Dear Bukuma

— Bina Dey

Bina Dey and Manjari Ukil (Bukuma)
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
A collection of letters from Bina Dey to her daughter Manjari (affectionately called Bukuma) composed in August 1946, on a journey from Bengal to Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashrama near Wardha in Maharashtra.

[Day 1]

Bombay Mail
B. N. R
6. 8. [19]46
7:15 evening

Dear Bukuma,

Today, after our visit to you, we packed and left [for the station] exactly at 3 in the afternoon, Bengal time1. Your father2 went for a cab himself…couldn’t get [one] and brought-in a hackney carriage instead. While loading the luggage in, it reminded me of Suri—there also we used to hire a hackney at the bus station.

The pony had a good trot. Brought us to [the railway station at] Howrah within 15 minutes. The train had not yet arrived. [So we] had a cup of tea at the refreshment-room, [and] in the meantime the train came on the platform. [What] a long train! Our carriage was near the engine. We had two lower bunks to us; a gentleman [having] occupied the top one. Two Europeans—a mother and her daughter [also boarded our carriage], and said they would get down at Kharagpur—[so] I invited them to share my berth. Had a nice chat with them!

While crossing the [river] Rupnarayan I was thinking about you a lot. How, really, excited and wide-eyed you would have been while crossing a river like this one! The train halted at almost all the little stations due to some fault in the telegraphic line.

A view of original manuscript of “Dear Bukuma” by Bina Dey.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
At Panshkura [railway] platform your father [suddenly] called aloud “Hey, gourd-seller” “Hey, gourd-seller”3 —I was amazed—will he eat the gourd raw! Then I thought—he must have seen a cucumber-seller, and mixed it up as gourd. But no! After he bought the stuff I found these to be chichinge4 and not cucumber. But, finally, I was relieved to see your father present these eight chichinges to the elderly of the two European ladies accompanying us!

Oh…the mother and her daughter both were so happy to receive the gift! The mother asked for the recipe to prepare chichinge—I told her. They got down at Kharagpur wishing us best and thanking profusely for the gift. At Kharagpur one remaining upper-bunk was occupied by another gentleman.

I have made the bed for your father and he is in already. The train has picked-up speed—now it’s running quite like a mail-train! And here I am, sitting on my berth for a little chat with you. But no, I shouldn’t chat for long lest I bother your sleep—sleep now my little darling—and get up early in the morning like a fresh new flower…right? Here now I run my fingers in your hair…and kiss you good night.

Yours Ma

[Day 2]

Raipur Station
7. 8. [19]46

It’s nine-thirty in the morning now—for you [in Bengal] ten-thirty. Today is the death anniversary of Gurudav5, and Abanindranath’s6 birthday.

Another view of “Dear Bukuma” original manuscript.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
Here the landscape is undulating—soil is as red as of Santiniketan. The village huts have terracotta tiled roofs [on them], the walls are made of mud and stone—all of ruddy hue. The stone used is similar as of Bhubaneshwar7.

There were profuse showers here in the recent past—rather too much for a region like this. Paddy is being planted in some of the plots, while others are being ploughed. You can’t find such vast paddy fields as of Bengal here. [Instead] high fallow lands comprise the landscape. Lots of Babul8 groves and open fields are noticed.

The landscape is very similar to the one as seen on the way to Ajanta caves—nothing strikingly different. The same Babul trees and [faint] hills in the far horizon, [slim] rivulets in their serpentine flow, grazing cattle—however, here their horns are neither long, nor are they painted.

We are now at Punagarh [?] station—opposite to the railway platform is a small hill. There’s a river too! A fair cluster of habitation. A tiny little temple, [almost] at a glimpse you realise that this is a contented village. The ladies wear thick silver anklets here.

Right after [the station] starts a forest amid high hills. In the forest there are many Amlaki9 and Palash10 trees. Sal11 and Mohua12 could be seen as well.

Gandhi’s inscribed autobiography was presented to Bina by her husband Mukul Dey on August 12, 1946 at Sevagram.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
While crossing the jungle the train entered a tunnel—pitch dark—what darkness—you would have loudly exclaimed in amazement! As soon as we were out of this tunnel, we saw a waterfall cascading down a hillside—remember we saw a similar one on the way to Ajanta and Ellora?

There’s a European’s grave by the side of this spring, at the cradle of the hills. [I am told] that man was so fond of the little spring and this forlorn hillside that he asked his wife to bury him there after he passed away. The grave is still standing as a [silent] witness of his deep love for nature.

After the forest starts the farm lands—most of the working-hands here being women. They wear their sari in a typical manner13  [i. e. a style resembling the dhotis worn by men folk —ed.], and donned wide-brimmed caps [toka in the Mss.—ed.] made of leaves sewn together—[they] look like birds—this14 saves both their head and back from the light drizzle. The region received much rainfall this year.

Around two-thirty in the afternoon we reached Tumsar Road station. Its four-o’clock now—the train is at a steady pace—[passing by] a large pond to our left. Just prior to entering Nagpur we saw a little temple with frescoes on its wall—lion, bull etc.

