At a session on ‘Between the Silences, author Neelima Dalmia Adhar at the Jaipur Literature Festival on the last day, raised many eyebrows while discussing her book on Kasturba, The Secret Diary of Kasturba, which is a fictional account of Mahatma’s wife.
Calling Mahatma Gandhi a baniya and one who would have made a brilliant CEO had he been around today, Neelima seemed to up her ante against the Mahatma, saying today’s generation may have even despised Gandhi.
Neelima was also joined by author and a professor at Harvard, Vera Hildebrand, whose book ‘Women at War: Subhash Chandra Bose and The Rani of Jhansi Regiment’, was published in 2016. The session was moderated by Salil Tripathi, a London-based writer, who chairs PEN International’s Writers-in-Prison Committee.
Rajasthan Post unravels author Neelima’s take on Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi :A deeply split personality
Mahatma Gandhi was a deeply split personality. He took a unilateral vow of celibacy and inflicted emotional cruelty on his wife Kasturba and did not let her flower Gandhiji’s dark side was his odious experiments with sexuality. There was callousness in his experiments with celibacy. Kasturba had every right to hate him.
Gandhiji : A Baniya and CEO
Gandhiji was a baniya. Today he would have made a brilliant CEO. He had an astute sense of who would be able to accomplish what work. He entrusted Kasturba with the work to look after his ashram.
On Gandhi’s attitude towards women
Gandhi had a dark side with regard to women. Gandhi had grown up seeing his mother Putlibai and his core attitude towards women was unconsciously shaped on this. However, his attitude towards his wife, Kasturba was vastly different from his attitude towards other women. He was constantly surrounded by women and this obsession went on to the point of infatuation. These were in huge contradiction with his spiritual personality. He also did not let his children study, while he himself had a law degree. His attitude towards his wife and family bordered on cruelty and he was consumed by his own cause. Most leaders, who devote their lives for the cause of nation, have wretched personal lives.
Women followed Gandhi on path of ahimsa
But one of Gandhi’s positive point was he could incite women into following him in pursuit of ahimsa and that helped in the non-violent freedom struggle.
On sourcing for the book
In trying to give voice to the voiceless Kasturba, Neelima, a trained psychologist, was helped by books, research and biography of Arun and Sunanda Gandhi. Arun happens to be the fifth grandson of Gandhi. She tried to fill in the gaps of Kasturba’s story as she reimagined Gandhi as the cold, dominating husband, who had dark and negative shades in his character as well. Neelima said she has passed no moral judgement in the book and has played the role of Sanjay as in Mahabharata.
On Gandhi’s relevance today
Gandhi’s bramacharya has no relevance today, he has simply been reduced to tokenism by political parties and by slapstick comedies.
Accolades and brickbats
After her book came out in October last year, one of the best compliments Neelima received on Twitter was from one of her followers, who said : “Our currency should have the face of Kasturba instead of Gandhi.”
And the one that took the cake was a compliment from Shashi Tharoor, who said “She had given Kasturba an Adhaar card now.”
Vera Hildebrand on Subhash Chandra Bose
Though Bose was a complicated man, he had a high intellect and was years ahead of his time. He was a passionate rationalist and wanted to give women equal rights and believed that all had work for their rights. There was no distinction in food at his Azad Hind Fauz, meat, beef, pork everything was served while his newspaper Azad Hind Times was in Roman script to avoid any clashes between different religions and communities.