It was here that Mahatma Gandhi conducted his early experiments with truth.
Now, over 100 years after he first moved there, the legendary freedom fighter’s one-time home in South Africa has been bought by a Bandra businessman, who plans to turn it into a museum and then hand it over to the government of India.
Pradeep Bhavnani, a philanthropist and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s nephew — he doesn’t like to be known as that — bought the thatched-roof bungalow for $450,000 (about Rs 2.25 crore) on Thursday.
Gandhi lived here from 1908 to 1910, when, as a young lawyer, he was fighting racial discrimination in the then-segregated British colony.
“I felt hurt when I read that nobody was willing to buy the house,” said Bhavnani, a self-professed Gandhian. “What was even more shocking to me was that the government hadn’t thought of buying the house. It is [part of] Gandhi’s legacy, and I felt our reputation as a nation was at stake.”
Situated in a quiet Johannesburg suburb, there were initially no takers for the house. Till news began to spread that Gandhi had once lived there.
As inquiries started pouring in, Bhavnani called the owner, American artist Nancy Ball, and told her of his plans to turn it into a museum.
“I am confident that the owner will not give the house to anyone else,” said Bhavnani.
He plans to travel to Johannesburg to seal the deal on August 2.
Once he has bought the house, he will install 34 souvenirs and photographs he intends to buy from the Aditya Birla Group.
The museum will be inaugurated on October 2, Gandhi’s birth anniversary.
“Possession will be transferred to the Government of India on the same day,” said Bhavnani. “I will hand over the keys to President Pratibha Patil.”
This is the second time a businessman has come to the rescue of the Gandhi legacy this year. In March, liquor baron Vijay Mallya paid $1.8 million (Rs 9.3 crore) for memorabilia that included a pair of spectacles, sandals, a pocket watch, a bowl and a plate used by Gandhi. He then handed over the items to the government.