At Nagpur C. Rajagopalachari15 boarded our carriage—a huge crowd following him, shouting victory. With garlands and his luggage, it was quite chaotic in the compartment. The crowd tumbled in through the [carriage] doors and windows to have a glimpse of him. At last, on public demand, he stood [for sometime] at the doorway for the benefit of the onlookers. There was another big victory-cry before Rajaji could take his seat! Then started the hassle of the autograph-hunters—most of them took out their precious little autograph-books and almost engulfed him. When a young boy extended his book to collect his signature, Rajaji said [jocularly], “Quite an attractive book this is…what if I don’t give it back to you?” The boy smiled and answered, “In that case I should be fortunate, Sir!” Rajaji finally put his signature on the book.

The students are putting many queries to him. But Rajaji only smiled and replied that he won’t discuss such issues while in a train. They sought some general advice, and Rajaji said, “Don’t smoke.”

The person who came to see-off Rajagopalachari is Mr. Puranik, local advocate and a nice man. His brother is a student at Carmichael16. He told us about his acquaintance with Anandilal Poddar17.

Our carriage had a bad spring, so the train halted for a long time [at Nagpur] to effect the necessary repairs. The crowd kept constantly thronging in. One of them asked, if the Congress18 forms the government [of independent India] then, probably, there’s no need to keep the police force! To this he [i. e. Rajagopalachari—ed.] replied, “If the Congress forms the government they would require the services of police too, and there is more need of education and training—hence no need to quit [the job now] under any apprehension.”

The train started after an hour’s delay. Rajaji recounted the story of Indra and Virocana while viewing Twenty Portraits19.He discussed [the proposal of] National Art School and Museum with your father.

At six-thirty [in the evening] we reached Wardha. As soon as the train entered the platform there was a big cry of welcome. A large crowd was waiting at the railway station. The crowd nearly mobbed us as they spotted Rajagopalachari in our carriage. First we let him get down with his luggage, following him a little after. We found Rajaji at the waiting-room. He said, “Let the crowd depart with Maulana Azad first and then I would start.” 20

Author’s inscribed copy of An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments With Truth by M. K. Gandhi, translated from the original in Gujrati by Mahadev Desai.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
How kind of Rajaji [!]—he made the arrangements [for our stay in Wardha] first, and then boarded his car. He said that even if we started for Sevagram at this hour it would be too late to reach—and at the [dead of] night if one dropped-in at Ariam’s21 it would be difficult for them, as well as for us. Therefore, it was only logical for us to stay put at Wardha for the night. He assigned us to Damodar, a [Congress] volunteer, and instructed him that if there was no room at the Guesthouse22 then Damodar should take us to his own home. Our bags and luggage were sent on a tonga-cart23, while we headed for the Guesthouse in a car.

We found Sardar Patel24, Maniben Patel25 and Prafulla Ghosh26 at the Guesthouse. Kamalnayan Bajaj27 opened a side-room and specially requested us to be their guest for the night.

Your father didn’t want to stay [at Wardha] initially, but agreed later on. In the meanwhile Damodar came in with our luggage, and telephoned Ariam’da announcing our arrival here and Sevagram visit tomorrow.

Our room [here] has an attached bath. There’s a tap with running water, a polished brass bucket and a tumbler28 , a low wooden stool and a shelf on the wall—[that’s the arrangement inside the bathroom]. While the guestroom has one cupboard, a wooden almirah, floor done in Jaipur tiles29 and the [wooden] bed30 is placed on a very large carpet. [On the bed] the mattress covered with a beautiful calico-printed31 Khadi32 bedcover complete with a big fat bolster33 makes for our sitting arrangements. After sometime the servants brought-in two iron cots [for us to sleep on]. We found the beds ready by the time we finished our dinner—so smooth [and efficient!], as if it was all done by a machine!

Dry point portrait of Gandhi by Mukul Dey.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
We had our dinner with Kamalnayan Bajaj—and had a pleasant conversation with him. He told us the story of this historic Guesthouse, and how this [house] was built. We had khichdi34 , chapatis35 , ghee36 , fried potato and vegetables, curd, milk, pickle, chutney and pappad37. We began with four spoon-full of ghee and completed the course with a bowl-full of milk—pure milk and ghee, and vegetables cooked with minimum of spices—a real sattvik38 dinner, which I enjoyed very much.

[Day 3]
8. 8. [19]46

The day breaks at Wardha. Got up around five in the morning and went out to have a wash and answer nature’s call. Felt awkward as well, since I didn’t know the arrangements here. Opened the bathroom door and found a servant waiting at the inner veranda ready to help the guests. As soon as I asked him about the latrine, he lit the closet and supplied water.

Do you know how the latrines are here? These are not as clumsy and smelly as ours39. The water-closet [here] has its floor and walls nicely lime washed. There is a bucket kept as a receptacle inside, and a tin full of dry loose earth is kept handy and a small spade is placed nearby. Once you are through, you can cover [the waste] with dry loose earth. Do you know how does that help? It keeps the place clean always and quite devoid of bad smell. Also, the person who comes to clean the closet doesn’t suffer as well.

