Mother India

The book reflects the true picture of the personality of Kasturba Gandhi

Book:              Kasturba Gandhi
Author:        Prof Aparna Basu
Publisher:    Gandhi National Memorial Society, Agakhan Palace, Pune
Reviewer:     Dr  Roshan Ara

Kasturba Gandhi has left an indelible imprint on the Indian society and her valuable contribution towards the freedom movement has proved helpful in reshaping the present day India. She became a companion of Gandhi Ji right from beginning and went through many ordeals. She initially started her struggle as a social worker in South Africa when Gandhi Ji vowed to fight against the racial discrimination of Indians. She also lived life of a political prisoner and organised the women-folk to come forward in the struggle of freedom. Kasturba infused new blood into the veins of women of India by transforming them from housewives to political workers. Kasturba Gandhi, in spite of her great contribution, and the fact that she was the wife of Mahatma Gandhi,  has never been in the limelight due to the prevailing patriarchal social structure which kept portraying Gandhi Ji as the leading light, neglecting the sacrifices and selfless service of this great lady. Gandhi Ji is well known to the world. He has written his autobiography and numerous biographies and volumes of literature are available on him. His life and philosophy has been researched well and worked upon world over by so many scholars. But no such serious attempt has been made regarding the life and contribution of Kasturba Gandhi. The book “Kasturba Gandhi” written by Professor Aparna Basu, a historian of international repute,   is, therefore, a welcome addition to the available literature. The author has very beautifully compiled the life history of Kasturba Gandhi, throwing light on  various dimensions of her life from different prisms and has conveyed a message of hope to the readers especially women folk. The message would continuously inspire Indian women.
The book has been organised into eleven parts, covering   different phases of Kasturba’s life - early life, life in South Africa, life in India, ashram life, satyagraha and prison life, and the last phase of her life, which taken together make an excellent reading. The preface of the book has been written by Mrs Shobhana Ranade, noted Gandhian and Trustee of Gandhi National Memorial Society, Pune, which has added much value to the book. This concise overview of the book, providing the logic behind its launching is one of the main highlights of the book.
The book is a generous attempt by the author about a woman who serves as an embodiment of compassion. It highlights various facets of the life of the great woman freedom fighter of India under whose shadow the women folk of the country got proper direction and inspiration to march towards the struggle of freedom. The book reflects the true picture of the personality of Kasturba Gandhi and her achievements and represents a comprehensive, renewed and balanced approach to the understanding of Kasturba Gandhi.
The credit of being the first woman political leader and freedom fighter of India goes to Kasturba Gandhi. Being a simple and ordinary woman she proved herself as the most loyal and obedient wife. Kasturba Gandhi, in this book, is portrayed as the living legend of Indian womanhood and a ‘Pati Vrata’ Hindu wife who followed her husband’s footsteps throughout her life. The book in a sense depicts a male domination and a patriarchal structure of Indian society where women are bound to obey the commands of their husbands. Kasturba Gandhi in this book is more portrayed as a loyal and obedient wife rather than as an individual leader which once again gives Gandhi Ji an edge over her.  The centre of her thoughts was always Gandhi Ji. Kasturba herself says that “I do not know my religion but my religion is my husband”. She lost herself in him and always proved a source of strength and inspiration. Gandhi Ji himself admits that “Kasturba lost herself in me and became my true better half”. Kasturba in spite of coming from a rich family took a vow of voluntary poverty and Brahmachariya. She sacrificed all her tastes, customs, and beliefs and imbibed in herself a simple and ordinary way of living like that of Gandhi Ji. Kasturba gave up all prejudices including untouchablity, casteism and embraced humanism. Gandhi ji admires her by saying, “in current sense of the word she was uneducated but to my mind she was a model of true education”.
The book instils in us an urge to express to the world that it is not our male freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives but some great women like Kasturba have equally dedicated their lives for the cause of the nation. It inspires the readers to go into further details and unfold deeper layers of the life of Kasturba Gandhi. The book beautifies her character not just as a leader but also as an obedient and sincere wife and affectionate mother as well. On reading this book, one strongly feels that Kasturba is the one who is worthy of the title of ‘Mother India’. Though her role never got the focus and attention it deserved, it is still not too late to give her role a befitting recognition. Her promising persona should find place in the academic curriculum, journals and magazines so that she gets her due recognition and continues to be a symbol of strength and love and a role model for generations to come. Knowledge about this simple yet strong woman could stand up for the unison of the entire nation, would portray the strength of women in different perspectives and help in curbing the evils against women. This is what has very candidly been brought home by Aparna Basu in this book.
Most of the chapters have been quite well written and properly arranged. However the book, being of a very small size, does not give an elaborate description of the entire life of this eminent leader and leaves some of the important aspects uncovered. Some issues regarding the crucial aspects of Kasturba‘s life have just been raised in the book. Their in depth and exploratory analysis could have added more value to it. A list of references at the end of the book would have also gone a long way in this direction.
To be fair, the author has, on the whole, made a commendable contribution to portray the life and works of Kasturba Gandhi precisely but very effectively for which she deserves to be complimented. With its unique coverage, the book would indeed be of significant interest not only to the academicians, researchers and students   but also to all those who are concerned with the ever-growing   problems faced by Indian women and are in search of genuine political, social and domestic roles of women in the contemporary Indian society.         
Dr Roshan Ara is Sr. Lecturer in Commerce, Girls HSS, Amirakadal, Srinagar and President AIWC, Kashmir Branch. She is recipient of   National Best Teacher Award 2011 and can be reached at

Lastupdate on : Wed, 30 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 30 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 31 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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