The Sewri TB Hospital plans to name its upcoming intensive care unit after Mahatma Gandhi’s estranged son, Harilal, after discovering decades-old medical records showing that Harilal died of tuberculosis at the hospital on the night of June 18, 1948. He was 60. That Harilal was racked by TB, and possibly syphilis, is known. But the records seem to suggest that the eldest of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s four sons died a lonely death.
No one from the family visited him at the hospital, and it was the staff that was by his side in his final days. While it may seem that Harilal, who had turned a chronic alcoholic, was abandoned by his own, his 79-year-old granddaughter Neelam Parikh told Mumbai Mirror that Harilal led a life of detachment and rarely informed the family of his whereabouts.
According to the hospital records, Harilal didn’t even disclose that he was Gandhi’s son after he was admitted early in June1948, and after he died the staff found some papers in his pocket that listed a relative’s phone number. He was cremated in a late-night funeral attended by his hospital carers and three family members, daughters Manu and Rami, and Manu’s husband, Surendra Mashruwala.
Harilal was born in South Africa in 1888 when Gandhi was only 18. The father and son had a severely strained relationship. Harilal, in fact, later turned against the man who was a god-like figure for Indians fighting for independence.
According to some biographical accounts, Harilal sold British-made clothes when his father was urging the country to boycott foreign textiles; ran afoul of the law many times and converted from Hinduism to Islam and back again.
How hospital discovered the file
Harilal died of TB four months after Gandhi’s death. The Sewri TB Hospital, founded in 1941, stumbled upon his file recently while checking its old records to identify prominent figures who were treated there.
The 1,000-bed hospital has planned a new intensive care unit, its first, on the first floor as part an ambitious expansion, and it needs a wellknown name to christen the ward.
The hospital is due to make a presentation for the same before the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the next few weeks. “The new ICU, with 10 beds, will come up in three months. We want to name it after Harilal Mohandas Gandhi,” the hospital’s chief medical officer, Lalit Kumar Anande, told Mirror. It was Anande who discovered Harilal’s medical records. “I was trying to put together the hospital’s history for a presentation before the civic body when I learnt that Mahatma Gandhi’s son was treated here,” he said.
Harilal’s death certificate is preserved at the BMC’s archives in Vakola. It mentions 8 pm on June 18, 1948, as the time of death. There is no mention of any family members on the document, but it reveals that he was admitted to the hospital after being found unconscious in Kamathipura. His name was initially misspelled in the death certificate as Hiralal. The wrong name was struck off after a relative apparently pointed out the error.
While many view Harilal as a many of severe flaws - some historical say he turned up drunk at his father’s funeral - the Gandhi family says he was a man of great potential. “Harilal was always misunderstood. He believed in his father’s philosophies, and went to jail six times in South Africa. He even went on a fast there, which gave Mahatma Gandhi the idea for launching similar protests in India,” said Gandhi’s great grandson, Tushar Gandhi. On the troubled father-son relationship, he said: “They were very attached to each other. But later misunderstandings cropped up, and they grew apart.”
Strained father-son ties
Like Gandhi, Harilal also wanted to go to England to become a barrister, but was denied consent, prompting him to rebel against his father and cut ties with the family. Harilal married a Muslim woman Gulab, and they had five children, three sons and two daughters. He became detached from his children after Gulab’s death in a flu epidemic.
However, he later remained in touch with his daughters Manu and Rami, who lived in Mumbai. In fact, 20 days before he was hospitalised, he stayed at Rami’s Matunga home for a week. “I was eight when my grandfather visited us. He sat me down and fed me,” said Rami’s 75-year-old daughter, Neelam Parikh, who lives in Gujarat.
“My mother tried to stop him from leaving, but he didn’t listen.” She added: “He always regretted the wrong path he had taken. It was because of his guilt that he didn’t inform family members when he was hospitalised.” Parikh is glad the hospital is making efforts give her grandfather some recognition.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harilal_Gandhihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harilal_Gandhi