1965 – D Day

Posted By Author on August 28, 2009


Thursday. Got up early in the morning. The weather was chilly and foggy. Profuse dew deposited everywhere. Ablution. Breakfast. Bath. Dressed in hand-washed clothes as per instructions. Put on a suit. Waiting for call.
I was surprised to see the arrival of Advocate N.M.Bonde and Anantlal Dammani of Amravati! I was very curious about their visit and had a long chat. Mr. Bonde was a lean and thin person and my next-door neighbour. He was a congress leader and adorned Vice-Presidentship of the Amravati Municipality. Later on he was elected Member of the Parliament. Mr. Dammani was a very hefty man, a businessman with a shop, and a prominent leader of the Socialist Party. Both were clad in Khadi. Anantlal Dammani was a vociferous speaker. They narrated the following.

“In 1957 a Mahatma visited Amravati. He was performing “Bharat Bhraman” afoot. It means roaming India afoot. (Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Ramtirth, Ramdas, Namdeo and many saints and Rishis did the same.) He was on his third round and came from Tripuri-Jabalpur via Nagpur on way to visit ‘Panchvati’ at Nasik.” (The Panchvati is a place where Lord Ramachandra of Ramayana had a brief stay in recluse with wife Sita and brother Laxaman on the bank of Godavari then known as Mandakini. It was here that he ordered Laxaman to cut off ears and nose of Shurpanakha the sister of Ravan. The famous episode of Shabari Bhillin took place here.) (Netaji has described ‘Panchbati’-Bengali pronunciation – in his letter to his mother in the autobiography. Letter No.6.N-122 and at Tripuri he defeated Gandhi’s candidate Pattabhi for Presidentship of Congress and became President second time in 1939.)

“He never stayed in town. He was living in a dilapidated abandoned structure outside the town near Dasserah ground. Later shifted to the garden of Krishna Navate. Dammani’s shop was in the core area of the walled city. The Mahatma, as was his custom, reached Dammani’s shop and asked in Hindi whether he would provide a meal as per his instructions. Anantlal Dammani was mesmerized due to the all pervading magical spell and the magnetic personality of Baba. The Mahatma was clad in white round dhoti (like south Indians), and an open white shirt of thin cloth with half sleeves, no collar, and two side pockets. He had the sacred thread of Brahmins across shoulder. A walking stick in hand, an umbrella and a reed mat in armpit, a shabanam cloth bag hanging on shoulder with news papers and personal things, dalda can with a long chord folded in it having handle like a bucket. A big cloth wrapped around head like a foreman of a steam locomotive or Sai Baba. Gorakhpuri half boots made of velvet like cloth. He had a tall personality with beard and moustaches. Long hair on sides, the top was bald. He had a mixture of black and white hair. Anantlal immediately agreed and invited him in the house upstairs. Mahatma asked for a packet of Capstan cigarettes. (Netaji was a chain smoker of Capstan cigarettes.) After meals he left but Anantlal insisted on his address of stay. He told that he would leave tomorrow. Anantlal was so impressed by his talk and knowledge that in the evening he took his friends, Nanasaheb Bonde, Advocate Narsingdas Agrawal, Krishnarao Nawathe, landlord Nanasaheb Bhende in whose house Bonde was a tenant (just near my house) and Mr.Ratanlal Verma, owner of th restaurant named Gau Dugdha Sagar, a famous landmark of the town. After meeting with the Mahatma in the evening and having discussions on various topics, the visitors persuaded the Mahatma to stay longer and that they would furnish all necessities. He yielded to the request and left Amravati after three days. He refused to accept taxi or train journey. He simply walked away on National Highway 6 towards Nasik.”

When Anantlal and Bonde read a news item of Baba Saradanandaji of Shaulmari Ashram to be Netaji Subhash Bose and the description tallied with the Mahatma who visited Amravati in 1957, they sent a telegram to Shaulmari Ashram requesting His Holiness to confirm whether he was the same ‘Sadhu’ who visited Amravati in 1957 and requesting permission for ‘darshan ’. They received a telegraphic reply with an appointment on 9th September 1965. It was mentioned that they should convey His blessings to Narsingdas and Nana Bhende. He had amazing memory. He could remember the acquaintances after seven years. However, this confirmed that His Holiness of Shaulmari Ashram was the very same Mahatma who visited Amravati in 1957. Thus I met Bonde and Dammani.

I loitered around the Ashram after lunch. In the evening seniority was respected and Bonde and Dammani were called in first. After some time, I was invited with a lot of instructions to be followed. I reviewed the points to be initiated in the discussion. Those topics and subjects were choicest of Subhash Chandra Bose.

