Kasturba Gandhi Dies at Age 74

Kasturba suffered from chronic bronchitis.

Stress from the Quit India Movement's arrests and hard life at Sabarmati Ashram caused her to fall ill. Kasturba fell ill with bronchitis which was subsequently complicated by pneumonia. In January of 1944, Kasturba suffered two heart attacks. She was now confined to her bed much of the time. Even there she found no respite from pain. Spells of breathlessness interfered with her sleep at night. Yearning for familiar ministrations, Kasturba asked to see an Ayurvedic doctor. After several delays (which Gandhi felt were unconscionable), the government allowed a specialist in traditional Indian medicine to treat her and prescribe treatments. At first she responded—recovering enough by the second week in February to sit on the verandah in a wheel chair for a short periods, and chat… then came a relapse. The doctor said Ayurvedic medicine could do no more for her. To those who tried to bolster her sagging morale saying "You will get better soon," Ba would respond, "No, my time is up." Shortly after seven that evening, Devdas took Mohandas and the doctors aside. In what he would later describe as "the sweetest of all wrangles I ever had with my father," he pleaded fiercely that Ba be given the life saving medicine, even though the doctors told him her condition was beyond help. It was Mohandas, after learning that the penicillin had to be administered by injection every four to six hours, who finally persuaded his youngest son to give up the idea. "Why do you want to prolong your mother's agonies after all the suffering she has been through?" Gandhi asked. Then he said, "You can't cure her now, no matter what miracle drug you may muster. But if you insist, I will not stand in your way."

Gandhi and his son Devdas Gandhi had a fight over the treatment. Devdas had arranged for penicillin from Calcutta, but Gandhi refused to give it to Kasturba as it had to be injected.

After a short while, Kasturba stopped breathing. She died in Gandhi's arms while both were still in prison.

Mahadev Desai, who had served as Gandhi’s secretary for 25 years, died of a heart attack within a week of his imprisonment and Kasturba, the Mahatma’s wife, passed away in 1944 after a long illness. Early in 1944, his health began to cause concern to the Government. He had contracted malaria and had been running a high temperature. The tide of the war had already turned in favour off the Allies, and the risks of his release seemed to the Government immeasurably less than those of his possible death in jail.