Dr Rizwan Kadri is a young historian known for his research on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Dr Kadri is currently working as an Associate Professor in Shree Swaminarayan Arts College, Ahmedabad. He is also a Ph.D. (History) guide in Gujarat University and Raksha Shakti University. During his academic career Dr Kadri has won many awards such as the ‘Gujarat University Gold Medal’, ‘Sanskar Award’, Jawaharlal Memorial Fund, New Delhi, Meritorious Prize. He is also known for his inspiring lectures, particularly on the Indian Freedom Struggle and Sardar Patel which made him very popular among the scholars as well as common people. In his English translation “The Spirit of Mahatma” Dr Kadri has added a new perspective to the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his personal secretary Mahadev Desai, who was like a son to him. Dr Kadri chanced upon this very valuable source of information while going through the file preserved in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.
Asian Voiced will be publishing Dr Kadri's translation in a series beginning this week.
New dimensions are added to the historical perspective with the discovery of new and unpublished sources of facts. This helps in bringing to life certain events. A lot has been written about Mahatma Gandhi and his private secretary Mahadev Desai who was like a son to him. Both scholars and lay readers know about their relationship. Yet, I chanced to hit upon a very valuable source of information and document which throws new light on their relationship. I found this source preserved in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. This invaluable piece of writing, however, does not figure in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. While I was pursuing the private papers of the late Shri Pyarelal, I came across this invaluable archival manuscript written by Mahatma Gandhi. I am presenting here the English translation of this historically significant document written originally in Gujarati.
I had published it on January 30, 2015 in a booklet titled “Mahatma No Atma” in Gujarati based on Gandhiji’s manuscript. I am happy to announce that Mahadevbhai’s son Narayan Desai, who was critically ill and was admitted to a hospital in Surat, not only heard the whole booklet but also greatly appreciated my efforts as was evident from the expression on his face. He breathed his last 44 days after this. I greatly regret the fact that Narayanbhai, who was like my father, is not amongst us to see the English translation of the booklet.
The document is all the more important because it combines Mahatma’s memoir of his closest aide and companion and his emotional bonding with him. Mahadevbhai’s sudden death on the morning of August 15, 1942 while in imprisonment in the Aga Khan Palace, Pune, had shocked Gandhiji and other inmates.
Gandhiji’s vivid description of the events leading to Mahadev’s death and the last rites performed by him reads like the script of a movie. It gives a live account of the fateful day and draws the readers into the emotional vortex that Gandhiji, Kasturba and other fellow prisoners passed through. Gandhi has described his emotions in terms of his inner feelings as also his body language.
“Mahadev wanted to write my memoirs but the God took him away and here I am left to write his memoirs instead,” Gandhiji laments. Gandhiji has betrayed in his writing how even a steadfast person like him too is swayed by emotions. Gandhiji, who had carried the fire pot and led the funeral procession, also says how he followed the vedic rituals to carry out the last rites of Mahadev, just as a father does to his son. He has also given a heart-wrenching description of Kasturba’s wailings which moved to tears everyone in the prison.
The intensity of Gandhiji’s emotional attachment to Mahadev also bares itself in his description of the fact that he used to rub his ashes on his forehead for days together and had kept aside his clothes for his son Narayan after washing them by his own hands.
Though Mahadev left his master bodily, his spirit remained with the Mahatma till the very last.
Atma of Mahatma
Memories of Mahadev
I would like that first we show these memoirs to Narhari, for specifying the dates etc, and if they seem worth it, they should be published. I would also like that the memories of those who had known Mahadev should be included along with this.
Ever since the Kocharab Ashram was established on the bank of Sabarmati, Mahadev and Narahari had begun to come and meet me. At that time, the duo used to wear Deccani headgear, Pagdi. They use to join the prayers and put some questions to me as well. I recall that the Ashram opened in 1916 (1915). After some time there was this talk of Narhari joining the Ashram, and I liked that.