Named ‘Kastur’ after the scent the world knows as musk, she was the youngest of three siblings in a wealthy family of Kapadias who had well established overseas business in textiles, grain and cotton.
Known to the world as Kasturba, wife of a man the world venerated as a prophet of peace, for Kastur the child bride who married the boy next door, Mohandas was self righteous and overbearing husband, says a new book “The Secret Diary of Kasturba”, an imaginary chronicle of the life of Kasturba by Neelima Dalmia Adhar.
Historical facts form the backdrop of this book but there was “no secret diary” maintained by Kasturba”, says Adhar.
The book is written in a diary form with Kastur penning her experiences in Porbandar where she was born on April 11, 1869- six months before the birth of Mohandas Gandhi who was born in neighbourhood on October 2, 1869 and, early life with young Mohandas, her days in Africa and Mohandas’s rise as a mass leader.
As her diary traverses through the years in Porbandar, opposition from the Modh Bania community to Gandhi’s plans to go abroad for studies much against the community’s opposition to such ventures, his work in South Africa, Kastur writes of the horror that she was subjected to by Mohandas when she was told to clean not only own chamber pots every day but also extend the service to other residents whose pots had not been tended to or cleaned properly.
“The persistent putrid stink, the nasty gash on my wrist where Mohandas had grabbed me and dragged me to the gate… Mohandas had become an abusive and cruel husband who had lost all regard for the one person he claimed to have loved the most. I felt suffocated and trapped,” Kastur wrote in the diary imagined by the author.
A bigger shock was yet to come. After she gave birth to their fourth child, Devdas, Mohandas told her that she will have to sleep in a separate bedroom.
“We shall no longer be man and wife,” he apparently told Kasturba. She had understood that as a faithful Hindu wife, she would have to blindly follow in the footsteps of her husband, no matter how much it violated her sensibilities.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was sworn to poverty, celibacy and the cause for India’s freedom; Kastur spent 62 years of her life juggling the roles of a devoted wife, a ‘satyagrahi’ and sacrificing mother who was eclipsed because of a man who almost became God for India’s multitude.
Gandhi was an intolerant father to Harilal, his wayword son, driven to debauchery; Kasturba paid the price for her son’s unending misery, the book claims.
The book, published by Tranquebar Press, tries to tell the world what it meant to Kasturba to be wife of Mahatma Gandhi.