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Durable Link to this BlogSunday, May 15, 2005

Gandhi in Bangalore (1927)

My friend Vemagal Somashekar has brought out an interesting book in Kannada titled Bengaloorinalli Mahatma Gandhi published by Bharatiya Vidyabhavan Bangalore (2004), it deals with Bapuji's five visits to Bangalore during 1915-1936.

Out of these five visits, Gandhiji stayed the longest during his third visit (1927). It was a stay for eighty seven days. Outside his Ashram, it is the longest stay anywhere in India.

Gandhiji fell seriously ill during his tour of India and was compelled to rest, treat, and recover in Bangalore. The Maharaja's government provided all facilities, during various visits and public functions. Mr. Somashekar has consulted all sources while writing the book and this volume forms a readymade reference book.

He has included several interesting anecdotes. For instance, Mysore T. Chowdaiah the famous violinist gave a concert before Mahatma for thirty minutes, which the great man thoroughly enjoyed. After the concert, Bapu asked more details about Chowdaiah, to T.P. Kailasam, the witty playwright who was nearby. "Dear Bapuji you are a great non-violinist. But this Chowdaiah is a great violinist!" was Kailasam's quick wit, Gandhiji guffawed.

T.T. Sharma, the great nationalist, journalist and doyen among columnists, used to accompany and translate Gandhiji's speeches in Kannada. His wife Rajamma (Bharati) was an accomplished singer, writer and played Veena. She participated in Congress sessions of Ahemadabad (1921) and Belgaum and played veena and sang. Gandhiji knew her well and while in Bangalore, wanted to listen to her performance. He was very fond of "Vaishnava Janato" and wanted Rajamma to sing it. Rajamma knew no Hindi. It was translated into Kannada by Rajaji and Gangadhar Rao Deshpande, ably assisted by Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji's Secretary. Rajamma sang "Vaishnava Janato" and "Vande Mataram" to accompaniment of her Veena. Gandhiji liked singing very much and invited her again to sing next day during prayer-meeting.

Rajamma at that time was fully pregnant and everybody was concerned . Mahadev Desai spelt her delicate condition in Bapu's ear "Nothing to worry!" Bapu uttered. He then recollected his experience as a midwife's help delivering his youngest son Devdas Gandhi in South Africa. He then blessed T.T. Sharma that he would get a son.

The next day, T.T. Sharma and Rajamma went as desired by Bapuji. Kamaladevi and Harindranath Chattopadyaya were also there. Gandhiji signed Rajamma to sing first, and then Harindranath. He sang "Vaishnava Janato", to the accompaniment of Tanpura. Gandhiji was delighted. It was Monday, day of silence. He took a piece of paper and wrote with pencil.

I am delighted with this beautiful competition between man and woman, and how nice that in one case the husband is proud of his wife and in the other, the wife of her husband. But you can turn the tables if you like.

I am so glad you came to give me this unexpected treat, this is not for you but your wife, explain this to my sister.

Gandhiji handed over the slip to Kamaladevi which was duly handed to T.T. Sharma. Exactly a week later, Rajamma gave birth to a boy. When the news was conveyed to Bapu by Sharma he told jokingly "didn't I tell you, that day, that you will get a son?"

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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