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Paramdham at Paunar
In 1938 I was in poor health: my weight had gone down to eighty-eight pounds, and it seemed that the hour had come for the Lord to take me to Himself. I was quite content, but my friends were unhappy. Bapu heard about it; I received a summons and obeyed. ‘Stay here,’ he said. ‘I shall look after you.’ ‘I have no faith in your nursing,’ said I. ‘You have fifty-odd jobs to do, and looking after the sick is only one of them. Besides, I should only be one of your fifty-odd patients-what good would that do?’ Bapu began to laugh. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘Go to a doctor.’ ‘Rather than that,’ I replied, ‘I’d better go to Yamaraj !’1 ‘Then,’ said Bapu, ‘go to some place for a change of air.’ He went on to suggest a number of places, such as Nainital and Mussoorie, and described them with gusto. ‘All right,’ I said at last. ‘I’ll agree to go somewhere to restore my health; but my choice is different. Jamnalalji’s bungalow at Paunar (six miles from Wardha) is lying empty. I’ll go there.’ ‘Very well,’ said Bapu. ‘Those cool places are for the rich; how can poor folk like us go so far for change of air? You may go to Paunar, provided that you leave behind your whole load of work, and leave it completely, without any anxiety or worry about the Ashram or anything else.’ ‘All right,’ I said. ‘That is what I will do.’
I had become so weak that I could not walk, so I went from Nalwadi to Paunar by car. The car reached the village and began to cross the bridge over the river Dham. As it did so, in accordance with my promise to Bapu, I repeated to myself three time over: ‘I have renounced-renounced-renounced.’ So when I reached the bungalow, on March 7th 1938, my mind was completely vacant. I spent the days doing nothing in particular; I just walked in the hall and did a little digging in the field. My main occupation was to sit in the field picking out the stones and collecting them into heaps. That would easily have kept me busy for about two years, and if anyone came to meet me he too would join in the task.
In the middle of the day I spent some time watching the traffic on the Wardha-Nagpur road. I made a game of it, counting the number of cars, bullock-carts, cycles and pedestrians going by between eleven o’clock and twelve o’clock, and then again between twelve and one, and so on.
I did this without putting my mind into it. This detachment of mind was no activity. Otherwise I should have had to exert myself twice over, first to do the job, and second to prevent myself thinking about it. It is certainly better to bear the burden of one rather than two activities.
I started the digging for the sake of physical exercise. On the first day I spent only five minutes at it, on the second day two minutes more, and two minutes more again on the third day, so that in the end I was digging two hours every day. I did it scientifically. I would dig for an hour at a stretch, but during the course of it I would pause for a few seconds from time to time so that I did not become exhausted. This exercise was very beneficial; I gained forty pounds in ten months and my weight increased to a hundred and twenty-eight pounds.
Paunar village was on one side of the river Dham and I was staying on the other. I therefore named it Paramdham, ‘beyond the Dham.’ The word occurs in the Gita: ‘From my Paramdham, once reached, no man returns.’ There, as my health steadily improved, I had more and more contact with the village. I started a workshop there, where the village people came to spin. I also built a shed in Paramdham and set up looms for weaving there. Boys from Paunar and Kanhapur villages began to come to learn weaving, and they are still doing various kinds of work at Paramdham.
On one occasion I went to the market in Paunar to buy a blanket. The woman who was selling asked one and a half rupees for it. I began asking questions: how much did the wool cost, how long had the weaving taken, what was the cost of keeping the sheep? She recognized me as the man from the Ashram, so she answered my questions readily. I did some calculations. ‘This blanket,’ I said, ‘has cost you not less than five rupees. Why are you selling it for only one and a half?’ ‘How could I ask five rupees?’ she replied. ‘Even when I ask one and a half, people try to beat me down to one and a quarter !’ I took the blanket, gave her five rupees, and left her wondering whether she was still living in this world of sin, or whether the long-lost golden age had returned !2
And what happened next? The boys who came to spin in the workshop or weave in the Ashram earned three or four annas a day, whereas at that time a labourer’s wage was normally only two or two and a quarter annas. I told these boys about the blanket. ‘You must learn to raise the market rates,’ I said. ‘Otherwise, we are stealing from the poor. You boys are getting three or four annas in wages, so do one thing. In this rainy season women bring head-loads of grass to sell; go and buy one, and pay two annas for it.’ Off they went to the market. A woman was there asking three pice (three quarters of an anna) for her grass. ‘No, two pice,’ said the buyer. ‘The proper price is two annas,’ said our boy. ‘What nonsense !’ said the buyer. ‘Who is going to pay two annas for it?’ ‘I am,’ said one of the boys, and he paid the money and took it.
We are all guilty of this kind of theft, because we have no feeling for the common good. In the Gita the Lord tells us to care for one another and so take our part in the common welfare. That was what I was teaching the boys, and that is the kind of feeling which we ought to promote in our society.

A Gift of God
One day while I was digging I struck something hard in the ground. I probed here and there with my pick-axe and found it was a big stone. I was not strong enough to lift it out, but others did so, and it turned out to be a fine piece of sculpture; the subject was the reunion of Rama and Bharata.3 In 1932, when I was in Dhulia jail, I had given talks on the Gita, and when I reached the twelfth chapter and dealt with nirguna and saguna4 types of devotion, I used Lakshmana and Bharata as my examples. If I were an artist, I had said, I would have painted that loving scene, when Bharata and Rama met after the fourteen years of separation. This sculpture was just what I had then tried to express in words.
I was overjoyed to have found such a carving. I took it as a gift from God, and treated it with the greatest reverence and devotion; two or three years later I installed it in a shrine with Vedic rites. I made my offering and recited some Vedic hymns and one of Jnaneswar’s about the awakening of spiritual freedom. Day after day I would sit there, singing the melodious hymns of the saints, of Jnanadev, Tukaram, Namadev, Ekanath or Tulsidas.
People asked me whether I approved of the custom of installing images. I replied that I would not do it as a general rule, but that when this image had come into my hands out of the ground I could not be so stony-hearted as to treat it as a mere stone ! I installed it in a place of honour because I regarded it as a gift from God.

A Message from Bapu
One fine morning in 1940 I got a message from Bapu asking me to go over and meet him. We lived only five miles apart, but I did not go unless he called me. We might perhaps exchange letters two or three times a year. He knew I had plenty of work to do, and he did not wish to disturb me. That day the message was unexpected, and I went over at once. ‘I don’t know whether you are free or not,’ said Bapu, ‘but I am in need of your help. We must start an Individual Satyagraha, and I want you to get ready for it, if you can free yourself from other work without too much trouble.’5
I laughed. ‘In my eyes,’ I said, ‘your call is just about as imperative as that of Yamaraj himself. I don’t even need to go back to Paunar. I can start straight away from here.’ My words set Bapu’s mind at rest.
The position in fact was this: I had undertaken many kinds of work, there was hardly any aspect of the constructive work programme which I did not touch, and I had other work of my own. But I had had the guidance of the great Saint Ramadas Swami. Even as a boy his words had made a deep impression on me: ‘The way of devotion should be established without getting oneself entangled on the path.’ Then, of course, I had the guidance of the Gita. Accordingly, I had taken care to organize all my work so that it could be carried on without me. When I told Bapu this, he was pleased, and a few days later I went out as an individual satyagrahi and so arrived in jail.