Mani Bhavan (Gandhi’s House) – The Unknown Symbol of Peace in My Backyard
It was somewhere in the October of 2016 and the rain gods had just bid adieu to this magical city of Mumbai. Jakub Osiewacz and Kulie Whyte, friends from Ireland had visited the city for a couple of days and they came along with a list of places that they wanted to visit. There were some obvious names in the list like Elephanta Caves, Gateway of India, Nariman Point, CST (VT) Station building, Chowpatty beach etc among several more places that I knew about. Somehow, the real charm of Mumbai is in the Southern part of Bombay or Mumbai whatever you call it and I am fortunate enough to have grown up in this very heart of the city. The night Jakub and Kylie arrived, we spoke for hours about Mumbai and their fascination towards the now forgotten Mumbai Underworld. In between the conversation on the bloodshed and the most feared dons of Mumbai back in the day, Jakub spoke about Mahatma Gandhi and his house in Mumbai where he stayed about which I had no idea.
I quickly googled it. Mahatma Gandhi’s house is called Mani Bhavan which is at Laburnum road in an area called Gamdevi. Surprisingly, Gamdevi is hardly at a distance of 2kms from my house. I recalled that I have crossed this street thousands of times but somehow never noticed this place. I never knew that there exists a place in a quite lane near me which is famous across the world. There are millions of people from other countries who visit Mumbai just to pay a visit to Mani Bhavan. Further on some research I also found that it was the focal point of Gandhi’s political activities from 1917 to 1943. It was this very place from where he started initiatives like Non-Cooperation movement, Satyagraha, Swadeshi, Khadi and Khilafat movement. In fact, Gandhi’s association with his famous Charkha began in 1917 from Mani Bhavan itself.
Even President Obama visited this place during his visit to India. He wrote in the visitor’s book, “I am filled with hope and inspiration as I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi’s life. He is a hero not just to India but to the world, Barack”. I decided to join my friends to see the place for myself the next day. And it was truly a journey in itself. Once you enter the place, there is a library with statue of the Mahatma where people offer tributes. Then a staircase dotted with Gandhi’s pictures depicting his life leads visitors to the first floor which has photo gallery with photographs from his childhood till his assassination, along with press clippings. The room that Gandhi used during his stay there is on the second floor, where through a glass partition people can see two of his spinning wheels, a book and his bed on the floor. Right opposite that room is a hall where photographs and paintings of his lifetime are on display. And finally when one reaches the terrace, where he was arrested on Jan 4, 1932.