The ‘Mahatma’ Who Disrespected His Wife, Wished She Died, and Publicly Humiliated

gandhi-kasturba-together

Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba, also referred to as ‘Ba,’ did not enjoy an enjoyable life with him due to his self-centered and selfish nature with an attitude of treating her disrespectfully. His relationship with Kasturba Gandhi got even worse after he declared his vow of Brahmacharya to her in about 1906 while he continued to indulge in extramarital affairs with other women such as Henry Polak’s wife, Millie others at the same time.

Kasturba had severe health problems between 1908 and 1914. During her illness, Gandhi was more available to her, and it seemed like her failing health had put the family back on track. At times, Kasturba was so sick that people thought she couldn’t survive. But she did come out of her illness and fully recovered. Gandhi greatly appreciated her courage and bravery in fighting her illness.

But this was the same period during which Gandhi had begun to associate, write letters to, and spend more time with women like Millie Polak and other women. We already discussed his affair with Millie Polak in this article, whose timeline matches the timeline during which Kasturba was ill.

Amid all this, even after her recovery from illness, Kasturba continued to be a marginal figure in Gandhi’s political matters at the same time when he was engaged in motivating and encouraging other women of Indian origin to join his Satyagraha movement. She was nowhere in the picture for him. Once she confronted him and then he immediately turned around and began encouraging her to join the movement.

When Kasturba was vacillating between life and death during her sickness, Gandhi shared his anxiety about her deteriorating health with his close associate, A. H. West, in which death wish was the dominant theme. He said:

If Mrs. Gandhi must leave me without even the consolation a devoted husband could afford, so be it.

He wrote a letter to her on 9th November 1908 which said this:

I love you so dearly that even if you are dead, you will be alive to me… I repeat… I will not marry again… It doesn’t matter much whether one dies or lives.

In his letters to Kasturba during this period, he conveyed the same sentiments multiple times. One may begin to think that perhaps he was preparing her for the inevitable… and himself. But then, he also wrote a letter to his friend Kallenbach in 1914 in which he said:

If anybody should have died, it was Mrs. Gandhi… And yet the desire in me to die is overpowering.

Then he also wrote to his close associate and cousin, Maganlal Gandhi about her saying this:

Whether she lives or dies, her mind should be pure and tender. I have made all the preparations and inquired about everything in case she dies. There is a cremation ground here equipped with the necessary facility. It is four miles away.

But, to his amazement and hers, Kasturba survived the disease, and then he started admiring her publicly for her determination.

As Kasturba recovered, she would have noticed things his experiments and other things and would have objected to his methods. And knowing his character, we can easily predict what kind of disappointment would have caused Mohandas Gandhi to write this letter to his friend, Kallenbach, with such complaints about his wife on 14th April 1914:

Mrs. Gandhi is much better, but an event happened yesterday which once more proved what I have told you, namely, that she has both the devil and the divine in her in a most concentrated form. She made yesterday a most venomous remark:

“Who has opened Devdas’s drawer?” suggesting that Jeki had tampered with it. She spits fire on Jeki. I gently remarked that I had opened it.

“Why?” was the growling query.

I said, “In order to see whether I could find a sheet for you.”

“That does not contain sheets,” was the retort, so much as to convey to me that I had not opened the drawer, but I was telling a fib to shield Jeki.

This was too much. And I again gently but rebukingly remarked that she was sinful in her thought and that her disease was largely due to her sins. Immediately she began to howl. I had made her leave all the good food in order to kill her, I was tired of her, I wished her to die, I was a hooded snake. The manner of the delivery of these remarks was most vicious. I told her even though she was ill, I could not pity her in her sins. The more I spoke the more vicious she became. I kept completely self-possessed. I apologized to her and told her that henceforth even to that extent I would not remonstrate with her. Nor would I.

She has a character, and she has none. She is the most venomous woman I have ever met. She never forgets, never forgives.

She is quite normal today. But yesterday’s was one of the richest lessons of my life. All the charges she brought against me she undoubtedly means. She has contrary emotions. I have nursed her as a son would nurse his mother. But my love has not been sufficiently intense and selfless to make her change her nature. What wonder if Anglia and others cannot respond to my skin-deep love? What wonder if they misunderstood me? Truly she has so far been my best teacher. She teaches me the emptiness of the world, she teaches me patience, forgiveness, greater need for self-sacrifice, for love, and charity. The incident leaves me, I hope, a better, wiser, more loving man if it also leaves me sadder. Yes, a man who wishes to work with detachment must not marry. I cannot complain of her being a particularly bad wife or bad woman. On the contrary, no other woman would probably have stood the changes in her husband’s life as she has. On the whole, she has not thwarted me and has been most exemplary. But how can a leopard change his spots? And yesterday’s incident would probably not have happened either in an ordinary household. My point is that you cannot attach yourself to a particular woman and yet live for humanity. The two do not harmonize. That is the real cause of the devil waking in her now and again. Otherwise, he might have remained in her asleep and unnoticed.

 

This letter from Gandhi reveals his mental state of a man who hates his wife because he has other priorities (read, other women) in his life who seem more appealing at that point and doesn’t know what to do. So, he is writing to another man venting out his frustration, albeit in a way that would portray him as the victim on moral grounds.

For Gandhi, everything was alright as long as Kasturba yielded. After all, she was a woman, and she pushed her around for so long. But as soon as she became a bit assertive and started asking questions about his behavior, it rattled his cage!

As Girja Kumar explains in his book, “Gandhi – Brahmacharya & His Women Associates,” it had been a one-sided contest in the entire 32 years of Gandhi’s married life. Kasturba was ignored and overlooked for all practical purposes. She saw him totally at ease with the likes of Millie Polak, who combined charm and brainpower, and that must have felt humiliating to Kasturba, and yet she lived with all that for so long. But, after she recovered from her prolonged illness, apparently, she began to stand up and demand respect, and that’s when Gandhi wrote that letter to Kallenbach.

Once we read and digest this letter and cross-check with the death wish that he used to invoke during her days of illness, the picture becomes clear. He really wished she died so he could be free to do whatever he wanted with his life. Alas! That didn’t happen so soon; his bad luck!

And at the end of her life, Kasturba lay dying of pneumonia, and British doctors insisted that a shot of penicillin would save her. Gandhi refused to have this alien medicine injected into her body and simply let her die. It must be noted that when Gandhi contracted Malaria shortly afterward, he accepted for himself the alien medicine quinine and that when he had appendicitis, he allowed British doctors to perform on him the alien outrage of an appendectomy.

Yet another example of how insensitive the ‘Mahatma’ was, is exemplified when just before the Lahore Session, Gandhi came out of a meeting in Bhiwandi and found that someone had stolen his Chappals (sleepers). Gandhi was furious, and in front of everyone, he humiliated his wife, Kasturba Gandhi blaming her for his theft, saying that she was not good enough since she couldn’t even take care of his Chappals.

Such was the so-called ‘Mahatma’ who has been systematically shoved under our throats as a ‘great soul.’ In reality, he was just full of filth who played in the hands of the British, the Islamists and cheated on his own wife, his family, and his own countrymen throughout his life. He was not ‘non-violent.’ In fact, he was the most cunning and violent man who would go to any extent to harm others for his own profit!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.