Fire breaks out

Posted By Author on November 9, 2010


In the morning Baba was enjoying the Sunlight. Radhakant, Shibnath and I were sitting near him.  Gossip on nature of Ratan, Ramen and Kali opened. I kept mum.  He remarked that Ratan had ‘Bania’ (Businessman) mentality. I said money was his drawback. I disclosed that he twice bamboozled me by asking money in the name of Ashram.  He condoned it by saying that he paid Rs.Ten thousand to Ashram.  That was his brighter side according to him.  All others left and Rajat and I were detained.

We had a very lengthy but interesting discussion on theory of relativity.  Debate was going on between the two of us.  He was of the opinion that light does not pass through vacuum.  He said if two halves of a solid ball, if connected by removing vacuum, the atmospheric pressure is so much that even the strength of an elephant cannot separate them. His first concept did not scientifically appeal to me though the later concept was correct. However I avoided contradiction. Baba left for lunch and so did I.

When I woke up from my nap, the postmaster of Okhimath together with some inspector of planning had arrived.  Radhakantji was giving them sermon in Hindi and his English.

Baba summoned me and gave the following personal note:

“In your day to day behaviour with your fellow men in general and with those who are nearer to you in particular, the meanness, the contraction you observe must not arouse antipathy in you and by you, I mean, it must not be so accepted by your central being.  A sort of antipathy will spring up from somewhere but it must be thoroughly rejected by your true being.  Attitude must be one of realisation of the contraction inherent as a weakness in human nature, a disease albeit.  Just as when somebody is ailing from some physical disease you take a compassionate view of all his sufferings so also you must take the same view about the psychological disease.

Then again when it becomes necessary, expose the weakness of your fellowmen, you must make yourself sure, it is being done out of necessity of correction.  Even an indifferent way of expression in relation to the weakness of others, which amounts to indolent gossiping, not to speak of disdainful attitude about it, is always detrimental to your own growth and should always be nipped in the bud.  Moreover, such an attitude spreads unwittingly venom in the environment and the man who is involved in the matter is rendered incapable of understanding and realising his own defects and to the contrary to the prospect of his own growth.  He on his part starts harbouring disdain for you.  It is thus grievously harmful in both the ways.  Today you have committed this indulgence in different exposure to a certain extent arising out of your unfavourable feeling to a more or less extent the weakness which Ratan in his folly exhibited.  What you should have done, you should have taken Ratan into confidence then and there as a brother with all goodwill for him and explained the implication of the selfish behaviour and of course for the furtherance of the process of correction you might have brought it to my notice with the feeling and with the expectation that if it is brought to my notice the correction of the morbid trend might be effected quicker than otherwise.

Now whatever comes out of you, in whichever way you behave in relation to your fellow men you must subject to self-scrutiny?  If you develop this trend, sooner or later you will discover that apparently innocent things are not so innocent and in the background lies something undesirable, undeveloped, not ready to be transformed and perhaps left to it-self unable to be corrected.  The more              self-conscious you are about the external and the internal, the quicker will be the grasp of what is going on within yourself and consequently more rapid will be the self- expansion.  What is known, as casual observation is not without its deep implication in relation to those who make such observation.  Everything is so correlated in one structure of actions and chain reactions with all its effects good or bad that nothing should escape your penetrating eyes either in yourself or in the environment but predominantly and without fail in yourself.  When this type of very watchful attitude you develop in relation to yourself the progress may be expected to be rapid and retainable without intermittent digression.”

Baba then reminded me to always remember Christ’s sentence on the Mount. ‘ Judge not lest ye be judged.’  Baba knew Bible thoroughly. (For Subhash Bible was compulsory subject in his Protestant European School in Cuttack. However Dr.Urquhart, Principal of his Scottish Churches College in Calcutta imbibed his real interest in Bible.)

The reason for giving above note was that when Ratan came to my place at Amravati he told that he had only two rupees left in pocket and I gave him seventy-five rupees to meet expenses of his journey.  However, he made purchases of about fifteen rupees at Amravati, which proved that he had enough money and was lying. In my first visit to Ashram he squeezed hundred and fifty rupees from me. I did not object and when I brought these episodes to Baba’s notice and told him that if Ratan was not following Baba’s written direction and violated it, his psychological disease of money-mania was getting chronic like cancer.  Baba laughed on my statement.

At night, after his dinner, Rajat, Radhakant, and I were called in his hut.  Baba again explained as to how to pin point lacunae of colleagues with good intention.  Baba told that for this purpose he formed groups of five members of Ashram but Haripad told Baba that it was embarrassing to point out others’ mistake and the person concerned felt insulting so much so that he would come to blows.

Baba told me to call Shomu, Gobind, Shibnath and Ramesh Saxena.  They joined us.  Gita and Dipali too came.  After general chitchat Baba told me that next day was 16th Jan. and that he would remain closed.  We sprinkled water on the floor and burned incense and left his hut. (Netaji left India on the night of 16th January.)

The weather was cold and windy.  I was trying to warm myself in couple of blankets.  Shomu brought the message that Radhakant was called in.  He returned and told that time to get Baba upset was imminent.  Baba wanted him to prepare three ‘janaus’, i.e. sacred threads that are put across the shoulder by higher castes of Hindus like Brahmins and Kshatriyas (priests and warriors).  After sometime Radhakantji came and told me to join him as Rajat and he could not cope up.  From an entangled bundle of crude cotton string three pieces of sixty feet in length were to be disentangled and twisted to form twine and categorical condition was set that thread should not touch feet or ground.  Then the sixty feet long string was to be converted into six continuous rounds with ‘Brahma gath’   (cosmic knot).  Shomu again came with Baba’s order that the task must be done in front of Ramanidada’s hut.  I could not work with blanket wrapped around and hence threw aside exposing to cold, which my hide was not prepared to accept.  Realising our plight Dipali brought a mobile burning furnace called sigri and she left.  After giving final instruction cum warning, Ramanidada retired for the night with his two daughters Dipali and Gita and granddaughter Chinu.

