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President Patil gets Gandhi letters

Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia have returned to where they belong—his homeland.

delhi Updated: Oct 29, 2009 01:47 IST
Saroj Nagi

Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia have returned to where they belong—his homeland.

It was a poignant moment when, on Wednesday, President Pratibha Patil received a bunch of letters and a piece of khadi woven by him from NRI businessmen Nathu Ram Puri and curry king, Sir Gulam Noon.

The brief function took place appropriately at the Gandhi Hall, India House in London against the backdrop of the Mahatma’s portrait and a painting of Gautam Buddha looking down from the ceiling.

The Mahatma came alive through the memorabilia that Patil held up for better viewing by 100 dignitaries and mediapersons crowding the small hall. In particular were three letters written by Gandhi in Urdu.

In one of these, dated August 12, 1945, he naughtily ticked off poet Hamid Ullah Afsar for sending him an unstamped letter. “I got your letter. I do not reply to unstamped letters. Yours, M K Gandhi.”

If he was playful in this, his sensitivity came through his letters in Urdu to Maulana Abdul Bari, Islamic scholar and leading figure in the Khilafat movement, who worked closely with Gandhi from 1918 onwards.

These letters referred to Hindu-Muslim relations, including communal tension in Lucknow and their personal friendship. In another, written from prison, he thanked Bari for sending him the gift of cotton for spinning.

The piece of white khadi with a simple purple border was signed by Pyare Lal and Sarojini Naidu, among others. The piece was reportedly gifted to South African-born actress Moira Lister by Maharani of Jaipur late Gayatri Devi.

Patil had told mediapersons on board her special aircraft that it would be decided by the government where the memorabilia would go. Earlier, such treasures were given to the National Archives for safekeeping.

In her speech at the function, Patil underlined that Mahatma Gandhi had a special place in our hearts and articles associated with him had a special meaning for every Indian.

She also acknowledged the efforts of Noon and Puri in procuring the items “as their tribute to Gandhi”.