An Ideal Prisoner

In the year 1930, Acharya Kaka Kalelkar was Gandhiji's companion during their Yeravada Jail tenure. Let us open one of the windows of this year and see how they spent their time in a 'jail house'. Even in jail, Gandhiji always believed in keeping himself occupied throughout the day. A typical day in the jail was something like this. Kaka Kalelkar and Gandhiji would rise and shine at four o'clock in the morning when the stars would shine in all their glory. By 4.20 a.m. their morning prayers began. After prayers came the recitation of the Gita. The recitation finished, Kakasaheb would go for his morning walk and Gandhiji would spend half an hour in reading and writing and then join Kakasaheb for the rest of the walk. The Gita, the Ashram's ideal, food problems, the wheel, Kaka's laxity, such were the usual topics during the walk. Exactly at 6 a.m. they would sit for breakfast. Gandhiji's breakfast consisted of curds, and dates soaked in water. By the time they finished breakfast, the goats would come to be milked. The milking done, Gandhiji would, without further delay, sit at the spinning wheel, and the wheel would begin to recount the tale of India's woes, and the sure hope of deliverance. Have you ever heard the pensive notes of a spinning wheel? With the wheel humming by his side Gandhi never felt lonely. With one or two necessary breaks the things would go on till half past ten. At about seven, Bapu would take a cup of hot water with lime juice and salt. Apart from this every morning Gandhi spent some time with the carding bow with its rhythmic twang. Half an hour's work gave him more slivers than he would consume during the day. Sardar Vallabhbhai once ran short of slivers and he sent for some through the superintendent. Kalelkar's stock of slivers used to be rather poor. Gandhi would then double his time at the bow and send the much needed slivers to Sardar.

At about 11 o'clock they took their midday meal. Again it used to be curd, mixed with a pinch of soda bicarb, dates or raisins and boiled vegetables. The newspapers came at about the same time. Kakasaheb would read out the latest news about the lathi charges and the ladies hoisting the national flags aloft. They rarely discussed the news. That was reserved for the evening walk. Dietetics and nature cure used to be the main topics at dinner time, because Gandhiji had read deeply and experimented in this field. The wheel must follow the meal immediately; after it the newspapers and then the midday siesta. At half past one Bapu took a cupful of water with sour lemon juice, neutralized it with soda bicarb. Then came the reading and writing of letters. Hymns from the Ashram prayer book would be translated into English for the benefit of Marybeth. At four the jail inmates would spot Gandhiji with the Takli a thing of his making out of a broken tile and a bamboo stick-walking in the sun and pulling the milk-white yarn.

 At the stroke of five would begin their evening meal-curds, dates and some vegetables. Again the goats would come and the kids wagging their wee little tails. Meals over, Kakasaheb washed the utensils while Gandhiji would prepare the dates for the next day by soaking them in water. Then the evening walk. The weird shapes of the fat grey clouds were a peculiar attraction for Gandhiji. Sometimes, he would call Kakasaheb hurriedly to see some unusual beauty of the skies.

Note: Acharya Kakasaheb Kalelkar was an educationist and journalist. He was a member of the Sabarmati Ashram and played an active role in establishing the Gujarat Vidyapith at Ahmedabad. In 1930, he was Gandhiji's only companion in the Yeravda Jail, Poona. Kaka Kalelkar remembers the Jail Superintendent telling Gandhiji that he had represented to the authorities that one hundred and fifty rupees a month was too little for an illustrious 'guest' of the government like him. Gandhiji had smiled and said, "But you're not going to get the money from England, you are going to spend it out of the pockets of my own people...... I don't want you to spend more than thirty five rupees on me. The money that you spend is my country's money." Once Gandhiji was asked to roll out chapatis as part of his duties in Yeravada Prison. No rolling pin was available. The Jail Warden suggested sarcastically, "Why don't you use a bottle instead." Gandhiji did just that. This was an experiment he had tried out several times at the Phoenix Ashram.