mumbai for kids

>>> Mani Bhavan Gamdevi

I have heard that children cannot be taught history until the age of seven as they are unable to grasp the concept of the past. And I got to learn this first-hand when I took my kids to Mani Bhavan. I had been to Mani Bhavan many times. But my earlier visits were to refer to books or for other academic purposes.

It was from Mani Bhavan that Mahatma Gandhi initiated Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act and propagated the causes of Swadeshi, Khadi and Hindu-Muslim unity.

In 1955, the building was dedicated as a memorial to Gandhi and to the important activities of great significance that he initiated from this place. This is the one place foreigners love to visit when they stop by the city. To think, we have a museum of this kind in a city that hardly a miniscule percentage visit, is hard to explain.

For Vani and Ammol, my kids, Mani Bhavan was astounding. Gandhi, to them, was as remote as mythological characters like Ram or Hanuman; the freedom struggle was alien and abstract. Pointing to a frame of a seven-year-old Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, I told Ammol, a seven-year-old himself, that this is how Gandhi looked at his age. We also checked out the tableaux which highlighted important events in Gandhi’s life.

Mani Bhavan G

For me, taking the kids to Mani Bhavan was making history tangible. It was explaining the freedom struggle, the many unsung heroes who played different parts in the movement by their numbers and participation, the Jalianwallah Baug massacre, the difference of opinions between the Hindus and the Muslims, the Partition and the anger and sadness it created to Gandhi and Gandhi’s assassination.

The tableaux is a great way to learn about the Mahatma’s life
The tableaux is a great way to learn about the Mahatma’s life

We looked at the Mahatma’s room which has been preserved with care: even the tiles on the floor are the same as they were when the Father of the Nation resided there.

His footwear, his desk, the charka he wove with, the hand fan that must have been used to cool him, lie intact. Also present there is homespun, soft cotton which one can touch and feel. Other rooms display the mug in which he drank water, while in prison, as well as the plate he ate food in.

When we stepped out, I turned around to look at Mani Bhavan, quiet and as unassuming as the man it once housed. It was incredible to be there.