I was escorted to the darshan hall. It was about thirty feet wide and forty feet long. There was a concrete dais about four feet in height and on it was his Kushasan. The visitors were given small matins to squat on the floor. On the front wall, there was a photograph of Shri Ramkrishna Paramhansa with identical portraits of Swami Vivekananda hanging on both the flanks. On the left wall full-length photo of Swami Vivekananda in the pose of ‘Bharat Bhraman’, i.e., with dhoti, turban, and a stick. On the same wall, there was an image of some Swami of Bengal that I knew not. On the right wall suspended a big photograph of Lord Jesus Christ. The tube lights were on. There was a table fan constantly humming near him. Incense was burning on both sides giving out fragrant smoke. Flowers were kept in a metal plate.

He was sitting on a reed-mat with legs folded and parallel at knees and his bottom resting on his heels. There was no bend in the back. He was bald with long hair on sides, long beard and moustaches. His head appeared like a dome. On the backside of his head black hair rolled down, the rest being whitish. His complexion was tan red. He was a chain smoker of Capstan cigarettes. He would hardly puff half the cigarette, probably due to mustaches, and would not inhale smoke in his lungs. When he lit it by a matchstick, he would hold the stick away to let smoke pass off otherwise he would light by a burning bud. After putting off the bud, he would take out another empty packet and put it into it and back into pocket. He would reverse the burnt matchsticks and put it in the same matchbox. His middle and pointing finger of right hand and middle lower part of mustache became yellowish probably due to nicotine. No one was allowed to touch him or things he used. May be not to leave a thumb mark. Anything that he would use was first fried lightly on fire. May be to avoid contamination. (Physicians once declared that Netaji’s immune system was weak. While leaving from Germany to Japan he was given glucose injections to maintain stamina and strength. Netaji used to burn incense in his room at home.)

After entering the hall, I bowed on my knees and touched the forehead to the ground. He raised his hand to bless. I squatted on Aasan by the side of Advocate Bonde. Baba enquired whether my journey was comfortable. He spoke sometimes in Hindi and sometimes in English. He would talk with Ashramites in Bengali. He turned his talk towards Bonde and Dammani after preliminaries with me in a very polite and affectionate voice. We were instructed not to talk while he was lighting a cigarette or some one else was talking. I sat still scrutinizing all the physical marks of Subhash Chandra Bose that I had studied. I wanted to verify the shape of his nose and forehead. They do not change with age. On his passport, Bose gave a mole below ear as a body mark but due to his beard it could not be observed. Verification of small teeth with reddish borders between teeth was not possible, as they remained unexposed due to moustaches. However, in some good photographs of Netaji, I observed a slight squint in eye and a vertical wound mark on the left eyebrow probably received during the Holwell Monument agitation. The height of Netaji was five feet ten inches.

I hit the jackpot! I was astounded to see the vertical scar on the left eyebrow and squint in the eye. It was simply unbelievable! My heart began to pound and blood pressure escalated. I tried to recompose myself. His Hindi and English talk had a tinge of Bengali accent. The command over English and vocabulary was superb.

After about ten minutes, he turned his attention towards me. I initiated discussion on philosophy and psychology, the favorite subjects of Subhash Chandra Bose. We talked on Dwaita and Adawaita, treatise of Adya Shankarachary, Charwak, and Western Philosophers like Kant, Hume, Berkley, Hegel, Shoppenhauer, Bergen, and Bertrand Russell. (Netaji read all books of Russell in Insein jail near Rangoon and philosophy was his subject at graduation.) He explained Aurobindo’s concept of Super human being. On Psychology, he was telling concepts that I knew not. He wanted to propound a hypothesis that the world was created from the conscience. He analyzed dreams as Freudian, vital, ESP, and Intuitional. His knowledge of Sanskrit was thorough. He quoted couplets of Shankaracharya, Yog Vasishta, Kathopanishada, Rigveda, and Upanishada etc. He recited Kalidas. I was in a miserable condition because I had initiated this topic for verification but Sanskrit was Greek and Latin to me. He would recite Rabindranath’s couplets and poems in Bengali. He talked on Bible, Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, and Ramkrishna Param Hans. (These were Netaji’s ideals. Dream analysis was his choicest topic that he would discuss with Kitty Kurti in Vienna.)

