Baba’s Escape..

Posted By Author on December 1, 2010

I got up at 3 A.M. Baba called me in his hut.  He was indignant because ‘ghee’ (boiled butter) was kept in an aluminum box.  It should have been kept in threaded one and that should have been packed in another box otherwise according to him magnetism was lost.  He scolded for carelessness.  He ordered to take out all his edible ingredients and declared that nothing would be carried with him.  Gita and Shomu surreptitiously told to keep it in car.  Baba came to know and he again admonished them.  He then went in.  We were speechless.  After sometime he came and declared that Suresh alone would accompany him.  I got ready and was waiting for him in front of Ramanidada’s hut. The island was flooded with  bright moonlight.  He came out and occupied his chair.  After administering last doze of chastisement he told to bring Chinu.  He kept his finger on top of her head and remained silent for some moments.  After completing the process she was sent back. We set on our march.

We began to climb the mountain. He was exhausted.  He rested eight to ten times.  He was gasping, panting and puffing and groaned ‘Mago’ (Oh Mother) and then to alleviate his agony.  Sometimes his body oscillated due to loss of control because of unbearable exertion.  Again in Bengali he would exclaim ‘Mago parbena (Oh Mother I cannot bear). He moaned ‘unh, unh’.  I could not bear the sight of his convulsions, spasms and pathetic sigh.  What a physical strain, what a mental agony, what an economic distress, what a misery, suffering and struggle at this age to this great man of the century. It was unimaginable.  When first he squatted for rest he shouted ‘pakha, pakha’ meaning fan.  I immediately handed over my letter pad and Rajat fanned him every time he sat.  But for the pad another burst of anger was certain.  He told all to go ahead.  Radhakant, Rajat and I accompanied him.

I walked five paces ahead of him and showed the torch beam on the footpath for his convenience.  He was carrying a reed mat-bundle, walking stick, an umbrella, an empty dalda tin with handle and cord, and one cotton bag hanging across his shoulder.  He refused to lighten his burden by handing over things. Ultimately with great strain he reached the top and we arrived on the road.  He squatted on his tin on the edge of the road and smoked a cigarette.  An exhilarating cool breeze was brushing us.  It was 5 A.M. and dawn was yet to crack.  After sufficient rest he regained his strength.  He put his mat on the back seat and occupied it.  Budhiballabh was to go to Rishikesh and he put his belongings in car with a view to accompany but Baba told him to remove that.  I was told to occupy the front seat.  It was an Ambassador car, model of 1962, registration number U.P.D.1869.  The driver was Yashodanand of Rishikesh, a refugee of the ravages of the partition, a Pathan originally hailing from Dehra Ismail Khan.

When Baba was comfortably ensconced, he took each individual’s name and called him near his window and instructed about his duty.  He called Chandrashekhar and said, “You have not given money yet.  I am conscious of your circumstances.  Tell Suresh’s mother not to worry at all.  In summer I shall get both of them here.”  Radhakant asked for permission to go home and he tersely replied to do as he liked. It was indirect refusal.

Our car reached Kunda Chatti. I told him that in this cold season constable was not stationed at Kunda and hence we would proceed to Agasti Muni, halt earlier to police post and at the nick of time join the one-way convoy when the gate would open. Baba accepted the suggestion.  We left Kund and proceeded further and covered eight miles.  Baba warned the driver not exceed speed of fifteen miles per hour.  During the drive he was intermittently moaning probably due to pain.  He passed audible gases and then said to me “I feel relieved and better after emitting gases.”  The gases were pressing his diaphragm and thus causing shooting pain.  The military camp came in sight and I stopped the car earlier to that.  He got down to piss then it was decided to halt there only till the opening of the gate.  Baba expressed that he would have a short nap.  Yashodanand and I stood at a distance from the car chitchatting.  Then suddenly an idea struck.  I told Baba that we would catch the first gate opening at 7 A.M. at Agasti Muni for Rudraprayag.  Baba doubted and queried as to how police would allow.  I explained that it was off-season and through driver I would bribe the police.  He agreed.

