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Mahatma: An Intimate View

Kanu Gandhi, Bapu's great-grandnephew, close disciple and personal photographer, captured the essence of the Mahatma. A rare chronicle of images, some never seen before...
Kanu Gandhi was always there. With a Rolliflex camera. Capturing on film Bapu's most public and most private moments. Gandhi only imposed two restrictions: don't use a flash and no requests to pose.

The pictures speak of the incredible access Kanu had to Bapu's life. Having come into the ashram at age 10 to improve his health, Kanu never returned home. It was here that Kanu, nicknamed Bapu's Hanuman, was later married—at Kasturba's command—to one of Bapu's devoted followers Abhabehn, known as "one of Gandhi's walking sticks".

As Kanu's love for Bapu grew, so did his fascination for those who photographed him. Till one day, young Kanu summoned the courage to ask Bapu for a camera. No money, said Gandhi. But industrialist G.D. Birla obliged. Ironically, the photographer who chronicled such a full life, couldn't chronicle any last moments. As Bapu sat with the dying Kasturba in his lap, he forbade Kanu from capturing it on film. Kasturba's last moments escaped Kanu's camera. So did Bapu's death—Bapu had ordered Kanu to stay in Noakhali.

And only once after Bapu's death and before his own in 1986 did Kanu pick up the camera to shoot: for a picture of his granddaughter.

  • Tagore hailed Gandhi as the 'Mahatma' but called his noncooperation movement 'negative'. Gandhi retorted that "noncooperation is intended to pave the way to real, honourable and voluntary cooperation". Tagore was not convinced. He said "the Mahatma had won the heart of India... so he should not champion noncooperation or merely say 'spin and weave, spin and weave'.' Gandhi had a reply for this too, "...the hungry millions ask for one poem—invigorating food.... They must earn it. And they can earn it only by the sweat of their brow. I do indeed ask the poet to spin and weave."

  • A deep bond existed between Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Gandhi. But in 1947, after a boycott-hit plebiscite, NWFP went to Pakistan. The Frontier Gandhi would later say that his movement had been "thrown to the wolves" by the Congress leadership.

  • Desai, Gandhi's secretary since 1917, once remarked on Gandhi's ego: "...It may be that ego is necessary for a spiritual life. I see that there is an evolution taking place in Bapu every minute."

  • The camaraderie, warmth and laughter between Gandhi and his women co-workers,according to biographer Rajmohan Gandhi, inevitably hurt Kasturba. But over time, she conquered her feelings, until she became a fellow worker, a fellow-fighter with him...

  • Fasting is in my blood and my bones. I imbibed it with my mother's milk.... How can I, her son, do otherwise?" "In spite of being all alone I am experiencing an ineffable inner joy... as if God himself was lighting my path... and am able to fight on..." — Gandhi

  • Then a young UPI reporter, Sailen Chatterjee was just a few steps behind Gandhi on his last walk.
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    OUTLOOK: 02 February, 1998
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