Finding the Mahatma in Mumbai

Updated: Jan 30, 2020, 08:56 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

As we observe the martyrdom day of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, take a trip down memory lane to places he formed an association with in this city

Mahatma Gandhi at Juhu beach, 1944
Mahatma Gandhi at Juhu beach, 1944

Making space

Usha Thakkar
Usha Thakkar

The magic of Gandhiji, according to historian and president of Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Dr Usha Thakkar, was how he converted open spaces into meeting spaces. At Chowpatty in 1921, he gathered a crowd, addressing the bonfire of foreign cloth. Then, in 1930, women marched towards the waters to make salt in protest against its taxing by the British. The sea came to Bapu's rescue again in 1944 when during sickness he spent time by Jehangir Patel's shack at Juhu Beach.

The salt satyagraha was held at Chowpatty in 1930
The salt satyagraha was held at Chowpatty in 1930

Living memory

Mahatma Gandhi's room at Mani Bhavan, Gamdevi
Mahatma Gandhi's room at Mani Bhavan, Gamdevi

Between 1917 and 1934, Mani Bhavan, the two-storied building that sits on Laburnum Road, served not only as Gandhi's residence but a centrepoint for the freedom struggle. In fact, in 1918, when he was battling dysentery and refused to drink cow or buffalo milk — he gathered that extracting the last drop of milk proved to be painful for these animals — it was his wife Kasturba who made conversation with a cow boy who passed the building who informed her that goats don't have the same experience. Bapu began drinking goat milk. Highlighting the space's importance, Thakkar says, "When Martin Luther King visited in 1959, he said that he could feel the vibrations of the Mahatma and he decided to stay there with wife Coretta." Now, the museum is open on all days of the week and the space also hosts competitions for children themed on Bapu's legacy.

Steps of history

Town Hall at Asiatic Society of Mumbai
Town Hall at Asiatic Society of Mumbai

Thakkar had acquired source material from the Asiatic Society while working on her book, Gandhi in Bombay, which she co-authored with Sandhya Mehta. The Society's Town Hall is important to the Mahatma's legacy as that is where part of his ashes were kept. But it was also the venue where, back in 1930, women like Hansa Mehta, Lilavati Munshi and Sarojini Naidu grouped into the Deshsevika Sangh to stage non-violent protests draped in orange sarees.

Warm welcome in Bhuleshwar

Hira Baug. Pic/Facebook
Hira Baug. Pic/Facebook

In 1915, when Gandhi returned to India from South Africa there was a reception held for him at Bhuleshwar's Hira Baug. It was here that he gave his first speech in India in Bal Gangadhar Tilak's presence. Although the dharamshala built in 1905 still stands, structures like Muzaffarabad Hall in Grant Road where he took part in deliberations at the All Parties' Conference, have bit the dust. Thakkar adds, "You usually associate Gandhi with villages but cities like Ahmedabad and Bombay were very important to him."

In remembrance

Attend a gathering in memory of Bapu where silence will be observed.
On Today, 5.17 pm
At Gandhi Statue, Mantralaya.

Shop swadesi

. Khadi Bhandar, Fort
Call 22073280

. Khadi Emporium, Kalbadevi Road, Marine Lines
Call 9723383552

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