As Agasti Muni was approaching under the pretext of sleeping Baba became almost horizontal and wrapped shawl on his face.  I knew he was expert in dodge and disguise. He could not be seen from outside.  I stopped the car in front of row of hotels of Agasti Muni and a bit away from police-post.  However, when I got down and entered a teashop I discovered the constable there.  It was 6.30 A.M. and I queried with him whether he would be able to permit us to catch the first gate at 7 A.M.  He informed that it left at 6 A.M. already.  I signed the driver not to offer tip to him because I already deposited  ten rupees to driver Yashodanand for the holy purpose endemic to the police department.  I pointed out to the cop that blue colour of water-pencil was smudged over his face.  He smiled and wiped his face with handkerchief.  Then I asked him his name and salary.  I lamented that his salary was too poor in these days of rising cost. He was elated with my sympathy.  I offered him tea and a cigarette packet.  His friend was with him and he too was given free cup of tea.  I got the desired effect in return.  I had complete grasp over him.  He behaved very politely. I was in three-piece suit with a tie purposely to impress and succeed in the mission. The cop modestly asked me as from where I was.  I apprised him that I was from Bombay. He said he already surmised it.  Seeing him mesmerized I told him that my car was midway obstructing traffic and so he should allow it to shift farther.  He readily yielded to my request.  Our driver immediately moved the car out of settlement on the edge of the road.  The police post remained far off and I felt relieved.  A few minutes after two lorries arrived from Kund.  I requested the constable that buses would emit clouds of dust and to avoid that we be allowed to proceed slowly ahead of the gate.  He very readily agreed but with all humility urged me that his boss just landed and I should carry his ‘Darogasaheb’ (Sub Inspector) in my car.  I flatly said no to him and he prayed that at least I should call upon him.  At that instant I was shocked to see Sub Inspector Baljor Sing of Okhimath getting down the bus, the very person instrumental in serving arrest warrant and cause of our escape to other district to avoid his jurisdiction.  My heartbeats pounded like drums.  I recomposed quickly and began further drama.  Once I doubted that the S.I. smelt our plan and was there in our pursuit.

I wished him ‘namaste’ (a common Indian word of obeisance). He smilingly came near me and started enquiring, “Is Baba alright?”  I replied that he was closed in meditation.  In the heart of heart I felt he was digging information and testing me.  Then I asked him as to how was he there.  Was he not to see Baba next day as per written letter of appointment?  He told that he secured leave of a week and was going home to his native place.  He suggested that if the stay order arrived I should intimate the Sub Divisional Magistrate at Okhimath.  I assured him and informed that I was going to Rishikesh by taxi and would return a day after.  Then I requested him as to why not join me in my car.  I further added that unfortunately the car was jam packed like sardines by ‘janana’ (ladies) who would alight at Rudraprayag for marketing and that I would pick him up there and offer lift upto Rishikesh. He said no problem.  He then was asking someone to manage a cigarette for him.  To spend own money on comforts is a taboo to police in general.  I immediately robbed the opportunity and through driver managed to handover him a packet of Panama cigarettes.  He hesitated to accept and I assured that it was goodwill of the morning.  Gossiping, he began to walk towards our taxi.  I immediately turned him to purchase a matchbox and thrust it in his pocket.  To while away time and refraining him to approach taxi, I reached his eight years old son sitting in the front seat of the bus.  I said to him ‘namaste’.  He did not respond.  Baljor Singh scolded him to be mannerly and return ‘namaste’.  I gave him chocolates.  By that time whistle blew indicating opening of the gate and I ran to our taxi and maintained our lead at the forefront of the convoy.

I informed Baba that Baljor Singh was in the front seat in the first bus following us.  I apprised him that I had a talk with him in Agasti Muni.  Baba seemed engrossed in worry.  I suggested Baba to keep his cloth bag near the rear glass to obstruct the view and he immediately did it.  The bus in the rear began to blow horn demanding side.  As per Baba’s command we gave side and both the buses overtook us blowing clouds of dust.  I saw Baljor Singh’s son but could not trace him luckily.  Our car screeched to halt as per Baba’s wish.  He lit a cigarette and began to search his pencil.  Ultimately he cut a lemon and handed over to me and I rubbed my pen with it.  After purifying it I gave it to him.  Then he sought a blank sheet from middle portion of my letter pad.  He then queried whether I had the letter written to Baljor Singh.  My answer was negative.  Then he began to scribble himself and told me to copy it down.  He wrote one line in Hindi ‘the warrant which has come from Calcutta.’ He stopped and began thinking.  Then scratched the line.  Again started rewriting.  I saw he was not in proper mood and hence I suggested that I would carry his message orally. He agreed at once.  He directed me that moment we would cross the district border of Chamoli, I should see Baljor Singh at Rudraprayag and disclose the truth.  Our drive ahead began.  The purpose of halt and delay was to see that the moment we crossed the tunnel near Rudraprayag the rest of the convoy would have passed the police-post.

