15 July : A series of letters and postcards signed and autographed by Mahatma Gandhi were bought in an auction at London on Tuesday by two leading NRIs, who will present the precious documents to the government of India. NRI entrepreneurs Sir Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon and Prof Nat Puri bid for the priceless letters and postcards almost for double the pre-sale estimates at London auctioner Sotheby’s. A series of 29 letters and four autograph notes signed by Jawaharlal Nehru for friend Mridula Sarabhai, together with a signed document, a signed greeting card and 29 envelopes (estimated price 4,000-5,000 pounds or Rs 3.17-3.97 lakh) also sold for 8,750 pounds, but it was not known who was the buyer.
Curry King Sir Noon said he telephonically bid for the Gandhi articles and bought them for around 10,000 pounds.
The first lot comprised Gandhi’s three autographed letters to Maulana Abdul Bari, an Islamic scholar and leading figure in the Khilafat movement, in Urdu. The letters referred to Hindu-Muslim relations, including communal tension in Lucknow, their personal friendship and in one letter writing from prison with thanks for the gift of cotton for spinning.
Maulana Abdul Bari (1878-1926) worked closely with Gandhi from 1918 onwards.
The second lot comprised a piece of Khadi cloth signed by Gandhi and said to have been woven by him. The hand-woven white cotton piece (420x390mm) with a simple purple border was signed by Gandhi in Gujarati.
The cloth, which was a gift from Gandhi to South African-born actress Moira Lister, had an estimated price of 2,000-2,500 pounds (Rs 1.59-1.99 lakh). Lister was a friend of Maharani of Jaipur Gayatri Devi.
The third lot consisted of two autographed postcards addressed to Hamid Ullah Afsar in Urdu, thanking him for his letters and advising him that previous letters had answered his questions. Asfar (1895-1974) was a prominent Urdu poet.
Sir Noon said he was extremely happy that he could get the treasured letters and postcards. “Mahatma Gandhi is an icon not only for India but for the world. His treasure should go back to India,” he said.