Walk into a book store and count a number of books that you will find on Gandhi Ji. Now count the number of books that are available on Kasturba Gandhi. Not many, right? This is why, Neelima Dalmia has written The Secret Diary of Kasturba, a fictitious account of Kasturba’s life, the woman who was married to Mohandas Karmachand Gandhi.
“There isn’t enough satisfactory material available on Kasturba Gandhi that could prepare me enough to write a biography,” says Neelima, adding tath she feels a kind of connect with Kasturba. “There is a lot of similarity between her and me. We both share a common culture and background. She was Gujarati and I belong to a Marathi family, almost identical to each other. My father was a huge supporter of Gandhi. Moreover, I was looking for a strong character from pre-Independence era, so I choose her.”
Dalmia attempts to bring out the person that Kasturba was, a freedom fighter, a thinking articulate being, a patient observer of things, and not just a devoted wife, in the book published by Westland. “Her sacrifices, her struggles, her individuality... I wanted to bring them into light . She was the backbone of her husband who is regarded as a leader who brought India freedom. I wanted to present the woman of pre-independence era who had a mind of her own. She was truly an Aadi Shakti,” says Dalmia.
The writer says people have a general perception about Kasturba, that of a docile and quiet woman. “There are more colours to her than the perception allows. She was neither weak nor submissive. She was as capable as her husband. She held the movement and was a freedom fighter,” says Dalmia.
The book attempts to give voice to Kasturba. It tries to imagine her feelings, confusion, dejection, and turmoil. For instance, when Gandhi vowed to be live like a celibate. Dalmia says, “Kasturba must have been greatly disturbed by his decision. For any woman, this is a natural reaction. The greatest binding force in marriage is sexual compatibility. Sex terminate relation between two, the move would have shattered Kasturba.”
Dalmia tried to bring out Kasturba’s in three different shades – a mother, a wife and an individual. “Kasturba felt that she was responsible for the waywardness of their son. She fought with her husband, she never hesitate to argue. She was the famine Shakti in true sense,” she says.