I think we can introduce such lavatories in our villages too—it’s not expensive, all one needs is little education. In those villages where there are no sweeper to keep the place clean, one can empty the bucket in a pit and fill the pit with earth. In that case we can achieve cleanliness with [a good deposit of] manure. And it also saves the rural women the embarrassment of relieving them, day after day, in the open fields.

Right after the wash we packed up, and morning tea was served on the dot—tea with suji40 biscuits. And now I have resumed writing to you again.

Gandhi taking mud-bath. Dry point portrait by Mukul Dey.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
Bajajwadi stands amid huge open fields. One can see the railway tracks at a distance from here. The floor is made of large square-cut stone slabs. The front veranda is tile-roofed. Dining space is in the inner veranda. Kitchen is just beside. Wash space41 is at the corner of the veranda—there’s a wash-basin too at the far end of the courtyard.

We are waiting for the tonga to Sevagram. While waiting for the trap, I saw Srijukta Sarojini Naidu42 standing at the doorway of her room at the other end of the veranda. We went to her and touched her feet. She was so happy to see us, and had invited us in her room. [She] suffered from a carbuncle on her forehead [recently]—not really keeping well [these days]—she is having a boil near her left eye as well. Even then she had her bath [in the morning], and how lively and kind she looks! She enquired about our breakfast.

Our tonga arrived at eight, exactly. We arranged to send the luggage on another cart, and started for Sevagram finally, taking only a couple of small handbags with us. It took exactly an hour’s trot from Wardha.
We were so happy to see the tiled roof-tops of Sevagram at the far horizon! [What] a solitary track it was—only one or two horse-traps trotting towards Sevagram—no habitations around—the forlorn and dry bed of a [little] hill rivulet—[and that was all].

[On arriving] we saw Akhil Bharat Charkha Sangh43 to our right, then came Sevalaya or the hospital, further down the track, to our left, was the Goshala44 , and right after that the entrance to Talimi Sangh45 , and, finally, the main gate of Sevagram Ashrama.

Our tonga stopped in front of Talimi Sangh—after entering, [to your] left is the office, while on the right is Ashadi46 / Ariamda’s home. Ariamda welcomed heartily and made us comfortable, and then went to see Nehru47 to report him on the matters concerning Ceylon48. [At Hindustani Talimi Sangh] the dining-bell rang right at 11:15 in the forenoon.

We went to the dining-hall carrying our own plates and glasses. There one sat on the floor on small chatai seats49. After everyone was seated, they brought-in a sack of rice, and unrolling a chatai placed the sack on it. As soon as the rice-sack was in position everybody stepped forward [there] in a row, with their plates in hand. A measure of rice-grain was given to each one of them. We were a bit confused initially—the bell rang, we went to the dining-hall, but then, [instead of serving food to us], each were given a measure of raw rice-grain and then they [i.e. the boys and girls—ed.] came back to their respective seats!

Mukul Dey made a quick sketch of Gandhiji on the copyright page of Gandhi’s autobiography. The sketch depicts Gandhi at his usual evening prayer meeting at Sevagram Ashrama near Wardha, Maharashtra in 1946.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
Your father could not contain any longer, “Will we have to eat the uncooked rice-grains?”, he asked. Ashadi laughed aloud and explained that this is the custom here—before having one’s meal, one has to pick and chaff the husk [from a measure of rice] and other inedible matter from a glass-full of grain [so that cooking of the next meal is easier].

Ashadi has introduced us to an inmate here. Her name is Basanti Roy. She is here for last 12 years as a member of the Mahila Ashrama50. Ashadi, Basanti Roy, me and your father sat in a row [at the dining-hall]. But before the meal started, Ashadi had introduced us to the children [of Talimi Sangh]. Ashadi’s daughter […] years old Mitu is the incharge of kitchen; [she] is assisted by a small little boy. They cook in turn, and serve the food as well! First, one of them brought-in a bucket full of daal51. Then was served a ladle-full of pumpkin curry, another person served rice—some accepted it, some didn’t, [opting for chapatis instead].

[Here] the rice served is of brown atap variety52. Sorghum53 chapatis were [also] served with couple of spoon-full of sesame-oil54 spread on them—lemon and butter-milk55 was also served. [But] before we started that little in-charge of the kitchen recited the hymns, which was followed in a chorus by us. [Here] they don’t talk while eating. If someone wants a helping, one simply raises his left hand and he is served.

While we were eating, little Mitu came in, occupied her place on the chatai and started the roll-call. Each of the children responded with a [clear and audible] “Vande Mataram”. When the lunch got over, we picked-up our plate, bowl and tumbler and wiped the floor clean where our plates were placed while eating. [We] headed for the wash space to do the dish-washing. There in a wooden case, were kept three tin-cans which acted as garbage-bins. Once the wastes are disposed, the pots and pans are rubbed clean by a [vigorous] application of ash-powder56.

