Gandhi's Last Stand

A visit to Sewagram Ashram, where Gandhi spent the last years of his life, in search of his living legacy

01 June 2011
Gandhi with Jankidevi Bajaj, the wife of his benefactor Jamnalal, in Wardha in 1945.
DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY
Gandhi with Jankidevi Bajaj, the wife of his benefactor Jamnalal, in Wardha in 1945.
DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY

"ONE OF OUR BIGGEST PROBLEMS IS THE MONKEYS," Anant Joshi said. We were standing on the grounds of Sewagram Ashram, to the side of the cottage that Madeleine Slade, aka Mirabehn, built for herself and then ceded to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, as she did everything else in her life during their time together.

"The monkeys come in troupes. They run all over the rooftops and break up the tiles. These tiles are not so easy to find now. It is expensive to replace them all the time. We never had this problem before, but the forest all around has been cut down and the only trees left are at the ashram, so the monkeys come here. What can we do?"

Joshi, who is the chairman of the Center of Science for Villages, a Gandhian organisation dedicated to bringing appropriate technology such as biogas and low-cost housing to local villages, strikes me as a patient man with many responsibilities. I am conscious that these have not diminished because I have been put in his charge. He has been deputed to show me around Sewagram by Minal Bajaj, the director of the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, and a great granddaughter-in-law of Jamnalal Bajaj—one of the many wealthy industrialists, including Ambalal Sarabhai and KK Birla, on whose largesse Gandhi and his movement depended.

Mira Kamdar is a Contributing Editor at The Caravan. The award-winning author’s essays and opinions appear in publications around the world.

Keywords: Gandhi Sewagram Mirabehn Jamnalal Bajaj ashram Paunar
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