New Delhi,Oct 9 ): Gandhi was involved in an extra-martial affair and went to the extent of walking away from his marriage, says a book whose exclusive excerpts have been published in Outlook magazine. This steamy affair took place in 1919 when British brought in the Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre happened.
‘My experiences with Gandhi’ written by Pramod Kapur is yet to be published. A chapter which says `When Gandhi nearly slipped’ quotes from letters written to Gandhi’s love interest. The woman in question is Sarla Devi Chaudhuri, daughter of Rabindranath Tagore’s sister.
Her father was one of the founder members of Congress. Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi too had mentioned about this and so also some biographers but here the author has produced the letters written to Sarla Devi. Sarla Devi who remained unmarried till 33 years married under pressure to Chaudhuri as her mother’s health was deteriorating.
Gandhi met Sarla at the Indian National Congress conference in Kolkata. Here it was for the first time Jana Gana Mana was sung to the public by Sarla. Her husband Chaudhuri was arrested and the book says that Gandhiji stayed in her house.
The presence of Sarla in the inner circle of Gandhiji created a lot of heart-burn in the Congress. Gandhi felt that his wife Kasturba was elder to him and uneducated while Sarla learnt Physics and English unlike other girls of that era. She had also mastered Sanskrit, French and Spanish languages. She wrote poems in Young Indian and Navjivan and Gandhi made it a point to mention her in his speeches.
The book further states that when Gandhiji decided to marry Sarla devi, Congress leaders C Rajagopalachari, Devadas Gandhi and Mahadeb Desai stepped in and told Gandhiji to stop the love letters and meetings. Even though it stopped,the affair did not end.
Gandhi had confessed about his love affair to the then Mumbai Bishop. He asked Nehru to give his daughter Indira to son of Sarla but it did not happen. The son later married granddaughter of Gandhi. After the death of her husband, Sarla Devi took sanyas and left for Himalayas where she breathed her last in 1945 at the age of 73 years.