20th Independence Day

Posted By Author on April 18, 2011

15th August 1967:

Today is Independence Day – a day of rejoicing for independence and mourning for ravages of the partition.  Today is twentieth Independence Day and birthday of Rishi Aurobindo Ghosh.

At 5.30 A.M. Ramanidada awoke me from the sound sleep.  I immediately prepared to leave for Chunni to meet Shymlal Pradhan.  I went to Dada’s hut to collect empty bags and can for milk.  Baba was outside. He called me.  He then showed me an enormous white pumpkin. It was about twenty-five kilo on thatched roof of a hut for churning milk. Sweets are prepared from it called ‘Petha’. Agra is famous for that. We moved through vegetable beds.  He showed me new grafts of Dahlia and Roses.  It was a forest of vegetables and vines. I was delighted to see that our labour of the summer in digging pits, preparing and putting manure, watering operations came to fruition.  There were ‘barbati’, French beans, ‘seam’, long gourd, other varieties of gourds, three types of pumpkins, tomatoes (plenty), okra (profuse), capsicum, chillies (lot), radish, carrot, brinjals (egg plant), spinach, ‘pui’, maize, ginger and what not. The villagers from the vicinity looked at it with awe and wonder. Baba used to gift everybody a share of vegetables. I wished I had a movie camera.

I proceeded alone to Chunni, collected Shyamlal and reached Okhimath.  We purchased nine liters of milk from four stalls, potatoes, candles, impure sugar at four and half rupees a kilo.  I was shocked to see the high price. Wheat was not available but with difficulty through good offices of Shyamlalji procured two kilos.  It was painful to realize scarcity and high prices after being free from the yoke of the British subjugation twenty years ago.

Shyamlalji dropped at Chunni and I had to carry the heavy burden all alone. My shoulders were jammed.  I was drenched in sweat.  It was a great ordeal to reach the camp.  Baba was there and he saw my plight. He asked me as to why some boy was not engaged to carry burden.  I kept mum.  Our ways were diverse.  I was in saving penny programme and Baba was in spending money project.  I opened the dak in his hut and read out letters. He told me to send reply to the defendant in Zalawar case of Rajastan.  The writing in the diary is smudged due to leaking rain from the roof.  Miserable.  I had to close the diary.  Then went through other correspondence.  Gossip followed.  Baba told me that yesterday he read Congress Minister’s confession in the Blitz and it was interesting.  Shyamlal arrived.  He was given the job of churning milk and producing cream for ghee.  Baba went in.  I left for bath.  When returned, Baba was there standing outside.  He told that tiny insects were invading his bed and hence he wanted to wash the place with boiling water.  There was no fuel.  He removed about eight stumps from the outer face of wall of his hut and was trying to break them.  I offered my service.  He would hold the long pole and I axed it into pieces. I collected the lot and went into his hut.  Fire was lit in the hut itself.  Water was kept for boiling. Then Baba enthusiastically showed me the garden behind his hut. It was in full bloom.

Adjacent Mandakini was swirling and whirling more vigorously. The cacophony of surging cascades made it impossible to hear each other from a distance of three feet.  Baba told that even an elephant could not swim in that gushing water.  He informed that our servant boy of village Bendula and his two companions while trying to enter the river were swept away and their bodies were untraceable.  After a while we came out. He went for his bath and I took breakfast of curd with sugar and grabbed two chapatis.  Butter was ready.  Our ancestor simians raided.. I sent Bholu on them.  They vanished. I tied Bholu.  Took rest.

Shyamlalji was made to sit in his courtyard for lunch.  Baba sat on the chair and I sat near him.  We talked. Baba said, “ In public work I hate to beg for anybody’s co-operation. The nature of work should be such that they should be honestly attracted. The present Congress collected all heterogeneous elements and that will bring its doom.

After Shyamlal’s lunch Ramanidada and I were made to sit for lunch. What Gastronomy! Four vegetables, of course all self-grown, sauces, curd with sugar, fried potatoes, rice, salad, etc. I had a heavy delicious meal and then left for rest.  I paid rupees forty to Shyamlalji for rice, milk and old debt of six rupees of a ‘Harijan’.  He left and I slept.

At 4 P.M.  I got up and came out.  Ramanidada told me that the brother of Indersing, servant, had come and I was told to pluck and give him vegetables.  But then Baba came and he made me sit near him.  He said rupees sixty were to be immediately sent to Gyanbabu in Assam, as he had no money to return to the Ashram.  He had gone to see his ailing mother. He queried whether I would be able to procure rupees two hundred and fifty from Chandrashekhar by T.M.O. I wrote a telegram to Prabhakar for rupees three hundred and told that both would manage.  He made me extend my leave and he advised to obtain ten days more up to 30th August.  I extended it to one month to avoid further changes by him.