Gandhi at his Charkha. Portrait by Mukul Dey.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
After the lunch, [though] I was quite prepared to wash our own dish, a little boy won’t let me do it! He took away the plates and bowls from me, and cleaned the lot all by himself. And now the serving team sat down for their lunch at the dining-hall.

We came back to Ashadi’s room—Basanti Roy and Subodh Roy were already there. They dropped-in to learn the notes of a tune. Ashadi attended to them at once. We came back to our room. Your father lay down for a siesta. And I, in the meanwhile, am putting this down for you. I shall write [to you] again—need to rest for a while.

Got up exactly at two—had a wash, and woken-up your father. Ashadi had already left for her school then. For a long time I sat down at her veranda alone, observing the surroundings. It’s an active place, though extremely quiet—they are not noisy, always talking in a mellow voice. They work with such calm deliberation—and it’s so spotlessly clean everywhere! Neither there is dirt, nor dirty-habits here—even [as if] the dogs don’t bark and the crows don’t caw here. And nothing is wasted in the Ashrama.

Latrine Arrangement at Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram, 1928
Photo: Mukul Dey
Do you know how the latrines are here? Quite ingenious! They have dug out long trenches there, and placed a four-wheeled chariot-like contraption on the trench, which actually is the closet. This covered closet is made entirely of split and whole bamboos [with a hole on its floor]. Once used they fill that part of the trench with loose earth and push the closet-cart ahead.

[Day 4]
9. 8. [19]46

Woke up early in the morning—only two minutes to go for the morning prayers. It starts at 4:15 in the morning. Got up quickly, washed and both of us went for the prayer together. They had arranged it at the veranda adjoining Bapuji’s57 quarters and placed the chatai there. We were soon joined by others. Bapuji was having a face-wash while still inside his mosquito-net.

After the prayers were over, I took a bath. While still in the bath, I heard the loud recitation of [Gurudev’s]58 “He Mor Chitta…”59  by the children at Talimi Sangh.

At six-thirty the bell rang for the breakfast. As from today onwards we are Mahatmaji’s guest, our dining arrangements were organized at the main Ashrama. They have placed a long chatai-mat at the veranda and once you are there with [your] bowl and plate in hand, they serve you helpings of dalia60 , milk, gurh61 and couple of pieces of sweet cake made from peanuts, wheat flour, gurh and sesame-oil—they call it poorna.

Then there was the flag-ceremony in the morning—the flag was hoisted by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur62. At 10:55 the bell rang for the mid-day meal. After we took our seats, the hymns were recited, and we were served the lunch—wheat flour chapattis, sorghum chapattis, brown rice, steamed broth of pumpkin and spinach, but this was quite devoid of any salt and spices, pieces of raw onion and raw chichinge—followed by curd or milk, those who do not opt for curd, get milk. After food one has to do one’s share of dish-washing—one’s own plates and tumblers, as well as a few utensils of the common kitchen—serving-spoon and ladle etc. There are no servants here, they do everything themselves.

Didn’t feel like taking a siesta after the meal, so went to Ashadi’s place and found Acharya Kripalini63 there. I touched his feet – he smiled and asked me, “Are you from U. P.?” “No”, I said, “I am from Bengal, from Santiniketan.” As soon as I told him your father’s name he recognized [me] at once.

Today Kripaliniji delivered lectures at the new hall of the Talimi Sangh. He spoke thus:

“Swadharme Nidhanang Shreya64 …people should work and lead a life according to one’s nature. If we follow a course which is natural to us, then only the development in one’s life takes place. An education, which is not natural, is no education at all. But then, if a black marketeer’s son becomes another black marketeer—that’s not swadharma. Had it been like that, a Dewan’s65 son Gandhi should have become another Dewan. If a man goes on in life like a blinkered oxen at an oil-press [without ever asking a question]—even that is no education.

But then Gandhi is a true Gujrati and a faithful Vaishnavite—and here lies his greatness. Therefore he is so great. The same is true for Tilak66 as well—he was a true Marathi, and quite equal to Shivaji67. In our literature, philosophy and art—everywhere—there should be enough originality. An individual may blossom on his own like a flower— but, for the majority…and for the development of a society, one need to impart education. And that education should contain our own original ideas and teachings.”

[Day 5]
10. 8. [19]46

I am feeling most complete since attending the morning prayers today. Got an opportunity to serve Bapuji this morning—such fulfilling experience it was! Your father didn’t join us for the breakfast—I went alone. But I didn’t enjoy being there all by myself, and brought the food back to our room. Then had tea at Ashadi’s.

I was in tears the whole of today—though I was hurt, the experience was enriching as well. Had a lot of talks with Ashadi. Had participated in the Yajna68 and turned spindle there—a girl having handed some fluffy cotton-wool to me, silently.

Your father did not participate in the evening prayer-meeting [either]. A good many people joined the prayers, today being Saturday. After the prayers, Dr. M. N. Chatterjee69 delivered a lecture at the dining-hall of Talimi Sangh. In this very hall they dine, pound and spin cotton-wool, and organize lectures as well! The boys and girls sat in separate rows on palm-leave chatai. Asha’di introduced Dr. Chatterjee thus—he returned to India from USA after twenty-seven years. He is married to a Scottish lady—they have a son and a daughter. The son is a doctor, and the daughter is pursuing her researches on child-education after completing her graduation. Though Dr. Chatterjee is an engineer by his training, he is working as a professor of sociology.

