Once a lovely grandson grew up playing on the lap of Mahatma Gandhi, he led a beautiful life with lot of dignity. Time is always not the same, today 87-year-old Kannubhai Ramdas Gandhi is spending the last leg of his life with his 85-year-old wife Dr. Shiva Laxmi in a seniors’ home in Delhi. The condition of this old age home is quite appalling and painful. The couple does not have children and have lived almost all their lives in the US. After studying in America’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kannubhai worked in the defence department and NASA while his wife was a professor and then a research scholar in Boston.
In 2014, they came to India to be reunited with their own people but instead of that they ended up feeling disheartened and clearly uncomfortable in a home for the old and the homeless. After going from one ashram to the next, the couple finally came to Delhi on the May 8 from Sabarmati in Gujarat and found a place to live in the Guru Vishram Vridh Ashram in Delhi. Around 130 people live in this old-age home. The couple shares a single air-conditioned room, which is otherwise available for extremely sick patients. The home has four toilets in total with 40 helping hands workers.
Bapu’s other family members are not as kind as him, the relatives refused to help this couple while they were undergoing difficulties. Bapu’s children are his opposites. The irony is that none of them stood up to his status. Some entered politics and damaged their image, some are involved in business disputes and many are living on their own having no family connect. Dr. Shiva Laxmi wants to be in an environment where the couple can talk to other intellectual people, discuss ideas but it’s too late to go back to USA. Anyhow, they chose their life to live, but they have no space in the society.
If we go pre independence, then the north of Bombay province was lies Porbandar, which is one of the states of Kathiawar. The capital of that state was a port and town of the same name. Many years ago, there lived a man named Karamchand Gandhi. He was a Bania by caste. Most Banias are traders and not well-educated but all the members of his family were well read and, for three generations, they had held the posts of Ministers in different states of Kathiawar.
Karamchand was an honest, brave and large-hearted man. He was widely respected and his word was law unto the people. But he was rather hot-tempered, and the people were therefore afraid of him. He always spoke the truth, and wielded great power. He used to settle disputes even amongst the various rulers of Kathiawar. Karamchand lived in Porbandar for a number of years. Then he set up office at Rajkot, one of the smaller Kathiawar states. There were no railway trains then, and the slow bullock-cart used to take five days to cover the distance between Porbandar and Rajkot. The ruler of Rajkot, popularly known as the Thakore Saheb, held Karamchand in high esteem, and, within a few years, he appointed him Dewan of his state.
Karamchand was very unlucky in his family life. He had married thrice, and each time his wife had died, without bearing him any children. At the age of forty he was married for the fourth time to one Putlibai, and this union was blessed with one daughter and three sons.
Between Putlibai’s eldest child and her youngest, there was a difference of only six years. The youngest was born in 1869. He was nothing much to look at, but somehow he was the favourite of the entire family, and Karamchand, Putlibai and the other three children were very fond of him.
He was none other than Mohandas, so he came to be known as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Thereafter Mohandas educated himself, took part in India’s freedom struggle and became Mahatma. Then he was assassinated in the garden of the former Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti) on 30th January 1948.
Mohandas’s journey ends here but his intellectual legacy and preaching’s still followed by people at large. Mahatma had taught non-violence, caring, sharing, tolerance and loving people. Unfortunately his family’s next generations could not carry those values. All are shattered in their own corners.
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