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14. Bapu's glorious Birthdays
I have used the word 'birthday' here in the plural as Bapu's birthday falls on the 2nd October according to the English calendar and on the 12th day of the dark half of the month of Bhadarva according to the Indian calendar, and so both these days are celebrated. In the year 1947 the 2nd of October came first.
Now we shall have to celebrate his birthdays without the light of his presence. Bapu had prophesied on the 2nd of October 1947 that his next birthday would see India either transformed or him no more alive. Who could then have thought that his prophecy would prove so tragically true?
At 3-30 a.m. on the 2nd October 1947, we got up for prayers. Many inmates of the Birla House had already assembled. One by one we bowed to Bapu. By way of joke I remarked, "This is not fair. It is you who should bow to others on your birthday, but today, instead of you bowing down, you are quietly accepting our bows!" Bapu replied, "'Yes, the ways of Mahatmas are contrary to those of the world. Haven't you all raised me to the pedestal of a Ma- hatma? It doesn't matter if the Mahatma is only a counterfeit coin; but once the word is applied, he is above the rules of ordinary courtesy!"
At that time Bapu was suffering from a severe cough, cold and fever. The cough at times was so violent that a bystander could hardly bear to look on. Bapu, however, instead of resting for a while, began his daily correspondence and writing for the Harijan weeklies, immediately after prayers.
The kind of cough he had, a periodic duration of three weeks. The doctors, therefore, requested him to take a pennicilin injections so that he may have some relief during the period. There was a tussle between the doctors and Bapu about this.
He said, "And what about my Ramanama'! If Ramanama saturates my heart, I am sure my cough will vanish tomorrow; and if it continues for your three weeks' period, I am prepared to proclaim to the world that I was found wanting in the matter of Ramanama."
A doctor argued, "Maybe, but how can you dismiss sum­marily all these laborious researches in science? Bring me your most perfect devotee of Ramanama and I will infect him with cholera."
Bapu said. "That is only a presumptuous claim of science. Science has yet a long way to go to get at truth. But I am sure that one who chants the Lord's name with real faith can never fall ill. Disease as such will be rooted out if people become so pure. You are mistaken. Tomorrow someone may suggest that I should eat liver or take liver-injections. Should I then take such foreign articles? India is a lazy country and the laziest community in it is that of doctors. They cannot prepare anything here. They simply believe in remedies manufactured elsewhere. What a pathetic situation! India - a beggar country! Nature has provided us with everything and yet we have to stretch our hands to foreigners. I feel extremely pained about it whenever I think of it. I have done my best. Only when fortune favours India, her condition will improve. Now I have no desire to do anything. I am longing to disappear from the world quietly, with Ramanama on my lips. It is my lack of ability that I am unable to impress upon people the full import of the potency of Ramanama. Today I am in a potter's kiln with flames all around me. Just as you doctors are making researches in science, so also I am in search of Ramanama. If I succeed, well and good; if not, I shall die in the attempt. That today, because of this 2nd of October, you have all come to greet me lovingly, is a fine indication of your love lor me; but personally, my only desire now is either not to be alive on my next birthday so that I may not have to see this fire, or to see a changed India. So please pray for what I wish instead of for my long life."
These were the words he uttered at 5-30 a.m. on the 2nd October, 1947.
It is generally believed that on a happy occasion we ought not to say anything ominous or weep or get angry whatever may be the provocation. Today I find that there is some significance in that belief.
At 7 a.m. that day we went out for our morning walk with Bapu. On the road he was annoyed with an Englishman who attempted to take his photograph. Bapu disliked photographers as a class since they had harassed him often enough. "Today is a day for prayer," he remarked sharply, "instead of that you are doing this."
Kripalaniji, Suchetabehn and many others came up to greet him. We had observed a fast and so had he. I said, "Bapu, why observe a fast today?" He replied, "This day should be observed as the birthday of the Spinning Wheel, i.e. of the God of Service. So we should fast on His birthday and try to become purer by repeatedly offering prayers saying, '0 Spinning Wheel, keep us at Your feet'. My fast today is by way of such a prayer, not as a celebration of my birthday to which I attach no importance."
