Muse n' Motivation

The Thinking Blog!

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE MAHATMA


October 2nd celebrates the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. He needs no introduction. That he worked hard to transform himself from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to the Mahatma, everyone knows. That he fought hard to help Indian and its citizens to get their deserved freedom is also well known. Though, how much of it is appreciated today I am not very sure. What few know or even bother to remember is the person behind the Mahatma’s success. Yes, indeed. I am referring to Kasturba Gandhi, the simple, unassuming wife of the Mahatma.

Born Kastur Kapadia in Porbabdar, she became Kastur Ba after marrying Gandhiji. She bore him four sons – Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devdas. History offers the proof of the sacrifices that this woman made to enable the Mahatma to work towards procuring freedom for India. Adjusting to a new way of life, giving up the little pleasures that every married woman desires, letting go of dreams that any girl has of wedded life – this and a lot more did Kasturba do, just to let her husband lay a foundation for the task that lay ahead of him. Kasturba let the revolution that ushered in independence usurp her dreams and desires. Not an easy thing to do. Understanding the power of sacrifice for a noble cause is something that requires a lot of self-introspection which most people do not have. But do we remember Kasturba for all that she did?

In many ways, Kasturba’s relationship with Gandhiji was like any other wife in most Indian homes. Most of the time, the man-woman equation is unequal, particularly so for Kasturba and Gandhiji as they were married in an age when equality of rights in an Indian marriage was something unheard of. Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Kasturba and Mahatma Gandhi, says in his book, Kasturba: A Life, “The story of my grandmother’s life is simply this: while Mohandas experimented with truth, Kasturba experienced it.”

Of course, this does not certainly belittle all that Gandhiji did for us. Even today, I credit my freedom to him and will always do. I am only trying to see another aspect into the Gandhiji saga. Kasturba is said to have always been caring and ever helpful. More than anything else, she was always patient with her husband. Having been forced to do without a lot of amenities, she did not permit her husband’s power with the masses to go to her head. Again, something very difficult to do, as pride in a husband’s power and fame is very normal for any woman. Poverty and celibacy were ways of life she willed herself to accept – tough decision to make. So many times, in our hurry to acquire and maintain a career, so many times in our obsession to live the lives of liberated women, we tend to disregard qualities that define a woman. Yes! They are love and sacrifice. I know! I know! You might rightfully ask me as to why sacrifices need to be made by women alone. Men can make them too! True! But, we cannot generalize in today’s world. Not all men are selfish. So many men make sacrifices we never get to hear about. Many men today are volunteering to care and help around in the house. But it is a fact that, even today, women are expected to be loving, to run the household, work outside, take care of the needs of their families and still retain their ‘femininity.’ It is a man’s world still.

It is an unfair society, agreed, but becoming bitter about it will definitely get us nowhere. Nor will getting lost in the tug–of-war of egos get us anywhere! Again, you might question the oft-repeated statement, “Behind every successful man there is a woman…”

“Why be the woman behind the successful man?” you may ask.

“Why not be the successful woman before the man instead?”

It certainly is a question for our times, considering the current environment where women contribute significantly in almost every field that was earlier considered to be male domain. But what most women tend to conveniently forget now-a-days is that success need not be measured by a career and ‘high funda’ lifestyle. No success is victory if it forces you to compromise on all those values you hold dear, like relationships and the joys of a family. At the fag end of your life, when you have become old and need to depend on others for physical and emotional requirements, will our families and friends be there for us? Were WE there when they needed us the most? Did we take time out (from our busy and successful lives) to share their joys and and woes? Or did we say, “Not now, later. Can’t you see I am busy?” Sadly, we were being busy getting further and further away from the love that we needed the most.

There are many women today who maintain a wonderful balance between work/job and home. They make time for themselves and for their loved ones. Life for them is not a race to prove their identities. Instead, they journey through life experiencing every moment for what it is and not for what it should be.

Women like Kasturba Gandhi often go unnoticed because of their beautiful humility. Arun Gandhi says, “Kasturba Gandhi spent virtually her entire life with the daily all encompassing reality of Mahatma Gandhi’s search for Truth.” Women like these are the ones who make a house a home. Housewives by choice or by circumstance, they live their lives to the fullest, forsaking those little desires they once thought important. They are successful women in their own right, just as much as those working women who believe in themselves and in the right to be happy without trampling on the feelings of their loved ones.

This month, when we remember Mahatma Gandhi, the successful man, let us salute Kasturba – the successful woman behind the successful man!

Advertisements

17 Comments

  1. I completely agree…. Kasturba is one of the most low-profile characters in our history. She is not given enough credit for the kind of support she contributed to both her husband and the country.
    Kudos to you for writing about it 🙂

  2. Thanks Ashwathy. It needs more persons like you to come out and express their appreciation for women like Kasturba Gandhi. If only we all understood her for what she stood for…

  3. Sneha

    Hi Shail,
    You know, this article reminds me of my feminism classes, though I don’t know if you believe in any ‘isms’…
    All of us know great historians but often forget about their wives. The seminal volume of books Women Writing in India (Volume 1 and 2) talk about these forgotten names. I may not recollect who he was, but a very well-known poet and freedom fighter of the nationalist struggle he was – his wife had written short accounts of their daily life and she mentions his mood swings (I think it is part of being a writer) and how he used to be away from home for several weeks without any information or contact through letters.
    Of course, it isn’t easy for the women; nor was it.
    I’m so glad that your sensitivity has made you remember Kasturba Gandhi today. Happy Birthday Gandhiji, wherever above in the heavens you are!

