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Manilal Mohandas Gandhi PDF Print E-mail

Manilal Mohandas Gandhi (1892 -1956) was the second son of Mohandas Karamchand (The Mahatma) Gandhi and was active in his father's Satyagraha movement. Although born in India, he worked for almost five decades as the editor of the Indian Opinion in Durban. Sita Gandhi describes her father’s work in Sita – Memoirs of Sita Gandhi:
My father’s day began very early at 5.00 am.  He used to go for a walk about five miles every morning and when he got back, he had breakfast and my mother and he did a bit of gardening around the house and then he went to the press and got involved in the printing of our weekly paper the “Indian Opinion”. … Every thing was by hand as we had no electricity.  When the proofs were made in a hand operated machine, my parents did the proof reading – my father did the English and my mother did the Gujerati."

Like his father, Manilal also spent time in jail for protesting unjust laws enforced by the British colonial government.  In 1927, Manilal married Sushila Mashruwala, and had two daughters, Sita and Ela, and one son, Arun. Manilal’s granddaughter, Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, published a biography of Manilal titled Gandhi's Prisoner? The Life of Gandhi's Son Manilal (2004).

Extract from Gandhi's Prisoner? The Life of Gandhi's Son Manilal

What a joy Fridays were for the whole family, when the neat bundles of the Indian Opinion produced a feeling of release.  Manilal, Sushila and the children would spend the day in Durban.   Indian Opinion was taken to the Post Office and local cafes for sale, and they caught up with shopping in Grey Street grocery stores.  The afternoon was a great social time for the kids.  After school they met at the Mehtas' home or that of Vasant and Shanti Gandhi.  Come evening, when they were ready to leave, several of the children piled into the car for a weekend at Phoenix.  For city children, Phoenix was a treat, very much as the day in town was an occasion for Sita, Arun and Ela.  Chandrakant Mehta recalls how he and Hemendra Gandhi used to beg Manilal kaka (uncle) to take them to Phoenix.  Kusum would try and smuggle herself into the car, hoping to avoid detection.

Manilal loved children and was game for a large crowd at Phoenix over the weekends.  Chandrakant marvels at how Manilal kaka, busy as he was, could find the time for them.  He was stern but full of fun too.  Sushila, known as kaki (aunt) to the visiting city children, also involved the children in activities, getting them to pick vegetables with her in the garden.  A special treat was roasting freshly plucked green peas still in their pods over a fire.  Many adventures mark the memories of the visiting children, especially encounters with deadly snakes and incidents of sandworm infestation - the sandworms burrowed into their skins and left horrible marks.

Bibliography

2007. Gandhi’s Prisoner? The Life of Gandhi's Son Manilal. Cape Town: Kwela Books.

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