Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

A small, rusted metal bowl (called a katori in Hindi), two wooden spoons and a wooden fork -- once used by Mahatma Gandhi -- would be sold at an auction in Bristol, United Kingdom, on January 10 at an opening price of GBP 55,000 which, after adding auctioneer's commission, GST, insurance, freight and Indian customs duty on import of antique items would all add up to Rs 1.2 crores.

That is, however, the auctioneer's low estimate, the higher estimate being GBP 80,000 which would take the landed cost in India to nearly Rs 2 crores. However, auction bids are highly unpredictable and can sometimes go up to two or three times the higher estimate given by the auctioneer. This is especially true in the age of 24-hour global online auctions, COVID or no COVID.

Gandhi heirlooms -- letters, photographs, portraits, books, sandals, spectacles among other items -- attract collectors of all sorts, both institutions and individuals, throughout the world. Items personally used by Gandhi are, however, rare at auctions. The present set of bowl and cutlery have excellent provenance. It comes from the collection of one-time shipping magnate Sumati Morarjee, a well-known devotee of Mahatma Gandhi.

According to the East Bristol Auctioneer's catalogue, "The set was used by Gandhi during his incarceration at Aga Khan Palace in Pune (1942-1944) and at the Palm Bun House in Mumbai. The bowl of simple metal construction, stamped 208/42 to base, with a scalloped form leading to a flat base (approx. 21cm diameter). The cutlery comprising a wooden fork and two carved wooden spoons are also of a simple form, in the traditional manner (approx. 16cm long)."

"All were, by repute, used daily by Gandhi and originally came from the collection of Sumati Morarjee a long-time friend and supporter of Gandhi, who cared for him on a number of occasions. The items are documented in the book Sumati Morarjee Felicitation (1970) and also in Vithalbhai Jhaveri's epic film biography 'Gandhi'. A full letter of provenance and history is supplied with the lot. An incredibly important set of historical artefacts, not only relating to Gandhi, but to the history of India," it added.

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Free Press Journal