  4. Bhargavi

    Shail,
    As always a wonderful article.
    We do forget the women behind great men.
    As you had pointed out, let us also remember the lady behind these successful men on their b’day atleast.
    Into this list comes the wife of the great poet Bharathiyaar, Chellamal.

  5. Sonal

    You have raised the right questions Shail. Nice write up on the right occasion.

  6. Hi Shail,

    Great to find that you have highlighted the important role played by Kasturba in the success of Gandhi. Many ‘Kasturbas’ have prevented the emergence of such selfless workers for their own selfish reasons. They want to give utmost importance to their own family and not the society.

    BTW what happened to the sons of gandhi?
    Why they failed to shine? Is it due to failure of gandhi as a ‘father’.

    A.Hari

    I had posted a story abt how gandhi was just an average student, but succeeded in his life in my blog ‘Inspire Minds’.

    http://changeminds.wordpress.com/2008/09/06/mahatma-gandhi/

    Hari

  7. Sneha :
    Hi Shail,
    You know, this article reminds me of my feminism classes, though I don’t know if you believe in any ‘isms’…
    All of us know great historians but often forget about their wives. The seminal volume of books Women Writing in India (Volume 1 and 2) talk about these forgotten names. I may not recollect who he was, but a very well-known poet and freedom fighter of the nationalist struggle he was – his wife had written short accounts of their daily life and she mentions his mood swings (I think it is part of being a writer) and how he used to be away from home for several weeks without any information or contact through letters.
    Of course, it isn’t easy for the women; nor was it.
    I’m so glad that your sensitivity has made you remember Kasturba Gandhi today. Happy Birthday Gandhiji, wherever above in the heavens you are!

    Hi Sneha,

    Nice of you to appreciate the Kasturbas of our world. Yes, it never has been easy for the women of the world especially when it is about the wives of ‘real’ leaders and revolutionaries of the world.

  8. Bhargavi :
    Shail,
    As always a wonderful article.
    We do forget the women behind great men.
    As you had pointed out, let us also remember the lady behind these successful men on their b’day atleast.
    Into this list comes the wife of the great poet Bharathiyaar, Chellamal.

    Hi Bhargavi,

    Thanks. Yes, you are right about Bharathiyaar’s wife, and so many other wives who are sidelined because of their husband’s work, profession or ideals and principles in life. If it were not for their support (voluntary or not), things wouldn’t go the way their husbands wanted to. Don’t you think so?

  9. Sonal :
    You have raised the right questions Shail. Nice write up on the right occasion.

    Hi Sonal,

    I am glad you liked the write-up. We tend to forget such people who silently do their work while the world sleeps!

  10. A.Hari :
    Hi Shail,
    Great to find that you have highlighted the important role played by Kasturba in the success of Gandhi. Many ‘Kasturbas’ have prevented the emergence of such selfless workers for their own selfish reasons. They want to give utmost importance to their own family and not the society.
    BTW what happened to the sons of gandhi?
    Why they failed to shine? Is it due to failure of gandhi as a ‘father’.
    A.Hari
    I had posted a story abt how gandhi was just an average student, but succeeded in his life in my blog ‘Inspire Minds’.
    http://changeminds.wordpress.com/2008/09/06/mahatma-gandhi/
    Hari

    Hi Hari,

    Yes, I too wonder about Mahatma Gandhi’s children. In fact, it tends to happen to many successful men and women, their sons and daughters come nowhere near their achievements. Of course, it could also be that the events in their parents’ lives completely dominated their lives to such an extent that the children’s emotions and thought process were sacrificed which is a real pity.

  11. Excellent Shail. Couldn’t agree more on this. Most women do go unnoticed despite the fact that they are the backbone of any family!!

  12. Btw, have you seen this film : ‘Gandhi, my father’? It is awesome.

  13. Pallavi :
    Excellent Shail. Couldn’t agree more on this. Most women do go unnoticed despite the fact that they are the backbone of any family!!

    Hi Pallavi,
    I know. Women tend to get ignored everywhere. Unfortunately, when they do raise their hoods, many a modern woman tends to make the same mistakes like the male chauvanists which is a real pity. Don’t you think so?

  14. Pallavi :
    Btw, have you seen this film : ‘Gandhi, my father’? It is awesome.

    I didn’t actually. Have been wanting to see it. Now that you say is awesome, I must somehow get to see it. Soon!

  15. Balaji

    Good article Shail.

    These lines I liked the most. This is really what many women today forget.

    “But what most women tend to conveniently forget now-a-days is that success need not be measured by a career and ‘high funda’ lifestyle. No success is victory if it forces you to compromise on all those values you hold dear, like relationships and the joys of a family.”

    J. Balaji.

  16. Thanks Balaji. I am glad you liked the article. Yes, we modern women have a lot to learn, to not commit the same mistakes as the men.

    Contentment within is most important. Nothing else matters. And no contentment is real happiness if it is a result of a butchered relationship or values.

Trackbacks

  1. The woman behind the Mahatma | Suhas Palekar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s