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Sandhya Rao

By Tanaya Vyas
Year 2016, pp. 24, Rs. 150.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

It comes almost as a relief to see a picture book titled Kasturba. There must be, or should be, few who don’t know that she was Mahatma Gandhi’s wife. He is among the most written about individuals in the world. And there are many who believe she hasn’t been given her due in history. However, I wonder if the title is somewhat misleading because the story is actually about a little girl called Nina who discovers her Kasturba voice and the reference to this context is what drives the action in the story. It is October 2 once more and Nina’s class teacher is preparing her class to do a play to commemorate the occasion. Nina is nominated to play Kasturba— she has already displayed prowess in successfully essaying the roles of Rani of Jhansi, Sita and Razia Sultan on previous occasions. Harsh plays Gandhi, skull-cap, stick, specs and all. Nina doesn’t know how to play Kasturba. How do you speak ‘like a wife’, she wonders. The implication, supposedly, is that that’s all Kasturba was. In the process of getting more information about her character, she learns what kind of person she was and discovers the Kasturba voice. The plot is imagined around a real incident related to the fact that Mahatma Gandhi voluntarily gave up his attachment to material possessions; consequently, he and his family lived care of society. During the freedom struggle, he inspired people to contribute money, jewellery and property to political and social causes. Kasturba did not always take kindly to his rigid principles; even as she was loving to all those who lived in the ashrams her husband founded, she occasionally asserted her right as wife and mother. Tanaya Vyas’s, story focuses on one such moment in Kasturba’s life when she wanted to keep a piece of donated jewellery for her family, and fought bitterly with her husband over the issue. The back cover of the book says Tanaya was inspired ‘to write and illustrate a short, funny and thought-provoking graphic narrative that lightly asks the question, are history lessons only made by the famous?’ when she was a student of visual communication at NID, Ahmedabad. That student graphic work has been transformed into this story. Maybe that’s where the problem lies. Isolating this particular incident and distancing it from its historical context dilutes the personality of ...

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