It was six in the evening when little Hari returned home. He found the house very quiet. His father was not at his hookah1 nor was his mother cooking in the kitchen. The silence and the stillness frightened him. He looked for his mother all over the house and at last found her sitting in a corner and sobbing.
Hari had never seen his mother in tears before. And when he saw her crying, he too burst into tears. After a little while, he asked his mother in a voice that was choked with tears: "Whatever is the matter, mother? Why are you crying?" Hari's heart missed a beat, as she spoke in slow, broken words: "Gandhi ... Gandhi ,,. is dead." "How did it happen, mother ? Only yesterday father took me to his prayer meeting. And I went up to him and touched his feet. He stroked my check tenderly and said, 'Well, son, I hope you are not being rowdy and naughty any more ?' Mother dear, only yesterday he was quite hale and hearty." But at these words, the mother cried even more bitterly than before. With sobs and tears, Hari asked again, "But how did it happen, mother ? How did Gandhi pass away?"
"How shall I tell you, my child ? A mad man shot him dead yesterday. Our beloved Gandhi was killed."
"But, mother dear, Gandhi could not have harmed that man in any way. He was good, so very good."
"Yes, my child, This is a strange world, and those who are truthful and love God are not liked by many. Truth is bitter and very few can bear to be told that which is not pleasant,"
Hari could control himself no longer. He flew into a rage and shouted: "Just let me have father's gun, mother, and I shall kill the rascal who killed our Gandhi ."
"No, no, my child," said the mother, "you mustn't do any such thing. That would be very wrong. Gandhi has taught us that it is a sin to kill. You saw him and met him, Hari. but you have hardly understood him, I fear. Let me tell you something about him. You may be surprised to know that as from you or from any other common child. But as he grew up, he strove to reach the heights of greatness. By love and service alone he became a saint as great as Gautama Buddha.2Our country has never had a truer servant, yet he was its uncrowned king as well. He reigned over the hearts of over four hundred million men and women. And men and women not merely bowed before him and paid him homage, they loved him from the bottom of their hearts. From the richest man in the country to the poorest beggar, every one looked upon Gandhi as a father, and called him Bapu.3 For his heart grieved with others in their sorrow and rejoiced with them in their happiness. His love of the poor was boundless. In fact, he himself lived like any other poor man in the country, wearing only a khadi4 dhoti5 and a khadi chadar.6 He drank goat's milk and lived on boiled vegetables. He was, indeed, a very great saint."
"And, mother, how fond Gandhi was of little children! How he used to joke with them, and talk to them, and take them out for long walks! In the company of children, he would himself become a child. Mother dear, do tell me the life-story of Gandhi-the whole story."
"Very well, my son. I shall try to tell you something of the story of Bapu's life. I am not working today in the kitchen, for who can think of a meal to-night ? Your father has gone to our neighbor's house to listen in to the radio for more news. In the meantime, I shall tell you the story of Bapu's life."
And then Hari's mother began to narrate the life-story of Bapu.