Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: The Secret Diary of Kasturba by Neelima Dalmia Adhar

Finished reading "The Secret Dairy of Kasturba" by Neelima Dalmia Adhar (Westland Books).

About the author:

Neelima Dalmia Adhar divides her time between writing and pursuing her interest in Poetry, Hindu Philosophy and the Paranormal. Her first book, a one-of-its-kind biography on her father titled Father Dearest, the life and Times of RK Dalmia, is a widely acclaimed bestseller that made it to several international lists and earned her critical acclaim. Her second book, Merchants of Death, a highly controversial work of fiction also rode the bestseller charts for a sustained period of time.

The book says some intriguing things:

"I don't know what evil resides in me" he wrote to a friend, "I have a streak of cruelty in me that compels people to attempt the impossible in order to please me."

He is the Mahatma, a man the world venerates as a prophet of peace, but for Kasturba, the child bride who married the boy next door, Mohandas was a sexually driven, self righteous, and over bearing husband.

The Secret Dairy of Kasturba is a brave attempt by the author. This book voices Kartuba's feeling. How she managed with a dominating husband who was loving but couldn't trust her. Supportive but unreasonable at times.

The book starts when Kasturba is on her death bed, and it beautifully moves towards her birth, carefree childhood, early marriage full of romance, and then her tough married life and motherhood. The language is crisp and beautiful (two words, Sweet and Beloved, were repetitive and a little irritating, but considering the setting and the time, I thought it was okay). I loved the way Kasturba expresses her anger and frustration wordlessly. Just screaming inwardly. We all do that, sometimes.

"Why was he embarking on a journey of penance and celibacy oblivious of the people he would inadvertently victimize, wound and mutilate on the way. Who has given you the authority to enforce a ruling on me that affects me with such a cruel, brutal force, without my consent? Who?

While the book is skillfully crafted, I can't say it's flawless. There are certain things that bothered me. First, the POV. The book is written in diary form thus in the first person, but it is omniscient, seemed more or less Mahatma Gandhi's biography. I understand that people tell us about certain incidents (thus we know about those incidents even when we are not present there), but it was odd to read some intimate moments of her son's life from Kasturba's point of view which I doubt he would have told her.

Then, the author has mentioned 'a lone, naked bulb suspended from a frayed wire from the ceiling lights up the dingy room'

I don't think in the year 1885, in India, in a town like Rajkot, in a brothel, we can expect/imagine a wired bulb (electricity, precisely). So, this line acted as a brake. But, as I have said before, this book is boldly and beautifully crafted, so such thoughts didn't affect my reading but it did stir a thought.

The book is enlightening and shocking at times. Kasturba's anxiety and longing for her sons are nicely expressed. For me, reading this book was a learning experience. In my opinion, The Secret Diary of Kasturba is a must read for any book lover.

I thank Westland Books for sending me the review copy in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Despite the shortcomings you mentioned I'd like to read this one. I always wondered how Kastruba would have stuck it out with a man like Gandhi ji. People with unflinching principles are often eccentric and very tough to live with.

  2. You must read this one, Tulika! It's a must read for any look lover. I would like to know your views. :)