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33. Reading in Jail
In 1921-22 Bapuji was sent to Indian jail at Yerawada, for the first time. During his stay there he had asked for a lot of books from the jail library and read them. He liked two of them especially, ‘The Seekers After God’ and Sir Rudiyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle book’. He asked me to read them this time. Fortunately, this jail library had both of them. ‘Seekers After God’ contains three elaborate essays about the life of three Romans, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. During those initial days of the sentence I had sent him the book ‘Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire’, and Bapuji remembered it. He told me, ‘Seekers After God’ contains the essence of Gibbon. A person like you must read it.’ During those few months Gandhiji got a lot of books. I still remember him reading two of them.
One of them was Upton Sinclar’s ‘Goose steps’. In that book he had described, with instances, the decaying education system in contemporary America. Another was an inspirational book ‘Midstream’, which was the biography of blind Helen Keller. Bapuji had formerly read the story of her early life, ‘The Story of My Life’ and had praised it too. So, while in the jail, I read ‘Midstream’ first and after my release I read ‘The Story Of My Life’. Shri Bhagwanbhai Desai has translated it into Gujarati as ‘Apangani Pratibha’. My favourite pastime in the jail was doing errands for Bapuji and discussion with him various topics. Doing errands also consumed a lot of time. The ones I enjoyed most were washing the dishes, keeping them in place, making his bed, arranging his things properly, giving him whatever he needed, cooking food for him, making preparations for carding and spinning the yarn, reading letters to him etc. The day would be over doing all these things. The remaining time would be utilised for reading.