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
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
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
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
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.