[Day 6]
12. 8. [19]46

We are leaving Sevagram today. As on one hand I am eager to see you, on the other it is painful to leave this place. For last few days, as if we were in an altogether different realm. The small hut we dwelled-in [here] is right in the middle of Bapuji’s Ashrama and Ashadi’s Talimi Sangh. And, since we have been Bapuji’s guest and [as well as] Ashadi / Aryanayakamji’s friends—therefore from both the sides people have been most kind to us.

On the 8th we had meals at Talimi Sangh, from 9th till 11th noon at Bapuji’s Ashrama—and since 11th evening till this morning at Talimi Sangh. So we had an ample opportunity to get a feel of the general atmosphere, food and other norms being observed here. Now, as we proceed for the early morning prayer-meeting, I feel sorry that we won’t be there to attend the evening congregation.

It is painful to part company with the little children of Talimi Sangh. As at one hand there’s this gigantic and lively personality of Bapuji; on the other, we enjoyed the immense kindness and affection of Ashadi and Ariamda. They wanted that you must visit them during the Puja holidays. After the morning prayers were over I visited Bapuji once again and touched his feet.

We said our good-bye to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Pyarelal70. Pyarelal’s younger brother Devaprakash is a very good boy, lives in the adjacent room to ours, and [he] used to wake us up everyday early in the morning. I am really sorry to leave them all [behind]. Came here only a couple of days ago, yet it seems like I have known them for a century!

Said our good-bye to Satyenbha also. He said that I would be receiving [my] charkha71 today. All of them said “Come again”—let’s see what the will of the God is. Ashadi extended her best wishes and [named your father’s organization] Akhil Bharatiya Kala Sadan72. She scribbles her good wishes to you in this notebook. While leaving I couldn’t meet Shakuntalaben and little Mitu. When I come next I will bring shankha73 for Ashadi and chudi74 for Mitu. A little girl called Malati brought the charkha and its accessories for me—and showed me how to use it as well.

Before we left Ashadi repeatedly told your father that [from now on] he should not run after people for help. He must keep faith in God and keep working75.

At nine-thirty in the morning we left for Wardha on a tonga-cart. Miss Prema Akant accompanied us on the tonga. Around eleven we reached Bajajwadi at Wardha. After awhile came in Sarojini Naidu, and I touched her feet. She was very happy to see me. She gave her best wishes to your father— he was not around. But both of them met later on. We also met Prafulla Ghosh and Rajagopalachari today—told them about our departure. Upadhyay led us to the hall [and made us comfortable there]. Sometime afterwards came in Dadaji. He sat down with us as we touched his feet. He is an extraordinary man. He saw [your father’s] papers and wrote his comments. Dadaji came again to call us for lunch. Though I did not feel like having a meal then—Dadaji insisted.

The lunch was organized at the inner veranda—[they] placed long white linen to sit on. In front of each seat was placed one plate, two [small] bowls and a glass of water. On the plate they served a slice of lemon, little salt, little mint-chutney76 and [a helping of] cucumber-raita77. Many had started their lunch already. Saw Sarojini Naidu and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel there. Right after us came in Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay78 and Jawaharlal Nehru. I observed that Sardar Patel was being served food by his daughter Maniben Patel.

During lunch one had an option—either chapati or brown rice, and in bowls were served daal and ghol79. What a Guesthouse the Bajajs have built! All the leaders and the very cream of Indian intellect have congregated here. Panditji80 had finished his lunch after me, and while he was at the wash-basin your father had completed his meal.

After lunch, while taking the [usual] helping of [aromatic] spices81 [as mouth freshener], your father had a small interaction with Nehru regarding “Akhil Bharatiya Kala Sadan”. He showed Panditji Bapuji’s written blessings as well—and when Panditji was asked about the next steps to be taken, he replied, “Make draft proposals”. And immediately after, Nehru went upstairs for an important meeting.

We left [for the station] finally. But prior to that had a little talk with Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay—she is a wonderful person.

We had plans initially to visit Benaras, via Allahabad, to meet Malviyaji82 there. But then, since we have been away from you for a long time and as we have no more funds with us—[we] finally bought tickets for Howrah. I wish when we visit this place next with you during the Puja holidays, we would come via Allahabad and Benaras—but, that will happen if God grants.

In the train we met an ex-student of Santiniketan—an old friend of your father. He is Mr. P. K. Sen, but your father addressed him as “Baba Bongshu”! Couldn’t follow exactly, and on asking about it, came to know that this strange epithet was awarded to Sen by Srijukta Kshitimohan Sen83 during his student days in Santiniketan. And [imagine], Bongshu is well-known by this epithet throughout Santiniketan! We much enjoyed his company—he got down at Nagpur.

