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Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Secret Diary of Kasturba - Book Review

Neelima Dalmia Adhar’s the secret diary of Kasturba is not about Mahatma Gandhi, it is about the man called Gandhi. This book tells story of Gandhi’s family life from the perspective of his wife Kasturba. Gandhi, his ideology, his political struggle also forms a part of the book. But that is just a backdrop. At one place Kasturba says, ‘How paradoxical was the situation! The entire nation revered Bapu, as the chosen one, the greatest liberator of the oppressed classes, but the injustice that his own family faced at the hands of their messiah, needed to be exposed.’ These lines carry the gist of the book.

The secret diary of Kasturba starts with the birth of Kastur and Monhandas. It takes us on a journey to Gujarat, Africa, Maharashtra and many other places. Needless to say this journey is not just about places, it is also about people and more importantly it is a journey within. Surprisingly her diary continues even after her death, until Mohandas dies. The book articulates the insecurities of a young bride very well. Harilal, the eldest son of the couple is the tragic hero of the book. The author brings to life his vagaries through her way with words. Your heart goes out for him and you feel that Gandhi did injustice to his family.

The book tells us everything about Gandhi in a nutshell. It tells us that Gandhi was against intercaste and interfaith marriages. It speaks of Gandhiji’s relationship with Sarala Devi. It says, ‘Mohandas treated Sarala Devi as his spiritual wife, after an intellectual wedding, and he openly claimed that he bathed in her deep affection as she showered her love on him in every possible way.

To call the book as the Secret Diary of Kasturba would be inappropriate. She writes about incidents, people who she was obviously not aware of on that given date in her diary. Also as stated earlier her diary continues even after her death. At the most it can be called a story told through Kasturba’s eyes but certainly not her diary. Also at places the writing is scattered. Some links are missing. I was unable to understand how a young Kastur who is driven out of her marital home on charges of infidelity returns to her husband.

Yet on some points the book scores very well. Gandhi-Harilal conflict is the high point of this book. It is heart-wrenching, poignant and even entertaining. That is the sole reason why I recommend this book.

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