Surat: Kanu Ramdas Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and a former NASA scientist who died on Monday evening, was cremated here with a small crowd of mourners in attendance, an aide said on Tuesday.
“His 90-year old wife Shivalaxmi lit the funeral pyre since the couple was childless. She was in control of her emotions and participated in the three-hour long rituals,” their old friend Dhimant Badhia said.
A large number of Surat Congress activists, a representative of the Gujarat government and a great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Neelam Parikh from nearby Navsari, besides local citizens made up the crowd of around 400 at the crematorium.
Kanu’s very aged sisters — Usha Gokani from Mumbai who regularly enquired after his health and another Bengaluru-based sister Sumitra Kulkarni, a former Rajya Sabha Member, visited him recently, could not attend the funeral, he said.
Incidentally, Kanu was famous as the little boy who walked ahead of Mahatma Gandhi, who prodded him on with his stick, on the beaches of Gujarat’s Dandi village during the historic Salt Satyagraha of March-April 1930.
On October 22, he suffered a heart attack and brain haemorrhage which left half his body paralysed and he lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered, said Badhia.
Though in a very disturbed state after her husband’s demise, Shivalaxmi agreed to perform the last rites and was fully composed after the funeral.
After the ceremonies, Badhia accompanied her back to the Radhakrishna Temple where the couple had been living since the past three weeks.
“The Radhakrishna Temple rendered great service to Kanu and got him admitted to the Shiv Jyoti Hospital nearby. Now, they have decided to take care of his widow Shivalaxmi for her entire lifetime,” Badhia told IANS.
The elderly Shivalaxmi is practically deaf and suffers from other old-age related ailments, so the temple authorities have deployed an attendant to care for her round-the-clock, besides handling her medication and other needs, he added.
The temple, run by Punjabis, has allotted her accommodation on the first floor of its Sant Nivas where she will spend the rest of her life.
Badhia rued that despite Kanu’s distinguished lineage and professional background, there were no representatives from any of the institutions founded by Mahatma Gandhi, or the others run in his name in Gujarat and other parts of the country.