The Forgotten Woman
The Untold Story of Kastur Gandhi
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About the Authors
Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Arun Gandhi is the fifth grandson of India's late spiritual leader, Mohandas Karamchand 'Mahatma' Gandhi. Growing up under South Africa's apartheid was difficult, humiliating and often dangerous. Enduring bigoted attacks from European-African youths for not being 'white', and from Native Africans for not being 'black', increased the anger that Arun Gandhi bore as a young man. Hoping that time with his grandfather would help the twelve-year-old Arun control his rage and deal with prejudice through nonviolent means, his parents took him to India to live with 'The Mahatma' (great soul) in 1946. Arun's stay with his grandfather coincided with the most tumultuous period in India's struggle to free itself from British rule. His grandfather showed Arun firsthand the effects of a national campaign for liberation carried out through both violent and nonviolent means. For eighteen months, while Gandhi imparted lessons to his grandson, the young man was also witnessing world history unfold before his eyes. This combination set Arun on a course for life. Arun's father, Manilal, Gandhi's second son, spent over sixteen years in prison as he was repeatedly jailed for his efforts to change South African apartheid nonviolently. Arun's mother, Sushila, spent fifty-four years at Gandhi's ashram 'Phoenix' outside Durban. After the deaths of Gandhiji and Manilal, Sushila was the ashram's driving force until its destruction in 1985. The community had been in existence for over eighty years. At twenty-three, Arun returned to India and worked as a journalist and reporter for 'The Times of India'. He, his wife, Sunanda, and several colleagues started the successful economic initiative, India's Center for Social Unity, whose mission is to alleviate poverty and caste discrimination. The Center's success has now spread to over 300 villages, improving the lives of more than 500 thousand rural Indians. Having written four books and hundreds of articles, Dr. Gandhi is an accomplished author and journalist. He and Sunanda published the 'Suburban Echo' in Bombay from 1985 - 1987. Arun and Sunanda moved to Oxford, Mississippi in the United States in 1987. At the University of Mississippi, they collected material to compare race issues in the American south, color discrimination in South Africa, and the caste system in India. In October 1991, the Gandhi's founded the 'M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence'. Its mission is to examine, promote, and apply the principles of nonviolent thought and action through research, workshops, seminars and community service.
Sunanda Gandhi (1932-2007)
Born in 1932 in India's Gujarat province, Sunanda Gandhi wife of Arun Gandhi, cofounded the 'M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence'. As a young nurse, Sunanda cared for Arun after surgery in India; a romance bloomed and their shared domestic life and work in nonviolence began. Her family was advocates of British rule and opposed to Gandhi, so the couple had many obstacles to overcome. For over twenty-five years, she engaged in extensive, productive and compassionate work with orphaned children, prisoners and victims of domestic violence as a marriage counselor for Bapnu Ghar, an organization for destitute and abused women. An author and researcher, Senior Researcher at the MK Gandhi Institute of Nonviolence, laying the groundwork for forthcoming publications. Sunanda and Arun had two children and four grandchildren. Arun and Sunanda began exhaustive and painstaking research into the life of his grandmother, Kastur, in 1960. Arun traveled and interviewed people all over the world, who supplied bits of information about her life.