quit India movement.
She was harshly treated in prison and succumbed to the ill treatment in 1944. Her tremendous willpower and determination are commendable. She encouraged khadi workers and stood by the women.
We should salute to the great woman who stood by Gandhi all her life.
Kasturiba Gandhi, the Empowered woman : what You Didn’t know, thequint.com
Sheshu Babu is a writer from anywhere and everywhere