As usual Bapu finished his massage, bath, etc. at 8-30 a.m. Mirabehn had artistically arranged flowers in the shape of  ॐ, हे राम ! and a Cross just in front of his seat. Putting our garlands of yarn round his neck, we all again bowed to him. Then there was a short prayer attended by Jawaharlalji, Indira Gandhi, Ghanshyamdas Birla and family, Sardar Patel, K. M. Munshi, C. H. Bhabha, Dr. Jivraj Mehta, and many others, who crowded the room to overflowing. When they dispersed after the prayers, which were from all religions, Bapu had a sudden attack of severe cough. A friend remarked, "Bapu, you have not yet been cured of your cough." He replied, "I shall be free from cough if the Lord favours; if not I should like to die of it. I have no desire now to live for 125 years. Today you must all pray to God either to take me away from this fire or to grant good sense to India. I had never been so downcast in any of my numerous fights with the British. But what am I to do today with my own kith and kin? People try to kill their own brothers nowadays. I don't want to live to see this fratricidal war." Everyone who had come for prayers left at 10 a.m. But others continued to flock into the room for Bapu's darshan. Gadgil, Devadas Gandhi and his family, Bhatnagar, Dr. Jivraj Mehta, Sir Datar Singh, Arthur Moore, Shanmukhan Chety and Prof. Abdul Majid, were among them. Then at 11-40 a.m. came the Sardar, Manibehn, Ganeshdatta, H. L. A. Aung, High Commissioner for Burma, and Dr. M. Oung Sieu. High Commissioner for China. The High Commissioners had brought with them their Prime Ministers' letters and IVuits. At last, at about 12-30 p.m. Bapu could snatch some rest, but only for fifteen minutes; for the stream of people started again. We had mass spinning for an hour from 2 to 3 p.m. Lady Mountbatten came at 4-10 and left at 4-35, and then came, Humayun Kabir, Shridharani, and Monsieur and Madame Logier (of France).
The rupees offered at Bapu's feet made quite a heap. Some ladies had given even ornaments.
We passed the whole of that 2nd October very happily. There was a fine programme on the radio that night. "Bapu," I pleaded, "please do listen to the radio at least' today." He said, "What is there in the radio to listen to? Why not listen to the music of the rentiyo, rather than to the bhajans of the radio?" (A pun upon the words 'Radio' and 'Rento' which means in Gujarati the spinning wheel.) Nearly a thousand telegrams came from India and foreign countries.
The Gujaratis of Delhi had collected a fund to be given to Bapu on his birthday according to the Hindu calendar. As  Bapu's health was bad, the Sardar had a go at him, "Why did you agree to attend the meeting of the Gujaratis when you are suffering so severely from cough? But you are so greedy that scent of money from any place will make you rise up even from deathbed to go there. Such funds are sure to be subscribed even otherwise. Why then should you go, coughing so violently all the time? But I know you won't listen." We all had a hearty laugh over it. So sweet were the relations which subsisted between Bapu and the Sardar. Some of the audience then asked the Sardar to address a few words to them. He cut them short with a joke, "Is this my birthday that I should speak? It is the Mahatma to whom you give all these funds and why should I be asked to speak? You know Bapu is a bania and hernias are always greedy. See how soon he regained his energy to try and loot you even in spite of his severe cough and weakness. (There was an outburst of laughter at this sally.) But now my only request to you is, please do let him have some rest."
Bapu reminded the people to galvanize the Charkha programme.
The birthdays of Bapu will be as dark this year (1948) as they were glorious in 1947. But just as we content ourselves with the dim light of an earthen oil-lamp rather than be in utter darkness, so will repeated reminders and an attempt to follow him, give us light in the darkness of his absence from us. Let us remember his favourite prayer 'Thy name is both Ishwar and Allah; pray show everybody the right path', and send our respects to Bapu through the prayer. Let us also repeat his wish uttered on the birthday of 1947, that either India should become pure or that he should not live; and let us pray to God ancr to him to show us the right path, and to forgive us our sins and enable us to begin a clean chapter in our lives.