“Bongshu” is the Deputy-Director at the Industrial Department here. Your father wanted to accompany Sen [to his home] and effect a break-journey—and again catch the evening eight-thirty train [to Howrah]. But I did not consent—as I was not willing to mix anything to my feelings and experiences of Sevagram. Those precious and treasured memories I wanted take back to our home directly.

Tell me, how wonderful the trip had been—isn’t it? I never really believed [that this could happen]—but then if you seek something sincerely, your search never remains futile

  1. 1. During British regime there were different time zones in the Indian subcontinent.
  2. 2. Artist Mukul Dey [1895-1989].
  3. 3. “gourd” in this case is dhundhul in common Bengali, luffa-gourd in English, while in the botanical nomenclature it is Luffa acutangula and Luffa aegyptiaca—ed.
  4. 4. Snake-gourd or Trichosanthes cucumerina—ed.
  5. 5. Rabindranath Tagore [1861-1941].
  6. 6. Abanindranath Tagore [1871-1951].
  7. 7. “Makda pathar” in original Mss—ed.
  8. 8. Babla in common Bengali and as in Mss, Acacia Arabica according to botanical nomenclature. We opted for common Hindi name Babul for its greater currency—ed.
  9. 9. Embilica officinalis.
  10. 10. Butea frondosa.
  11. 11. Shorea robusta.
  12. 12. Bassia latifolia.
  13. 13. cf. Illustration No. 185, ‘Two Women’, Drypoint by Nandalal Bose, NGMA Acc. No. 4916; and illustration No. 216, ‘Three Women’, pen and ink on postcard by Nandalal Bose, NGMA Acc. No. 4939, pp. 214, 234, Nandalal Bose Centenary volume, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. Note the depiction of anklets—ed.
  14. 14. See F. B. Bradley-Birt, Chota Nagpore: A Little-known Province of the Empire, London, Smith, Elder, & Co., 1903, illustration facing page 41 titled: An umbrella constructed solely of leaves. Similar type of protective cap-cum-umbrella is common among the Santhals and other tribal peoples of Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal.
  15. 15. C. Rajagopalachari [1878-1972], noted Congress leader and second Governor-General of independent India.
  16. 16. Probably Carmichael Medical College at Calcutta is meant here.
  17. 17. Noted businessman of Calcutta [presently Kolkata]. Poddar was originally from Shekhawati, Rajasthan.
  18. 18. Indian National Congress party.
  19. 19. Twenty Portraits is the title of an album of portrait drawings by Mukul Dey, published in 1943. For the story of Devaraj Indra and demon Virocana, see Chandogya Upanisad 8. 7. 2—3, 8. 8. 1—4 etc. cf. Patrick Olivelle, Upanisads, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, pp. 171—174.
  20. 20. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad [1888-1958]. Poet, writer and journalist. One of the leaders of Indian freedom movement and an admirer of Turkish pan-Islamic theoretician Jamaluddin Afghani.
  21. 21. E. W. Ariam [1889-1967], Sri Lankan Tamil Christian. Joined Visva-Bharati in 1924 as a teacher. Prior to his marriage with Asha Adhikari, daughter of Phanibhushan Adhikari of B. H. U, he was indoctrinated in Hinduism, and his new name was Aryanayakam. In c.1934 the Aryanayakams left Santiniketan and joined Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashrama (vide. Rabindra-viksha, vol. 29, August 1996, p. 75).
  22. 22. This Guesthouse is the historic Bajajwadi of Seth Jamnalal Bajaj [1886-1942]. Bajajwadi was established in 1934 and became a convenient venue for meetings of Congress Working Committee as also of other staunch Hindu activities, such as Gopujan [i. e. cow worship] etc. During those days Bajajwadi was regularly frequented by such luminaries of Indian freedom struggle and subsequent politics as Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari and scores of others. In all the activities at Bajajwadi Seth Jamnalal Bajaj was actively supported by his wife Janki Devi [1893-1979]. See for further information. In this context, it may not be out of place to mention, that it was with the financial assistance of Jamnalal Bajaj that Gandhi once tried to obliterate the erotic sculptures on Konarak Sun Temple and other ancient shrines. Gandhi wanted that the portions depicting erotic postures should be defaced by cement plastering. It was only by the timely intervention of Abanindranath Tagore [1871-1951], John G. Woodroffe [1865-1936], Rabindranath Tagore [1861-1941], Ramendrasundar Trivedi [1864-1919] and Nandalal Bose [1882-1966] that this intended act amounting to such vandalism could be averted [see Panchanan Mondal, Bharatshilpi Nandalal, Vol. II, pp. 504-505, Vol. III, p. 393].
  23. 23. Horse trap.
  24. 24. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel [1875-1950]. The first Home Minister of independent India and Deputy Prime Minister of India.
  25. 25. Sardar Patel’s daughter Maniben [1904-1988]. Influential Congress leader.
  26. 26. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh [1891-1983]. The first Chief Minister of West Bengal after Indian independence. Follower of Gandhi.
  27. 27. Noted industrialist Seth Jamnalal Bajaj’s eldest son [1915-1972].
  28. 28. It is interesting to note that no mug was kept with the brass bucket at the bathroom. In original Mss. the author mentioned Gelash in Bengali, which has been translated as tumbler in this case.