I gradually turned to politics. It seemed his favorite topic. He said people came to him with Subhash-psychosis. He emphasized that there was not a slightest resemblance between him and Subhash. Who knew? Subhash alone could find it out said he. “ Niharendu Dutt Mazumdar, ex-law minister of Bengal, was for ten years with Subhash. He came to Ashram and within ten seconds agreed that His Holiness was not Subhash.” He asked me “Upadhyay, is your doubt clear?” I said I believed that Subhash Chandra never married and that he perished in the air crash. He immediately bounced back and contradicted my statement and in raised voice said, ”Subhash never died in accident but might have been shot by General Fujiwara. He wanted to know and censor Subhash Bose’s lectures before being broadcast to India. Subhash bluntly refused it. Why should he do so? Subhash had General Tojo’s backing and hence Fujiwara could not do anything. However, later on he might have managed to shoot Subhash”. He again wrongly addressed me as Upadhyaya.

I again expressed my doubt about marriage of Subhash Bose with Emilie Schenkl of Vienna. He vehemently opposed. He said, “ Her daughter Anita looks like Subhash. Face is similar. His elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose accepted her is enough proof.”

Somebody reported a news item in my presence. He quoted that Satyanarayan Sinha and H.V. Kamath called upon P.C. Sen, Chief Minister of Bengal. They told him that they could have asked a Parliamentary question because Subhash Chandra was the center of their respect, they could not do so. However, they wanted facts from P.C.Sen. The Chief Minister told them that according to an intelligence report the Baba of Shaulmari Ashram was not Subhash Chandra Bose. However, there was another Sadhu in the Ashram whose whereabouts were not known and he might be Netaji Subhash Chandra. On this version Baba blurted and exclaimed, “This is false. P.C.Sen cannot say that.”
There was slight intervention. Pots of flowering plants were near the dais. One lady came, pushed a pot aside, bent and kept her forehead on his feet and left. No one was allowed to touch him and I wondered who was she?

I enquired whether Subhash Bose adopted the old Sanskrit adage that enemy’s enemy is a friend. He smiled and said, “Subhash’s motive was indeed good but means were wrong. To join with Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo means their victory would have fulfilled his aim. However, such a victory would have been a curse to the Nation and humanity.”

I reoriented the discussion to the death of Subhash and expressed my doubt about the verdict of the Shah Nawaz Khan enquiry committee appointed by the Government.  In it, the elder brother of Subhash Bose Viz. Suresh Chandra Bose, as a member gave a note of dissent that was flung to the winds. The enquiry was fake and faulty. He opined in an off tone, ”Why did Jawaharlal delay the death enquiry for twelve and half years? Jawahar wanted to hide something and he did hide. He could have demanded on the spot enquiry immediately after the reported death. He did not. Shah Nawaz and Suresh Chandra commission has no importance because they never had a judicial mind.”

There was an interruption. We were accustomed to booming of artillery fire day and night. The Pakistan border was a few miles away and war was in full swing. Suddenly there was a thunderous roar of a squadron of bomber jets over the Ashram. All of us rushed out by the side door to see the planes. His Holiness was first to exit. I took a mark of his height on the vertical prop of the door. I purposely left as a last man. With open thumb and closed fist I roughly measured the height of mark above my head. It was about four inches above my head. My height being five feet six inches, his height measured about five feet ten inches or so. The height of Baba tallied exactly with Subhash Bose who was five feet ten inches.

After returning to the Hall, I referred a few statements of Uttamchand Malhotra. He explained, ”Yes. I gave him an interview. He is full of Subhash-psychosis. He has filed a criminal case against me and has asked for my witness on commission. ‘Bewakuf’ (idiot). He earned more than two lakh rupees. He has two cars and two taxis. He has published books in the name of Subhash. Why does the Government not stop all these miscreants? Why is the government of Delhi keeping quiet? Why is the Bengal Government quiet? Sen cannot take decision. Is it Ashram’s duty to do all and all?”

I observed that on points of differences, he shouts or rather roars and next moment lowers his voice and becomes mild in tone. I indirectly teased him by reminding him that Uttamchand Malhotra was insisting on your ‘Purbashram’ meaning earlier life. He simply thundered, ”Why should I tell him my ‘Purbashram’ and home-town? Who is he to ask for that?” He calmed down and continued,” I have many times denied that I am not Subhash Bose. I was born in a Brahmin family on the bank of Sarswati in East Bengal. Is that not enough?”

It was 10.30 P.M. He was talking mostly with me for two and half hours. He called it a day and we dispersed after he left the hall. At the Guest House we had good dinner and then Bonde, Dammani and I chatted till 1 A.M. It was raining. Slept.

