The Mahatma - and the Indian Independence movement - lost two determined and courageous women on February 22: Valliamma in 1913 and Kasturba in 1944
‘How can I forget her?’
Mohandas K Gandhi has not said that of any woman. ‘Woman’? ‘Girl’, really, from a Tamil family of indentured labourers working in the Transvaal, South Africa, where MKG had turned, with the turn of the 19th century, from lawyer to protester for the rights of the Indian community, from a barrister clutching a rail ticket no one around honoured to a statesman no one could ignore.
Let me give the reader Gandhi’s own description of the woman he was writing about: “Valliamma R Munuswami Mudaliar was a young girl of Johannesburg only 16 years of age. She was confined to bed when I saw her. As she was a tall girl, her emaciated body was a terrible thing to behold.
‘Valliamma, you do not repent of your having gone to jail?’ I asked. ‘Repent? I am even now ready to go to jail again, if I am arrested’, said Valliamma. ‘But what if it results in your death?’, I pursued. ‘I do not mind it. Who would not love to die for one’s motherland?’ was the reply.”