This novel is based on the life of Harilal Gandhi, the eldest son of Mahatma Gandhi who had failed to convince two people in his lifetime?one was M.A. Jinnah and the other was Harilal, the eldest among his four sons. Harilal is the protagonist of the novel who is in constant tussle with his father and this constitutes the theme of this most poignant and pathetic story of the lives of a son and his father.
Written by a well-known Gujarati writer who has 120 books to his credit, this novel (the reason for writing this book which is under review was to portray the ?most painful chapter of Bapu'slife? to quote C. Rajagopalachari) ?adds to the mystery of life and its problems. Harilal was a fine boy. Like all earthly things, Bapu'sglory, too, cast a shadow, which became Harilal'slot.?
The novel opens with news of Mahatma Gandhi'seldest son Harilal'sadmittance to a hospital and conveyed by a woman from a red light area. When his nephew Keshavlal reaches there, Harilal is declared dead with a dreadful disease. From here the author takes the reader to Harilal'sadolescent days and describes a very interesting episode of a golden necklace coming to the family as a contribution for Mahatma Gandhi'sservice to the community. Gandhi'swife Baa wants to keep the necklace to give to one of her future daughters-in-law and pleads with Mahatma Gandhi, ?You may not need any ornaments, but Harilal has grown up now. Tomorrow, he?ll be married. You have married me without ornaments, but I would not let this happen to my daughter-in-law!? But Bapu firmly tells her, ?I?ll never permit you to take advantage of my service to the community!?
To live together as a family is not Harilal'slot. Only a few months pass at Rajkot, when Bapu has to go back to Africa. Baa is left behind with the children. Harilal feels lonely once again. Being the eldest son, in Bapu'sabsence, he feels responsible for Baa and younger brothers. Meanwhile, Harilal is sent to the Esplanade High School in Bombay to study but he does not like it there either as he is ridiculed for being the oldest in his class. Bapu calls him to join him in Africa. Harilal is excited about going abroad but he is more excited about getting married to Gulab. He gets married to her but without Bapu or Baa participating in the celebrations. Bapu writes to his elder brother about his unhappiness at the marriage as he does not find it all that important at such a young age.
He is a man who had remained restless throughout his life. Peace was not his lot. He was right when, before departing, he said that his ?life was nothing but a constant struggle and wandering.?
In this moving tragedy we see another enigmatic aspect of human life gone waste.
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