Jan 30, 2020: There had been at least half-a-dozen attempts on Mahatma Gandhi’s life, beginning 1917. There were attempts to poison him, and to assassinate him in bomb explosion or in gunfire. Mahatma Gandhi survived until Nathuram Godse, guided by fanatic passion, pumped bullets in his chest and stomach on January 30, 1948. It was 5.17 pm at Birla temple in Delhi.
The night before his assassination, Mahatma Gandhi complained of exhaustion and tiredness. It was unusual for Mahatma Gandhi but his closest companion during his last days, Manu Gandhi - then in her teenage - blamed the exhaustion on recent fast undertaken by Bapu, as he was fondly called, in the wake of post-Partition communal riots.
In her book, Last Glipmses of Bapu, Manu Gandhi writes: "Bapu was feeling very tired at night but he finished the draft of the Congress constitution. He got up to wash his feet at 9.15 as usual and then made ready to go to bed. He was so exhausted that he forgot to take exercise. When I reminded him, he took it."
Skipping a routine, howsoever small or insignificant it might seem, annoyed Mahatma Gandhi. Manu Gandhi says Mahatma Gandhi "complained of feeling giddy" and was perturbed over some developments in the government and the country.
In that state, Mahatma Gandhi sang, "The bloom in the world’s garden in short-lived. Enjoy it so long as it lasts."
Mahatma Gandhi was unwell and coughing but when Manuben, as Manu Gandhi was known then, offered him a dose of penicillin - the most potent antibiotic of the time - he refused and told her how he should be judged after his death.
He wanted Manu Gandhi to tell the world this: "If I were to die of disease or even a pimple, you must shout to the world from house-tops that I was a false mahatma. Then my soul, wherever it might be, will rest in peace. People might well swear at you for my sake; yet, if I died of illness, you should declare me a false or hypocritical mahatma. And if an explosion took place, as it did last week, or somebody shot at me and I received his bullet on my bare chest, without a sigh and with Rama’s name on my lips, only then you should say that I was a true mahatma. This will benefit the Indian people."
A bomb had been hurled at Mahatma Gandhi’s prayer meeting only 10 days before his assassination. Following this, the Delhi Police wanted to bring him under security cover. Mahatma Gandhi would not have it. The officer who put this proposal to Mahatma Gandhi returned with a very tough lesson for any policeperson.
"Those who preferred security to freedom had no right to live," Mahatma Gandhi said while refusing security cover that would have allowed frisking of the visitors at the temple and those arriving to meet him.
As it happened, Godse arrived at Mahatma Gandhi’s prayer meeting without having been frisked, fired bullets at him and he died with "Hey Ram" as the last words on his lips.
On January 30, Mahatma Gandhi woke up at 3.45 am as per his regular routine, drank lemon-honey mixed water, brushed his teeth with a twig and went for a walk. Manu Gandhi writes that while he cleaned his teeth, he made an unusual request. Manu was reading verses from Geeta, and Mahatma Gandhi wanted her to chant this hymn: "Whether tired or not, O man! Do not take rest."
"I was surprised to find that Bapu liked this song today for the first time. I feel that it is rather strange on Bapu’s part," Manu Gandhi writes in her book. Many people have since gone on saying that Mahatma Gandhi was aware that he would not live long and that he might meet a violent end.
During the previous, Mahatma Gandhi dropped another philosophical hint. He was supposed to visit his Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, Maharashtra on February 2, 1948. He had written a letter for someone in Wardha but it could not be posted making Mahatma Gandhi furious at the lapse.
But when Manu Gandhi brought this up saying that should she finalise his Wardha visit for February 2, Mahatma Gandhi said, "Who knows what will happen tomorrow? If my going there is finally settled, I will announce it at the prayer-meeting."
Next day, his evening prayer meeting was scheduled for 5 pm. Mahatma Gandhi was very particular about punctuality. He was known for his disciplinarian approach towards life. But Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had come over for a meeting.
The two were engrossed in a discussion apparently over issues on which Sardar Patel, the deputy prime minister, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had serious differences.
Mahatma Gandhi got late for the prayer. When Manu Gandhi finally interrupted, she got a reprimand. "It is the duty of a nurse to give medicines at the right time to a patient. If there is delay the patient may die," Mahatma Gandhi told Manu Gandhi.
Just before the prayer meeting, two leaders from Kathiawar -- Rasikbhai Parikh and Dhebarbhai - had arrived to meet Mahatma Gandhi, while he was in the meeting with Sardar Patel. Manu Gandhi told Mahatma Gandhi about the visit of Kathiawar leaders.
Mahatma Gandhi said, "Tell them that, if I remain alive, they can talk to me after the prayer on my walk." The talk never happened.