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The Forgotten Woman
The Untold Story of Kastur Gandhi

by Arun & Sunanda Gandhi
With Carol Lynn Yellin

      Like most people, I admire the work of Mohandas Gandhi, that gentle man who played a key role in the fight for human and civil rights in Africa and India. Gandhiís path of simplicity and non-violent resistance was both critical to the success of the causes he promoted and personally fulfilling for him. But Iíve always wondered: how did Mrs. Gandhi feel about giving up the comfortable and privileged life she could reasonably have expected?

The Forgotten Woman: The Untold Story of Kastur Gandhi answers that question while giving the reader insight into the motivations and desires of both Kastur and Mohandas Gandhi and all those who followed their path. Because so few official records still exist, this biography, written by the Gandhisí grandson Arun and his wife Sunanda, draws largely on memories of those who knew the couple. While one might expect the authors to be biased, the anecdotes they relate solidly support the assertion that Kastur was not a meek, intimidated woman who did her husbandís bidding because she had no choice.

The culture and time into which Kastur was born certainly influenced her attitude and her beliefs about the proper behavior of a Hindu wife. Within that culture, the authors point out, " is the family and legacy that supersedes every other consideration." Kastur cherished her heritage and the traditions of her faith, but even as a teenage bride she had an inner strength and wisdom that allowed her to adapt to her young husbandís chaotic attempts to find a place for himself.

Mohandas was by far the more non-traditional member of this union. Early on, he decided that his bride should be taught to read and write—nearly unheard of in the culture. This enlightened idea was met with alarm by Kastur, who immediately realized that it would set her apart from the other women in her family and lead to division among them. Kastur appears to have mastered the art of passive resistance long before Mohandas used that tactic in his campaigns. The obedient wife sat quietly through the nightly lessons, never complaining or disagreeing; she simply refused to learn.

Throughout the 60 plus years of their marriage, Kasturís choices were her own. Rather than following blindly as Mohandas led, Kastur Gandhi considered the options at every juncture and made her own choices. Most of the time, she concluded that her husbandís path was the right one for her, as well, but when she disagreed with his plans, she quietly and firmly went her own way.

Eventually Kastur became as much a leader as her husband, leading women in protest against laws that would unjustly penalize them and their families, serving time in jail more than once, and even befriending and embracing those of other faiths and castes after determining for herself that, indeed, all people are equal in the eyes of God.

Arun and Sunanda Gandhi have given us a surprising and riveting remembrance of a remarkable woman. Readers of this biography will be reassured of Kasturís willing participation in her husbandís eccentric and dangerous lifestyle. Without her support, it seems unlikely that Mohandas Gandhi would have become the peaceful leader who accomplished so much; lacking the approval of his family, it was always Kastur who made the effort to understand what he needed and to provide, in her quiet yet forceful way, the solid foundation he needed in order to serve a greater good. Details of historical events along with passages from letters and recalled conversations—including Gandhiís own recitation of some of the coupleís surprisingly volatile arguments—make The Forgotten Woman a vibrant and revealing look into the world of Kastur Gandhi, the woman who stood behind and walked beside the Mahatma.

The Book

Ozark Mountain Publishers
January 2008
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The Reviewer

Deborah Adams
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Deborah Adams is the Flair and Macavity Award winning author of the Jesus Creek Mystery Series: All The Great Pretenders, All The Crazy Winters, All The Dark Disguises, All The Hungry Mothers, All The Deadly Beloved, All The Blood Relations, and All The Dirty Cowards. She was also an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel.
© 2009