Curating Gandhi's Karnataka travel trail in pages and pictures

74-year-old Gandhian quit his job to research and write books on Bapu's Karnataka visits; he also has 80-odd rare photos of the freedom fighter. 

Published: 02nd October 2018 04:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2018 08:38 AM   |  A+A-

Mahatma Gandhi

Express News Service

BENGALURU:  Mahatma Gandhi is one person who is remembered worldwide. One of the people who is keeping his memory alive is a Vemagal Somashekar,  74-year-old Gandhian who has penned many books on Bapu and collected some rare photographs of the freedom fighter’s travels in Karnataka. Once a wireman for the Indian Telephone Industries, Bengaluru-based Somashekar is now a freelance research scholar and an author. 

On being asked how he developed an interest in Gandhi, he said, “I read many books on Gandhi, his freedom movement and his visits to Karnataka. The dates of his visits to Karnataka, especially Bengaluru were different in every book. So in the 1980s, I took voluntary retirement from my job and started visiting libraries in the city and Gandhi Bhawan to do my research.”

He added, “My friend Thirumale Thitacharya Sharma was an editor at Vishwa Karnataka, a weekly Kannada newspaper. I thought this paper was the best source to get the dates right. I visited Rashtrothana Parishat library at Chamrajpet which has the newspaper clippings from 1927 and even before that. These have the first-hand information on Gandhi and his speeches.”

Getting historical facts right and putting them in the form of a book takes months and sometimes even years. Somashekar worked as a foot soldier to get in touch with people who had met Gandhi during his visits to Bengaluru. “For my first book, Nandi Giridhamadalli Mahatma Gandhi, I visited Nandi Hills several times. I have collected at least 80 photos of Gandhi’s visits, most of them black and white. The rarest in my collection is the one where Gandhi held a prayer for two minutes with other people when he got down at Yeshwanthpur Railway Station. I got this photo from my editor friend. There is one more photo in my collection. It is of a well in Kengeri which was inaugurated by Gandhi.”

A rare picture of Gandhi holding a prayer with others when he got down at Yeshwantpur Railway Station.

His collection also has a photo of Gandhi touching the cheek of a five-year-old boy who had given him Rs. 5 during one of his campaigns in Bengaluru. Somashekar traced the boy whose name is Balasubramanium and who is now a former scientist of Indian Institute of Science. Somashekar has exhibited these photographs many times at  Rangoli Metro Art Centre. He along with his son Deepak, who lives in Dubai, has unveiled a bust of Gandhi at the India consulate. On such occasions, Somashekar even dresses up like Gandhi and sits meditating for an hour or so.

Freedom fighter lends a helping hand
With no money to publish his first book - Nandi Giridhamadalli Mahatma Gandhi - Somashekar’s friend Suryanath Kamath, a historian, helped him get money. “Freedom fighter H S Doreswamy had given Rs 3,000 to get copies printed and I spent Rs1,000 from my pocket. We were able to print 1,000 copies and from then there has been no looking back. Now I am writing a book called Gandhiji Samakaalenaru meaning people who have spent time with Gandhi. The book is likely to publish next year.” he said.

Gandhi visited Bengaluru five times

  • His first visit was in 1915 when noted writer D V Gundappa invited him to unveil a stone laid in the memory of Gandhi’s political teacher Gopal  Krishna Gokhale at Bapuji Sabhangana.

  • In 1920, Bapu visited the Edgah Khudus Saheb Grounds behind Cantonment Railway Station and urged Muslims to be a part of the freedom movement.

  • In 1927, when Gandhi was ill, he stayed at Nandi Hills for 45 days, and  87 days at the Kumar Krupa guest house.

  • In 1934 and 1936, Gandhi visited several parts of Bengaluru and Old  Mysuru region, campaigning against untouchability.


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