It was not possible to twist long thread in sitting posture lest it would touch ground and hence we were working in standing position.  First ‘Janau’ or Yadnopavit was almost completed. Radhakant and I had our back towards hut while Rajat was facing it.  The time was ten P.M.  Suddenly Rajat shouted in Bengali ‘Agun’ (fire).  Rajat ran with a plate containing two sacred threads and twine to keep away.   Radhakantji and I rushed inside Ramanidada’s hut.  The hut was eight feet wide and thirty-five feet long with entrance on extreme left whereas inmates were sleeping at the extreme right with other entrance door.  On the extreme left was compartment of bathroom and adjoining it to was Ramanidada’s office with files. Embers in our furnace emitted sparks. There must have had been embers burning in furnace of bathroom also from where Dipali handed us another burning furnace outside. The flying sparks of charcoal caused fire. The fire was waist high in the extreme southwest corner.  I tried to put it off by covering it with blanket but in vain.  Radhakantji rushed and took out all inmates.  I tried to save a mosquito net but it caught fire.  The walls and roof were made of thatch and with plastic sheet tied on roof.  In less than one minute tinder shot flames and the game was over.  The conflagration engulfed the entire structure.  Baba’s compound and kitchen were hardly hundred feet away to the west towards which wind was blowing and flying sparks imposed another danger and they were landing on fence and kitchen’s roof of Baba.

Baba rushed through boulders and Shomu began to weep loudly.  I dived towards Baba’s hutment and put off sparks from the fence and kitchen.  I was alone and realizing further calamity, I shouted for help and Radhakant and Govind came to rescue.  We got busy in putting off sparks and cinder. Tinder of huts could conflagrate any moment. Fortunately the tarpaulin cover on the roof of the kitchen saved further mishap.  All were busy in fetching water from river in whatever container they could lay hand on.  We sprinkled water on Baba’s encampment.  Curling tongues of fire were striving to devour night sky but provided warmth in that biting cold.  Luckily Chinu’s hut, though covered with grass only, was farther to the west.

Radhakantji pulled a smouldering leather suitcase from Ramanidada’s hut.  I poured water and took out smouldering clothes and most of them were saved.  It contained Chinu’s photographs snapped by me.  Only one was safe rest of the photographs and negatives got burnt. My blanket and sandals also turned into ashes.  The bole of arboreal tree adjoining Dada’s hut caught fire.  We put it off.  The glow of fire could be seen from the neighbourhood.  Dasmana rushed with his students from the Vidyapith of Guptakashi and volunteered to battle with waning fire.

Baba took Gita, Dipali, Chinu and Ramani dada to his hut.  After some time when everything was controlled, Baba called us in.  He said to Radhakant that the calamity was the result of our mistakes.  He reiterated old blunders and warned that next punishment would snatch the very life.  Then he said to me, “The fire was for good.  It replaced further danger.”  Even in this gloomy atmosphere he laughed and narrated an incident of his sojourn. “I once walked in a village in Punjab and stayed for dinner.  All neighbours came to see me where I stayed.  One lady was trying to pull her son who was trying to catch burning wick of open kerosene lamp.  After six attempts mother got fed up and allowed him to go to lamp.  Then the child caught the flame and started crying.  Today’s fire is giving similar lesson to all of you and at least now you should be vigilant not to commit mistakes.”

After giving caution, He proposed that grass be spread on the floor and Ramani Dada, Gita, Dipali and Chinu would continue to sleep in his hut.  We came out and again he called Rajat, Radhakant and me.  He said that since these people would occupy his hut it would not be possible for him to undertake fast.  Therefore he would go to forest for a couple of weeks and start in the morning.

I proposed to make their arrangement in his storeroom and outer kitchen.  He got pensive and said no.  Then I suggested to handover our hut to them but he said it being far off from him it would not work.  I then offered to dismantle our hut and reconstruct new hut at the old burnt place by next day.  He agreed provided the work would be finished by next evening and then only he would cancel his going.  He suggested to dismantle the hut meant for churning butter and boiling milk.  After assuring him we came out. This was his way to get work done by scaring us. (It is now 16th Jan. and he escaped to Kabul on night of 16th Jan. 1941.)

Wind stopped but some portion of the hut flared up.  We put water on it.  But for the following, accidental death was a certainty.

(1) The wind was blowing from east to west and occupants were to the east.  (2) Normally we sleep at 8.30 P.M. Our presence at 10 P.M. in front of the burnt hut. (3) There was no door in the east and only a week before it was constructed.  (4) Fire started on the west and inmates were sleeping in the east.  Unfortunately that day there was no water in the canal and D.D.T. pump which would have been very useful to put off fire. Unfortunately pump broke that day due to titanic strength of Radhakant.

I was amused to see Baba blaming us for the cause of fire due to our faults and mistakes.

In intense cold I could not sleep for want of blanket.  Shomu tried to offer his blanket, which was given to him by me.  After some time Saxena gave his extra blanket.  My socks were wet and feet were numb.  When I wrapped a woolen full pant on feet, I could sleep.

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