  29. 29. Polychrome glazed tile-making is a fairly ancient Indian craft form that was brought-in by the Musalman invaders and settlers from Persia and Central Asia. For a thorough overview of this craft and its introduction in Sindh and other places on Indian mainland see J. Ph. Vogel, Tile-Mosaics of the Lahore Fort, ed. by Sir John Marshall, Archeological Survey of India, 1920.
  30. 30. Khat or Takhtaposh in Bengali
  31. 31. “All-cotton fabric woven in plain, or tabby, weave and printed with simple designs in one or more colours. Calico originated in Calicut, India, by the 11th century, if not earlier, and in the 17th and 18th centuries calicoes were an important commodity traded between India and Europe. In the 12th century, Hemacandra, an Indian writer, mentions chhimpa, or calico prints, decorated with chhapanti, or a printed lotus design. The earliest fragments to survive (15th century) have been found not in India but at Fustat, in the neighbourhood of Cairo.” See E. Britannica CD-Rom. cf. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Art & Swadeshi, 1994, pp. 33-34.
  32. 32. Fabric made on handloom using homespun thread.
  33. 33. For the visual of a typical traditional Indian bolster see Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Art & Swadeshi, 1994, Plate VI on page 71.
  34. 34. Khichdi is a common Indian staple in which rice and various pulses are boiled together to a thick broth, flavoured with aromatic agents such as fried ginger, onion, garlic and cumin seed, and diced vegetables thrown in sometimes.
  35. 35. Common Indian round, flat, unleavened bread.
  36. 36. Clarified butter.
  37. 37. Thin flat crisp chips made from flour of ground pulses. Roasted or deep fried, and served as a side-dish to a main course.
  38. 38. “Endowed with the quality of sattva, i. e. purity and goodness”. See Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 1200 for detailed explanation.
  39. 39. Author had used a typical Bengali term—khata paikhana—to denote common Indian latrines prevalent then. This could be described as a raised enclosed platform, with a hole on the floor, and a receptacle exactly below the hole to collect the excrement. Every day men and women of the so-called “untouchable” caste would come to clean this receptacle, full with human excrement. cf. Katherine Mayo, Mother India, 1927, photographic illustration facing page 163 and text pp. 361—364, 373.
  40. 40. Semolina.
  41. 41. Since in India we eat with our fingers, a wash-space is an indispensable part of our dining room—and this is distinct from the WCs of European architecture.
  42. 42. Sarojini Naidu [1879-1949]. Poet, Congress President and noted freedom fighter.
  43. 43. All India Spinners’ Association—ed.
  44. 44. Cow-stall—ed.
  45. 45. Hindustani Talimi Sangh. “The Hindustani Talimi Sangh (All-India Education Board) came up into existence in April, 1938. It made good progress. Two provinces, C. P. and U. P., accepted it as their policy of primary education. Training Centres set up by the Governments in Bihar, Orissa, Bombay, Madras, Kashmir and other places, besides such private centres as the Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi and at Masulipatam and Gujarat, as well as schools for the children. A scheme of ‘Nai Talim’ was later inaugurated at Wardha, with the help of the leading educationists for educating people of all age groups, from infancy to death…Wardha was also the centre for such organized activity as building up the common Hindustani language, as India’s national language.”[Source: Indian National Congress web page] About the concept of Hindustani Talimi Sangh Gandhi writes: “This is a new subject. But the members of the Working Committee felt so interested in it that they gave a charter to the organizers of the Hindustani Talimi Sangh which has been functioning since the Haripura session. This is a big field of work for many Congressmen. This education is meant to transform village children into model villagers. It is principally designed for them. The inspiration for it has come from the villages. The Congressmen who want to build up the structure of Swaraj from its very foundation dare not neglect the children. Foreign rule has unconsciously, though none the less surely, begun with the children in the field of education. Primary education is a farce designed without regards to the wants of the India of the villages and for that matter even of the cities. Basic education links the children, whether of the cities or the villages, to all that is best and lasting in India. It develops both the body and the mind, and keeps the child rooted to the soil with a glorious vision of the future in the realization of which he or she begins to take his or her share from the very commencement of his or her career in school. Congressmen would find it of absorbing interest, benefiting themselves equally with the children with whom they come in contact. Let those who wish, put themselves in touch with the Secretary of the Sangh at Sevagram.” [Source: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place, The Navajivan Trust’s reprint of 1991, pp. 16—17].
  46. 46. Maiden name Asha Adhikari, daughter of Professor Phanibhushan Adhikari of Benares, and Lady Ranu Mukherjee’s elder sister. Noted follower of Gandhi and married to E. W. Ariam.
  47. 47. Jawaharlal Nehru [1889-1964].
  48. 48. Presently Sri Lanka—ed.