On way Baba and I indulged in bitter debate.  He proposed that I should return from Shrinagar and he would go ahead alone.  I refused.  He said he would be all the while worried about taking my care.  I gave ultimatum that I would alone leave for forest. I silenced him.  After some time he ordered that after reaching Haridwar taxi should be taken on canal road but then he doubted that Radhakant might have disclosed to the driver the destination at the foot of the Chandi Mountain.  He cancelled the proposal.

Anyway we crossed the tunnel.  I gave a clap and summoned the police by sign.  He literally ran and seeing my attire gave a solid salute.  I told him to hurry up the clearance.  He immediately complied.  The famous bridge described by Jim Corbett in his shikar story viz. ‘The Man eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’ was ahead.  We crossed it and paid the toll.   I heaved a sigh of relief.  But for presence of mind the whole mission would have turned into fiasco, I contemplated.  We were out of jurisdiction of Baljor Singh.  I got down at motor stand sent the taxi with Baba to Inspection Bungalow.

Really I was thrilled to be a party in this historic episode parallel to his historic escape to Kabul and travel by submarine from Germany to Japan. I was in line with Bhagatram and Abid Hassan.

I got hold of Baljor Singh and took him to lonely corner in privacy.  I confessed that I spoke lie to him. Just to maintain his position Babaji was leaving Gangtoli to perform his ‘tapasya’ elsewhere. His Holiness was with me in Rudraprayag. I assured him that Baba’s decision was correct and conducive to keep his status intact without any aspersions from public, his department or the court.

Baljor Singh said, “Why are you people taking so much pain and trouble?  I shall see what to do of the warrant.  Let Baba perform his ‘tapasya’ peacefully and gracefully there in Gangtoli only.  I know Babaji is not a thief or a dacoit.  I shall not give any reply regarding warrant.  By that time 10th February will dawn and all will be busy in election duty.  If the warrant comes again I shall see to it.  Do not bother at all.”

I requested Baljor Singh to have a minute’s audience with Baba and assure him after I secure permission for the same.  He agreed. I had to run one furlong to inspection Bungalow in full suit and people were curious to watch me running.  The taxi was stationed in front of the Bungalow. I rushed in and narrated the situation to Baba. He permitted to bring him.  Again I ran back to motor stand.  Baljor Singhji was performing official work and filling a register with two local constables attending him.  I stopped at a distance.  He saw me and made a sign to keep quiet.  I moved aside purchased lot of sweets and presented them to his son in the bus.  After some time Baljor Singh started.  I went ahead.  Reached the bungalow.  In the portico I saw Baba engaged in talk with one Sikh gentleman.  His name was Ramesh Singh.  He was a contractor from Rishikesh and that his wife was a Bengali lady.  He was urging Baba to visit his home.  Baba told him to leave his address to me and disposed him off quickly.  Baljor Singh arrived and he bent to pay respect to Baba.  Then he gave him full assurance that he would shuttle the warrant for four months and even after that he need not get disturbed or leave the place. He specifically confessed that he was a religious person with wife and children and he did not want to invite curse by imposing hurdles in ‘tapasya’ of a saint like him.  His bus arrived and stopped near our bungalow.  He rushed out, ran and caught it.

It was a tremendous relief for Baba.  An amalgam of tears of gratitude, display of unbridled joy, waves of elation, and sudden cessation of tension gripped my being.  I requested Baba to return.  He smiled.  His demeanour revealed ecstasy writ large on his countenance.  We packed up and came to motor stand.  He himself moved from shop to shop, asked rates and purchased huge bulk of vegetables and fruits.  Baba then told me to find whether fish or eggs were available.  After reconnaissance I told him that only goat meat was available.  He then told to purchase five kilo of it.  After finishing the marketing our taxi crossed the bridge.  It was 10.15 A.M. and gate opening timing was 11 A.M. We reached the police post and the cop was unwilling to take the risk to allow us to go before the convoy.