About Morarji Desai Baba opined, “In spite of his defects and drawbacks he is a man of firm conviction it seems.”  I agreed with him but told that he was biased to industrialists and had parochial attitude. His son was minting money in his name.  He might meet the fate of Pratapsingh Kairon. Baba asked whether father and son had strained relation.  I said it was only a rumour.  Kirloskar married his daughter to his son from business point of view but later they divorced.  Baba laughed and queried, “Kirloskars, are they rich?”  I apprised him that indeed they were but their father who was founder of the industry was a poor drawing teacher. It was he who worked hard and flourished his manufacturing business. My mother’s maternal uncle gave him much needed finance in the initial stage. He is one of the Directors of Kirloskars.

Baba related a similar example from Bengal.  “P.C. Ray came back from London but he was rejected for job by the then British Director of Education because he was Indian. The Director advised him to start soap industry but Ray had a few hundred rupees. However as per advice he set a chemical industry, which has now shaped as an empire of Bengal Chemicals.”  Then on education he said ten percent boys were useless.  That was what a lecturer in Chemistry told him during his sojourn in Punjab.  I said it was true.  Then we gossiped on other topics and Ramanidada reminded that Suresh would go to Vidyapith and return Dhasmana’s thirty rupees.  Baba told him that both of us would take a stroll and go there. He expressed that he felt like taking a long walk. He immediately returned with his socks and Gorakhpuri boots on, walking stick in hand.  Seeing the cloudy sky, I suggested carrying an umbrellas and a torch. He agreed and I carried both the umbrellas and torch.  It was about 5 P.M.

We started treading from side of flourmill towards Vidyapith of Guptakashi.  The narrow footpath was slippery and wet as the whole mountain was oozing water.  He showed me three species of grass and a plant and told that they were favourite forage of cows. I showed him a plant belonging to a bamboo family.  He said, “Bamboos will have to be properly afforested. It gives yield within three years.  Paper can be manufactured from it.  The coniferous trees do not grow so fast.  The developed India would require rupees two hundred and fifty crores worth paper for newspapers alone.  This need must be met within the country.” Step by step slowly we were climbing up.  At one point he slipped on a damp stone full of moss but he recovered the balance without accident. However, his boots made of cloth became wet in water of a ditch. We reached Tal Chunni. Mitranand’s temple was locked. We were informed that Dasmana had gone to Okhimath and therefore we climbed up towards motor road. As we came on the road he proposed to have a further walk and so we headed towards Kunda Chatti. After some distance we came across construction of bridge and hence retraced the route. Before descending the forest towards the camp he took rest on the edge of the road. With folded knees he squatted without touching bottom to the ground. He was heaving heavily and his breast was bellowing prominently. Yet he lit a cigarette and enjoyed puff. We were watching the grand aerial view of our island surrounded by dashing Mandakini. We covered about three hundred feet climb. Enjoying the aesthetic beauty he exclaimed, Suresh, for a man of seventy it is too much. Is it not?” It struck a gold mine for me. He never revealed his age to anyone including Ramanidada and then spontaneously and inadvertently he confessed about his age. Subhash Bose was born in 1897. This was one of the acid tests that Baba was none but Netaji. We then had a brief chat on politics. I posed a question to him whether these people would leave power easily? He said, “No. They will be stubborn. Some will be opportunist and some true. We shall have to absorb the true type but obstructionists will have to be overcome.

We descended the forest and reached the camp. I brought it to Baba’s notice that the place from where Gita brought water from the river was very dangerous. He agreed and proposed to repair and reconstruct next day. He then went inside to take rest. It started raining. I wrote diary. Gita invited me for dinner. She served heartily too many Chapatis, vegetables and sweet ‘rabdi’. (Milk boiled and made semi-viscous sweet milk) After taking out cream milk was used for it. I joked that I felt it was real 15th of August.

Ramanidada was engrossed in prayer. Gita and myself gossiped. She asked as to what name was designated to newly born son of my sister and I told ‘Anand’ (joy). She informed that her sisters Kalyani and Debyani passed their examinations. Her mother wept all the while and did not take food many a times. She expressed her feelings and she craved for going home.  Nostalgia was dogging her. Poor lady was bored in the jungle. I encouraged her by promising that I would not leave unless and until I took them to the Ashram. She challenged me to take her home in the month of ‘Ashwin’ for ‘Pooja’ festival.  She was restless and longing to go home very much. It was natural. She was almost in jail since one and a quarter year. The confinement was telling on her health.

Ramanidada arrived and requested me to bring a bundle of cord. In heavy rain I returned to my hut. Wrote diary and retired for the night.

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