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Thursday , January 31 , 2013
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Unveiled: Gandhi’s letters to friend

Letters written by Gandhi to his friend Hermann Kallenbach in 1912, in which he describes his life and food habits on Tolstoy Farm in South Africa. The letters will be on display at the National Archives of India in New Delhi till February 15. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Jan. 30: The Gandhi-Kallenbach letters, bought by India for Rs 7 crore days before they were to be auctioned at Sotheby’s last July, are on display at the National Archives of India for the first time.

The letters reveal an emotional relationship between Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach, a German-born Jew who worked as an architect in South Africa and is known to have gifted his friend a 1000-acre farmland.

“The letters reveal a very emotional Gandhi, which is very unlike him. Also, though we broadly know about Gandhi’s life in South Africa, these letters reveal his life there in much greater detail,” said Mushirul Hasan, director-general, National Archives.

Opened today, the exhibition will continue till February 15. As part of the National Archives collection, the Gandhi-Kallenbach papers would be open to access by scholars.

“I hope you will realise that the cause for all one’s worries is to be sought from within and not without. We are to blame in one way, for all the misery in the world and therefore all the imperfections of our surroundings. They will be perfect when we are,” Gandhi writes in a 1912 letter.

The duo met in 1904 and remained friends till Kallenbach’s death in 1945.

In another letter, Gandhi describes his journey in a third class train compartment. In a third, he gives details of his diet at Tolstoy Farm. “I am still on salt less vegetable less and pulse less diet.”

The letters also include some exchanged by members of their families. In one letter, Gandhi’s son Harilal complains to Kallenbach how his father “neglected us”. “For my failures in exam I hold him responsible,” he writes.

The letters show that Kallenbach grew close to the Zionist movement in the 1930s. Zionism is a form of Jewish nationalism that supports the idea that Jews should have a separate nation.

“Kallenbach and Gandhi had a difference of opinion over Zionism. This is reflected in the letters. Despite being a close associate of Gandhi, Kallenbach was moving in the exact opposite direction,” Hasan said.