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Gandhiji Kin and Former NASA Scientist Kanu Ramdas Gandhi Battles Death in extreme Poverty in Surat

On October 22, Kanu Gandhi suffered a cardiac arrest and a severe stroke which has left half his body paralysed

Dandi March. Flickr

Surat, November 4, 2016: Remember that energetic little boy who led his grandfather, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi — revered as Mahatma Gandhi worldwide — holding his stick on the beaches of Gujarat’s Dandi village during the historic Salt Satyagraha of March-April 1930?

That picture has been etched in public memory for over eight decades and even immortalised in memorials on the Salt Satyagraha at Mumbai’s Juhu Beach and several other parts of the country.

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Today, that small boy — Kanu Ramdas Gandhi — is a ripe old 87, an ex-NASA scientist, and lies critical in a charitable hospital here, with little monetary resources and virtually nobody to care for him.

Ahmedabad-based Dhimant Badhia, an old friend and grandson of a close associate of Gandhi, is arranging for small monetary help for the ailing Kanu, and recently donated Rs 21,000 ($315) from his personal resources.

Kanu Ramdas Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. YouTube
Kanu Ramdas Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. YouTube

“The Radhakrishna Temple is rendering great service. They got him admitted to the Shiv Jyoti Hospital nearby and are taking care of his 90-year old wife, Shivalaxmi Kanu Gandhi, who is practically deaf and suffers from other old age-related problems,” Badhia told IANS.

The going has not been good for the elderly childless Gandhi couple since their return after a four-decade-long stay in the US in 2014, including Kanu’s career of over 25 years with NASA.

Handpicked by the then US Ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, for studies at the Massachusets Institute of Technology (in MIT), Kanu later worked with NASA and the US Defence Department on wing structures fighter aircraft, while Shivalaxmi was a professor and researcher at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute.

“After returning to India, they kept moving from one place to another as they have no place of their own here. They lived for short spells in ashrams or inns, and at one point they were compelled to spend six months in New Delhi’s Guru Vishram Vruddha Ashram,” Badhia said.

That experience was harrowing as the ashram, meant for mentally ill senior citizens, was located in an unsafe locality, and the Gandhis had to hire private armed security guards against internal and external threats.

At that time, a Union minister got in touch with Kanu and made him speak with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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“The PM was most sympathetic and even assured help. But till date, we have not heard from either his office or the Gujarat government,” rued Badhia, adding that no Gujarat leader or ministers have visited or enquired about Kanu.

The turning point came on his arrival at this famed diamond city of Surat in south Gujarat on October 22 when he suffered a cardiac arrest and a severe stroke which has left half his body paralysed.

Since that attack, he remains in coma and on life-support systems, with Shivalaxmi and an aide Rakesh, deployed by the temple authorities, beside him.

“I cannot frequently travel from Ahmedabad to Surat due to old age. An ashram sevak, Rakesh, is deployed for round-the-clock services to look after Kanu, while the temple authorities care for Shivalaxmi,” Badhia said.

Fortunately, Kanu’s very aged sister — Usha Gokani from Mumbai — regularly enquires after his health and another Bangalore-based sister, Sumitra Kulkarni, a former Rajya Sabha member, visited him recently.

“They even offered to bear Kanu’s medical expenses but the temple authorities politely declined, saying they were repaying the debts of Mahatma Gandhi’s services to the nation,” Badhia said.

Momentarily, he feels irked that the world-famous Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, “which is splurging crores of rupees to prepare for its upcoming centenary next year; or scores of institutions set up by Mahatma Gandhi or named after him with huge funding from the government — simply don’t care for Gandhiji’s ideals or his descendents”.

Badhia pointed out how the relief funds of the Prime Minister or Chief Minister are available for various purposes, but not for taking care of the descendents of the Father of Nation, especially those who are not affluent.

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Incidentally, Badhia recalled how Kanu and Shivalaxmi always proudly referred to their marriage many decades ago which was arranged and solemnised in the US in the presence of the late Morarji Desai, later the Prime Minister of India.

On the immediate needs of the senior couple, Badhia said at this advanced age they need nothing but love, medical help and round-the-clock caring without having to bother about arranging finances.

“Kanubhai is among the last few surviving links with Gandhiji’s famous stick and the epoch-making Salt Satyagraha. This is the least the nation and its leaders can do for him” Badhia sighed. (IANS)

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  • Ruchika Kumari

    Get well soon…..our government should help him

  • Mayank Sachan

    I didn’t understand what the hell he was doing with his life. he was a working as a scientist in NASA for 25 years & after that he served in American defence organisation.his wife was a professor in Boston biomedical institute. I think i don’t have to say anything about there salary they get according to there designation. Where the hell his all earnings went. It’s not our fault its his mismanagement.

Next Story

Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393