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A little later I had my first encounter with conscience and duty. Being an only child, I liked to play by myself but I had to have my mother within my range of vision and hearing. One evening she had a visitor, a relative returning from Paris who had brought an exquisite embroidered dress for me. Mummy smilingly returned it saying that we now wore only handspun and handwoven material, khadi. The visitor could not understand this, and glancing at my mother's clothes - the only khadi available then was thick and rough as sacking - she could not help noticing that wherever her skin had rubbed against the sari it had become sore and red. She burst out, "l think you have all gone mad but you are an adult, and if you want to be ill, I suppose it is your business, but you certainly have no right to make the child suffer and I have brought this gift for her." "Come here, Indu," called my mother. "Aunty has brought you a foreign frock. It is very pretty and you
In November 1921, Gandhiji proclaimed a nationwide hartal on the occasion of the Prince of Wales' visit. The Government decided to strike at the Congress and members of our family were among the first to be arrested. 1 saw my father pay frequent visits to jail and, before I was 13, he had been convicted and sentenced five times, All this in fact amounted to a suspension Of normal family life and a highly charged and tense atmosphere. And although prison-going was a matter of pride for us, it was very disturbing to the family. Later, one got more used to it.
At this point there was also tension within the family, because some relatives didn't approve of my parents being so much involved. They felt that perhaps my grandfather wouldn't have been involved if my father wasn't; and also that my mother influenced my father, and that if she had stood out, he would also have hesitated. I doubt if he would have.
So not only was I worried about the
I can’t remember the date, but Mridula Sarabhai, a congresswoman and a family friend, told me that I was only about 7, 8 or 9, when I formed the children’s spinning group. I had asked Gandhiji how I could contribute to our struggle, and he suggested it. It was called Bal-Charkha Sangh and was in fact a children's section of the Gandhi Charkha Sangh, an organisation for hand-spinning; but so far as I can remember we didn't have charkhas, we had taklis. Until quite recently in fact, I still had a horribly thick handkerchief which I had spun and woven myself, and then sewn up afterwards. But now it is lost.
Then, of course, I was much more involved in the 1930 movement, because I was old enough to understand what It was all about. I wanted to join the Congress Party and be a regular soldier of India, as my father said. But I was told I was too young to join, so, what was known as Vanar Sena (named after a story in the old Hindu epic, Ramayana) or
When I arrived in South Africa the Africans said:
We will arrange a reception for you in a hall. We will greet you and then you will speak.
Oh no, I am not going to say a single word, it is only on that condition that I should come. They were taken aback, because they had booked the hall and made all the arrangements. Eventually, they said that anyway I should sit on the dalS and that they would try and explain my silence somehow. All that morning — the reception was at 4 p.m. — I was taken to visit an area where African railway workers lived. The conditions were so terrible that I got worked up. At the reception, when it was announced that Miss Nehru wouldn't speak, I banged the table and said: "I do wish to speak." The poor chairman was startled, and before he could say anything. I came to the microphone. I don't remember what I said, but I was full of emotion. I must have spoken about the living
What a world of difference there is between hearing and seeing from the outside and the actual experience. No one who has not been in prison for any length of time can ever visualize the numbness of spirit that can creep over one when, as Oscar Wilde writes: "Each day is like a year, a year whose days are long." When day after day is wrapped in sameness, spite and deliberate humiliation. As Pethick-Lawrence said: "The essential fact in the life of the prisoner is that he takes on a subhuman status.
Herded together like animals, devoid of dignity of privacy, debarred not only from outside company or news but from all beauty and colour, softness and grace, the ground, the walls, everything around us was mud coloured and so became our jail-washed clothes. Even our food tasted gritty. Through the barred apertures we were exposed to the loo (hot summer wind) and dust storms, the monsoon downpour and the winter cold. Others had an interview and letter once or
I was highly suspicious. I didn't know what was happening. Finally, when I got through to Feroze, who was with my father, he said: "Well, apart from everything else we haven't got much to eat and you can't bring the children."
I said: "l shall bring lots of potatoes and everybody can live on potatoes.
He said that the situation was dangerous. I said: "Well, if it is dangerous, that is one more reason why I should be there rather than sitting here on my own." So, I packed up and came down the same evening, bringing as many potatoes as I could — two sacks full I think.
When we arrived in Dehra Dun we heard that there had just been a riot. Then, in Shahdara or somewhere between there and Delhi, the train stopped where it was not supposed to stop. I was..actually washing — because Indian trains are pretty dirty with the coal — as we were about to arrive. I looked out to see why the train had
The Muslims were really in a terrible state. They had no food and nobody could go out, Nothing had been cleaned out for about a month. Because it was the rainy season, some of the streets were full of water with filth floating on it. Sometimes while walking we stepped on a wire and got a shock.
We literally had to clean up the place ourselves. Even when we got hold of a sweeper, he hesitated to enter the locality, afraid of being killed. So we had to have two people standing with him while he was cleaning. There were ration shops but they were empty, so we had to go ourselves to get the rations.
I didn't think it was an act of courage, because I never felt that was doing something dangerous. It was a mere reflex. Something happens to you and you react in a particular way. Actually, Mr. Shastri also went; but not to Tezpur. He went to Gauhati and he tried keep me there too. He was with the Assam Cabinet and I had to wait. I waited an hour and a half and I was getting pretty fed up because it was getting dark. I knew that if it got dark they would say that I could not go. Shastriji said that the Assam Chief Minister was very upset. So I didn't say anything about going to Tezpur at all. I simply said I was going out, and I went. I got on to an army plane and flew to Tezpur. As I was waiting for a plane to be ready I could see that lots of people were panicking, even in Gauhatl. Lots of women came and grabbed my legs, asking me to take them with me. They thought that I was going to Delhi.
The Army was also against my going to Tezpur. In fact, the Army is