There are many extraordinary women who have made a mark in history when it was truly a man’s world. Through their work, their education, or their remarkable achievements that were few and far between a century ago.
But in the midst of those women of eminence, there existed a woman who was extraordinary because of her simplicity. A woman who stood out like a lily among roses in spite of living in the shadows of her husband’s legend and standing. She was Kasturba, the demure yet selfless and dedicated wife of Mahatma Gandhi and who was an equal companion of the Father of the Nation in his struggle for India’s freedom from the British Raj.
Noted author, Subhadra Sen Gupta has painted a strong and compelling picture of Kasturba in her book titled, ‘We call her Ba’. The book talks about Kasturba’s journey from being Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s wife to being a remarkable support system for Gandhiji and being a brave freedom fighter herself. The book is well-researched and talks about multifarious incidents that put the spotlight on Kasturba, and rightly so.
One day, Mohandas would become Mahatma Gandhi, a brave leader of freedom fighters, but at thirteen he was not very brave. He was painfully shy, nervous of sleeping in the dark and scared of ghosts and snakes. In contrast, Kasturba was not scared of anything, not even her young husband who tried his best to bully her.
One of the stories about her that struck me was how, contrary to conventions, she was fiercely strong-willed about her beliefs, and by doing what she thought was right, she taught Gandhiji that men were not supposed to rule over women and that women are equal partners.
Kasturba’s story as a little girl from a well-to-do family in Porbandar in India to being a wife and mother in Durban in South Africa, then London and back to Ahmedabad in India as a brave freedom fighters is noteworthy. Dotted with insightful details, her life at the Sabarmati Ashram and her last days with Gandhiji have been beautifully etched by the author.
Neeta Gangopadhya has complemented the story with perceptive images of Ba and her chronicles; her resilience and courage shining through her features.
I recommend this book for children as an important chapter of history as it talks about the little known facts and incidents in the life of a much loved woman – Kasturba!