  49. 49. Hand-woven traditional reed-mat, or any of such mats made from woven shavings of cane or toddy-palm leaves. Chatai in this case may have been a more common type made by weaving a type of reed, which is called Hogla in common Bengali. cf. Haricharan Bandopadhyay, Bangiya Shabdakosh—ed.
  50. 50. A literal translation of Mahila Ashrama could be Women’s Refuge—ed.
  51. 51. Soup made of pulses and various aromatic herbs and vegetables—ed.
  52. 52. i. e. wholegrain brown rice of atap variety. Atap is a variety of rice which is derived from sun-dried paddy. cf. with sheddha chal or sella [as it is called in northern India] rice, which is made from steamed paddy—ed.
  53. 53. Jowar in common Hindustani—ed.
  54. 54. Til-tel in common Bengali. This edible oil is very rich in PUFA, and therefore good for health—ed.
  55. 55. Ghol in common Bengali—ed.
  56. 56. This is a typical traditional Hindu custom. Since the utensils used while eating are considered “unclean” by the virtue of these being used—after taking one’s meal it was expected that the person would wipe the floor clean after sprinkling a few drops of water over the place where his plate, bowl and tumbler were being placed—ed.
  57. 57. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [1869-1948].
  58. 58. Rabindranath Tagore was respectfully addressed as Gurudev or Master. It is commonly believed that this epithet was coined by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who, in turn, received the epithet of Mahatma or Great Soul from Rabindranath Tagore.
  59. 59. He Mor Chitta is a very famous opening stanza of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. The poem essentially highlights the ancient culture and civilization of Indian subcontinent where, from time immemorial, a diverse and heterogeneous population coexisted and co-mingled. He Mor Chitta is from Tagore’s collection of poems entitled Gitanjali.
  60. 60. Roasted and coarsely ground wheat porridge—ed.
  61. 61. Coarse lumped jaggery made from sugar-cane and/or palm-juice. Jaggery is considered by some to be a particularly wholesome sugar and, unlike refined sugar, it retains more mineral salts. Moreover, the process does not involve chemical agents. Indian Ayurvedic medicine considers jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections. Jaggery is also considered auspicious in many parts of India, and is eaten raw before commencement of good work or any important new venture. Jaggery is also sometimes mixed with coconut shreddings, sesame-seeds to make delicious homemade sweetdish, depending on the area—ed.
  62. 62. The Princess of Kapurthala, Punjab—Rajkumari Amrit Kaur [1889-1964]. First Health Minister of independent India.
  63. 63. Noted Gandhian leader J. B. Kripalini [1888-1982].
  64. 64. Swadharme Nidhanang Shreya / Parodharma Bhayavaha is an oft quoted important teaching of Hindu scripture Shrimadbhagavat Gita. However, its meaning can be interpreted in more than one way, which is why I have desisted from explaining it. Persons interested may study any good interpretation and commentary on Gita—ed.
  65. 65. Dewan—a minister of a princely state [i. e. Riyasat] or zamindari—ed.
  66. 66. Bal Gangadhar Tilak [1880-1920].
  67. 67. Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle [1630-1680].
  68. 68. Vedic Hindu rites of sacrifice. In this case, it seems, some spinning or spindle-turning ceremony at Sevagram Ashrama—ed.
  69. 69. A professor of Sociology at Antioch College, Ohio in USA.
  70. 70. Personal secretary to Gandhi. Accompanied Gandhi in his visit to Mukul Dey’s studio at Chitralekha, Santiniketan on December 19, 1945 [Source: Dey’s original Visitors’ Book in Mukul Dey Archives collection]—ed.
  71. 71. Spinning-wheel. Bina was presented with a small and compact charkha, which could be packed in a sleek wooden case. I had seen this with Bina during my childhood [c. 1966]—ed.
  72. 72. A literal translation could be All-India Arts and Crafts Centre—ed.
  73. 73. Conch-shell bangle worn generally by Hindu married women. In certain cases I have seen married Musalmaan women of Bengali origin wearing shankha bangles—ed.
  74. 74. Coloured glass bangles worn by women throughout Indian subcontinent. Ferozabad in Uttar Pradesh is famous for its glass-bangle industry—ed.
  75. 75. Mukul Dey’s motto, as found inscribed on several of his personal seals was: “Work Hard, Be Honest, God Will Provide”. The chronology of these seals was prior to their Sevagram visit in 1946. Dey’s seals are now preserved in Mukul Dey Archives collection—ed.
  76. 76. i. e. Pudina chutney—ed.
  77. 77. A dish usually made of grated cucumber, finely chopped onion and green chilies, flavoured with roasted cumin.
  78. 78. Noted Gandhian social worker Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay [1903-1988].
  79. 79. A kind of buttermilk flavoured with roasted cumin—ed.
  80. 80. Jawaharlal Nehru.
  81. 81. Usually a small helping of aniseed [Pimpinella anisum]—ed.
  82. 82. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya [1861-1946]. Noted freedom fighter and founder of Benaras Hindu University. As Pandit Malaviya passed away on November 12, 1946, Mukul and Bina’s plan to meet him never materialized—ed.
  83. 83. Acharya Kshitimohan Sen Shastri [1880-1960]. Noted Sanskrit scholar and Adhyaksha of Vidya-Bhavana, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan—ed.
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