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69. Seizing Two Compartments
After getting involved in the agitation at Noakhali and Bihar, Bapu had to call on Lord Mountbatten on 30th March, 1947. The Viceroy had asked him to travel by air but Bapu declined it saying that he could not use the vehicle which could not be availed by the millions of poor countrymen. He said that he would be quite comfortable in the train. It was blazing hot in those days and it was a twenty-four hour journey. He asked me to carry minimum luggage and to reserve the smallest third class bogie. I did pack minimum things to carry along but I knew that people will horde in to see Bapu. Hence, I reserved two ordinary third class compartments. I used one of them to keep our luggage and the other was prepared for him to rest and meet people.
The train departing from Patna for Delhi used to start at 9 O’clock in the morning. During the summer Bapu used to take lunch at 10 O’clock. I went to the other compartment to arrange for his lunch. I came back to his compartment after some time. He was busy writing something. He asked me where had I been. I told him, “I was in the next compartment to look after the arrangements for your lunch.” He asked me to peep through the window. I was shocked to see the people hanging on to the compartment on both the sides! He asked me in a scolding tone, “Did you ask for the second compartment?”
I said, “Yes. I will have to do all the chores here, like warm the milk on the stove, clean utensils etc. I thought that it would disturb you, so I asked the Railways for another compartment.” He said, “Fine, what a lame excuse? This is called loving someone blindly. They had offered to arrange for a special train or a plane to save me any kind of botheration. But I know that a special train costs thousands of rupees and also obstructs the passage of so many trains. How could I bear it? I know that you did all this just out of love, but I want to take far ahead. I don’t want to push you downwards! Try to understand and there’s no need to shed tears like that. Now for its atonement, you may pick up our belongings and keep them in the adjacent compartment. Secondly, ask the Station Master to see me.” I was trembling while listening to all this. I did shift the luggage but worried about Bapu, thinking how would he manage? He did everything in the train like, writing, reading, spinning, smearing the mudpack, teaching me etc. He did everything during the journey as he did at home!
We arrived at the next station. The Station Master was sent for. Bapuji told him about my feat. He said, “She is my niece. She is very innocent, poor thing! She doesn’t know me properly yet. That is why she reserved two compartments. But she is not be blamed; it’s my fault altogether. I have not trained her properly. But both of us have to atone for it. Hence this compartment has been emptied. You may use it for the passengers hanging outside. It may help reduce my guilt.” The Station Master tried a lot to change his mind but Bapu didn’t give in. At last, he offered to arrange one more compartment for those people so that Bapu could have one for himself. Bapu declined the offer and said, “You may arrange for one more compartment but use this one too. Availing extra facilities simply because they are available is also a kind of violence. Do you want this girl to misuse the facilities and get her habits spoiled?”
The poor Station Master couldn’t utter a single word! At last he had to accept Bapu’s suggestion.