At breakfast Anantlal Dammani said that Baba bestowed special favor upon me. We all were called in. Discussion went on up to 1 P.M. After one hour’s lunch break, the gossip continued for an hour and half. Bonde and Dammani were permitted to leave and I was detained. He told me that he would talk alone with me in the evening. Since morning the discussion was on various topics: Politics, History, War, Vedas, Philosophy, Vivekananda, religion, etc. He advised me to visit Belur Math of Swami Vivekananda, Dakshineshwar temple of Ramakrishna, both at Calcutta, and Vatican at Rome. In due course, I did comply accordingly.

Advocate Bonde and Dammani left for Amravati. In the evening, I was called in first. All were told to leave the hall except Dr. Ramani Ranjan Das, Secretary. He always carried a notebook to write down instructions and directions. I noticed that His Holiness did dictate all correspondence. I expressed that I came to the right place and gave my biodata in brief. It seemed he knew my maternal great grandfather G.B. Khaparde because he asked me whether he was the same man with a very big gold threaded turban. Apparently he was impressed by my lineage. Telegraphically I had already given a nod to institute a case against A.D.Mani, editor of English Daily Hitavada of Nagpur. The case was to be filed at Amravati but he informed me that on second thought he dropped the idea and already filed a civil and criminal case at sub-divisional office of Mathabhanga, Dist. Cooch Behar. He told me to go through Patanjali Yoga Sutra. I frankly confessed my ignorance of Sanskrit but would try translation. He promised to guide me after Diwali festival as he was going in isolation for inner work. He often expressed that he was waiting for a call from the Divine Mother to start his work. He advised me to perform every night before going to bed, “Self correction by introspection and retrospection, purification, and realization.”

Others were called in. Again the discussion went on various topics. For the first time he addressed me by my first name “Suresh” which he continued till the very end. He advised regular physical exercise to all of us and told us that while touring India on foot, even on a rainy day he would take exercise under a tree. (In Behrampur jail Netaji realized the importance of exercise and thereafter he was regularly taking exercise. S.A. Ayer mentions his regular sit-ups in Singapore.) He permitted me to leave tomorrow and instructed the Secretary to arrange my ticket and taxi. I found him to be a meticulous planner and he would shoot out instructions after instruction to all members of the Ashram right from gardening, marketing, court work, hygienic care, naturopathy, etc. He had an eagle’s eye. Newspapers were always a must for him, even on a brief tour. (Newspapers were always indispensable to Netaji. In Vienna to save money he would walk down to the public library to read newspapers. When he was taking rest at Dalhousie with Dharmavirs for six months, he would obtain all foreign and Indian newspapers.) All of us dispersed at 10 P.M. Dined and wrote notes in diary.

Comment: I was utilizing my free time in meeting Ashramites and collecting maximum possible information in a casual manner lest I might offend. It is epitomized as below:
Dr. Ramani Ranjan Das came from Borishal of East Bengal. He was a L.M.P. and practicing as a general physician. He was earning more that Rs. 2000/- a month. He had four daughters, a son, younger brother Montubabu, and mother with him. Around 1958 or so Swami Saradanandaji came to his dispensary. Asked for a glass of water to his compounder and told him to get a packet of cigarettes. A man was sent and cigarettes were brought. He told them that he smoked Capstan only. The request was complied. The cigarettes were slightly fried on pan as per instruction. A few people gathered. All were very much impressed by his talk and personality. All compelled him to extend stay. He took dinner of fish curry and rice and slept at night away from locality in a Verandah of a school. (Netaji always preferred to sleep in open areas, whether in jail or sanatorium. In Vienna during the snowy winter he would keep windows of his bedroom open. He wrote an article on Babus deploring that young Bengalis do not get attuned to heat and cold.)

His hut was constructed in a banana plantation of Dinbandhu and Haribandhu Dutt, migrants of E. Bengal. Thus the Ashram nucleated. In the course of time mostly poor migrants of E. Bengal donated their farms and became full time members of the Ashram. The land belonged to village Shaulmari. There were more than eighty families. Dr.Das was told to leave medical practice at adjacent Falakata town and live in the Ashram.

Niharendu Dutt Mazumdar was co-worker of Subhash Chandra Bose and an associate of Jawaharlal Nehru. In the congress Ministry he had a portfolio of Law. He was a well-known lawyer of the High Court and politician of repute at Calcutta. He was a disciple of His Holiness, conducted cases of the Ashram and many times visited Shaulmari Ashram. He was the only person allowed to see His Holiness in his hutment in the sanctum sanctorum. He represented the Bose family in G.D.Khosla commission appointed by the Govt. of India to probe death of Subhash Chandra Bose. This was the second official enquiry committee in the history of the nation.

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