Waiting was unavoidable.  I told Baba that I saw spinach in a shop, which was his favorite. (Netaji too liked spinach) He ordered to veer the taxi.  We came near bridge and stopped.  I got down and walked over the bridge to avoid repayment of toll.  The man on the toll-post informed me that for the first crossing of the bridge a rupee and quarter was the charge for initial crossing of the bridge and subsequently on the very day all trips were taxed quarter rupee only.  I related it to Baba and he ordered to turn the taxi and we again reached market.  I purchased spinach, extra vegetables, and sandals for ladies, etc and returned to the taxi.  Baba was inside and people surrounded the car. The old drummer of Kedarnath met again in the melee.  I paid him two rupees.  Purchased newspapers and we arrived at the tunnel.  Baba proposed a walk.  I paid one rupee to driver and told him to enjoy snacks in the adjoining kiosk and then pick us up on way.  Baba and I gossiped and walked through the tunnel.  Further we walked a couple of furlongs. We waited for the Taxi near P.W.D. office and turned back but by then couple of buses passed and our taxi picked us up.

While travelling I opened discussion on his favourite topic of politics.  I pointed to him that after election of the new Prime Minister there would be a prominent disgruntled group in the ruling party and we would gain advantage from them.  Baba said yes but detested that of what use they were.  I said such people were not interested in helping others but get diabolic pleasure of crushing the victorious colleagues.  Baba laughed and as usual said, “Let us see”.  Chitchatting we reached our turning near Chunni.  When I remarked that opponents of the Prime Minister be utilized to our advantage and later kicked off.  Baba did not relish the idea.  He was reticent.

We got down on the road and I waved to brothers in the camp and received the confirmatory return signal. They arrived one after another as their individual constitution permitted.  Shomu and Ramsingh came running; then Gobind came.  Poor Ramanidada arrived gasping for breath and he got a bout of coughing.  He became so emotional to see Baba that tears of joy were rolling.  Shibnath came fast but as he was a heart patient he showed signs of cardiac pain.  Baba laid him horizontal for rest.  All began to lift goods brought by us.

Because of his obesity Ramesh Saxena was the last man to crawl wearily.  When he was at a little distance away Baba hinted me to play a joke on him.  He arrived.  All became silent.  Baba made a grim and grave face.  I told Ramesh that we were caught and Baba was under arrest.  Police had gone to get manacle.  With face drawn he was agog and ice cold.  Baba laughed and asked him as to what was the matter.  He remained dumb and dazed as if pole-axed. Then all of us laughed. He was more bewildered.  At last Baba explained the situation.

We were descending and Ramanidada informed that Radhakant and Budhiballabh left by 9 A.M. gate for Rishikesh.  Mitranand arrived. Baba told him to go to Okhimath and give a ring at Rudraprayag and intimate them to return immediately.

All of us were jubilant and in a festive mood.  It was a big jamboree. Baba was gossiping.  Shomu requested Baba to partake mutton and he gave consent to prepare in inner kitchen.  Priest Mitranand was also told to take non-vegetarian. Laughingly Baba stressed, “Today I am going to destroy everybody’s caste.”  Then on warrant issue he remarked, “Suresh, it does not matter we spent about three hundred rupees but instead of we requesting him, Baljor Singh of his own volunteered is more valuable.  This is the gain.”  Baba then went inside for his favourite hobby of cooking.

Out of six hundred rupees I spent hundred and thirty on purchases and rest was handed over to our accountant Rajat. I then took bath in the cold water of the river. Baba again called me and told me that he would give a note on non-vegetarian diet.  However, he was called in the kitchen but while leaving he told me that Napoleon was best cook and because of this quality the name Napoleon Omelette has come in vogue.

At market in Rudraprayag I sought Baba’s permission to have a quarter brandy as a medicinal dose in the cold weather and celebrate merriment.  He obliged but remarked that he never took.  Once a while he said was all right.  I had to fulfill his permission and when all my strain and worries vanished I enjoyed sumptuous, delicious, spicy, non-vegetarian food and sleep.  Baba sent a word for me but when he came to know that I was asleep he told not disturb me.  Today’s drama and suspense and then merriment and enjoyment were unforgettable.

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