On a day when liquor baron Vijay Mallya doled out US $ 1.8 million in New York to bag five belongings of Mahatma Gandhi, an antique collector visited the Sabarmati Ashram, once the abode of the apostle of peace, and walked away with a Rs 500 note. Initially, he refused to take the money from Amrit Modi, director of Gandhi Smarak Sangralaya, in exchange for a rare photograph of Gandhiji in his early teens. But then Radheshyam Ajmeri (55) is made of stuff different than those who are trying to make money out of Gandhi memorabilia. “After much cajoling, he took the token amount. He has been bringing a lot of Gandhi-related articles to the ashram in the past,” said Modi. The framed picture, presumably clicked in a studio, shows a young Gandhi donning a Kashmiri topi and posing with two friends.
Ajmeri spotted this rare picture at the weekly Gurjari Bazaar held every Sunday on the banks of Sabarmati. A regular visitor at this scrap market, where he looks around for hidden treasures, he bought it along with two paintings of Gandhi for Rs 200 last Sun-day. The seller didn’t realise this was a Gandhi photograph. “I am a regular visitor to the ashram where there are many photo-graphs of Bapu in his young days. So I could identify Gandhiji eas-ily,” Ajmeri told TOI.
Ajmeri supplies plastic bags for a living and says it is his hobby to collect articles of historic importance. “I donate articles related to Gandhiji to the Sabarmati Ashram because it would add value to the thousands of Gandhi fans who visit ashram,” he says. A visibly excited Modi said, “This picture is rare. Even the inno-cence of childhood is evident on Gandhiji’s face.” The photograph of the teen-aged Gandhi’ is now an addition to the ashram’s collec-tion of around 8,000 photographs of Bapu.