This is an article in the “City Idols” series. City Idols is an effort to revive the legacies of the people after whom roads and parks have been named.
Road Name: Kasturba Road named after Kasturba Mohandas Gandhi (11th April 1869 – 22nd February 1944)
Road Location: One of the busiest and most crowded streets in the city, it is connected to M G Road to the north and J C Road to the south. Some important landmarks situated along Kasturba Road are Kanteerava Indoor Stadium, Cubbon Park, Government Museum and UB City. A 600-year-old Ganesha temple is also situated on Kasturba Road. Other important landmarks close to the road are Karnataka High Court, Vidhana Soudha and Chinnaswamy Stadium.
When Bangalore passed into the hands of the Wodeyars of Mysore, the renaming exercise of roads began. The regulations came into force on July 2, 1892, when Sir K. Seshadri Iyer was Dewan of Mysore and Sir T.R.A. Thumboochetty (later officiating Dewan) was Chief Judge.
The regulations were, however, not specific to Kasturba Road which, till Independence and a little later, was known as Sidney Road. It was an Anglo-Indian councillor of the City Municipality, Newbold, who moved the resolution to rename South Parade as Mahatma Gandhi Road and Sidney Road as Kasturba Road after Kasturba Gandhi. As there was no separate law on town planning those days, the regulations were written into the Mysore Revenue Manual, the bible for officials.
Kasturba Gandhi was born to a prosperous businessman Gokuladas Makharji of Porbandar on April 11, 1869. Kasturba Gandhi, known affectionately as Ba, was married to Mohandas Gandhi in 1882 when she was thirteen years old. She was not given formal education, as was the custom in conservative families of the period, Bapuji taught Kasturba to read and write in their mother tongue, Gujarati and she picked up enough language to go through the daily newspapers.
She was a deeply religious woman and following the ideologies of her husband she renounced all caste distinctions. A delicate, small but elegant lady, she was simple, straightforward and methodical. Gandhi, the apostle of ahimsa (non-violence) and Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) has admitted more than once that he learned the art and science of Satyagraha from Kasturba. Hers was a life of love, devotion, sacrifice and silence. Gandhi said in his autobiography that she had worked with him voluntarily or otherwise, in all the great transformations of his life. He felt that her life was an extremely sacred one. In discharging her duty as a wife she had even sacrificed her conscience. She never stood in between him and his sacrifices. Everyone called her Ba in great respect.
Working closely with her husband, Kasturba Gandhi became a political activist fighting for civil rights and Indian independence from the British. After Gandhi moved to South Africa to practice law, she travelled to South Africa in 1897 to be with her husband. From 1904 to 1914, she was active in the Phoenix Settlement near Durban. During the 1913 protest against working conditions for Indians in South Africa, Kasturba was arrested and sentenced to three months in a hard labour prison. Later, in India, she sometimes took her husband’s place when he was under arrest. In 1915, when Gandhi returned to India to support indigo planters, Kasturba accompanied him. She taught hygiene, discipline, health, reading, and writing.
She never behaved like Mrs. Gandhi, and never sought the privileges nor the power of being Gandhiji’s wife. It was Ba who made the Ashrams a home for those who sojourned there.
Gandhi set up the Satyagraha ashram in Sabarmati; Ba was his chief assistant in running the ashram. When Gandhi started the khadi (hand spun cloth) movement, Ba organized its propaganda. Whenever Gandhi went into a fast against what he thought was unjust, Ba was with him. The husband’s goal was the wife’s motto. The wife was the husband’s shadow, especially when the husband had been sacrificing his life for the country. She gave leadership to the women in the Satyagraha movement and had been jailed many times.
The frequent fastings that Gandhi undertook ate into her health also and her own internment in prisons added fuel to this malady. Medical attention was there but to no avail; and on 22 February 1944, this great lady who was the shadow of her husband who became the Father of the Nation and one of the greatest men of all times, breathed her last, lying on the lap of her husband.
Gandhi mourned – “I can’t imagine a life without Ba. She went away to freedom, imprinting on the heart to work or to die.”
Contributed by: Shreyas Shrinivas and Shreesh Shrinivas, 8-F, Sri Kumaran Children’s Home CBSE