08. "You have grown very old indeed!"
In South Africa once, in the course of the non-violent campaign against the existing marriage laws for the Indians, Ba and several other women were arrested. They were first sent to Volksrust jail. But as the food arrangements there were very unsatisfactory for them, they were subsequently transferred to Maritzburg jail. Before the transfer, however, it came somehow to be known that Ba was not being supplied with fruit, and this caused extreme hardship to her. For, she had vowed to take only fruit while in prison, and if the authorities did not let her have it, she would starve herself, unmindful even of the risk of death. The public mind was naturally much disturbed by the news. But the authorities were quite indifferent, saying to her, "If you had to resort to such tricks, then why did you at all court arrest?" This left to Ba no other alternative except to go on fast. On the fourth day of the fast the matron, however, relented somewhat and said, "When any day we do not get our morning tea in time, we feel so miserable. And here you are with a weak body, who have been without any food and drink for three days! But we are helpless in the matter. We can, therefore, only plead with you to take whatever food is given to you here." On the fifth day the Government eventually consented to let her have fruit, but only in a very small quantity. The result was that during the three months of her detention she lived on well-nigh starvation food, and consequently, when she came out of the prison, she was reduced to a skeleton. When Bapu, who met her at the gate of the prison, saw her, he said with visible emotion, "You have grown very old indeed." But some of those, who also saw that Ba was all bones and no flesh, could not help shedding tears.