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Poignant memories

ON JANUARY 30, 1948, Mano Bakthavatsalam (she is today the president of Women's Voluntary Service) was back home from college when she learnt of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The world seemed unreal. "I could not believe that the Mahatma had left us. It was difficult to imagine a future for the nascent nation without the Mahatma at the helm. Only a few years ago, I had had the privilege of meeting the Mahatma at the Hindi Prachar Sabha (in Chennai) where I was a volunteer. The memory made the loss more poignant. Then Jawarharlal Nehru's famous address to the nation `The light has departed from our lives...' brought home the magnitude of the loss."

Seventy-five-year-old Gandhian Sivamurthy (who is now living in retirement from Government service) remembers a scene in Tiruchi. "A ghostly hush enveloped the street we lived in. Disbelief had gripped the people; and it was too profound a grief to be articulated. And those who tried to speak about it could not do so without their eyes getting misty."

Radhakrishnan (who is today chief coordinator of Dignity Foundation) was twelve years old when Gandhi was assassinated. He was living in Palaghat, Kerala.

"My father late Dr. C.K. Menon, was a nationalist. He was in Subash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army. He had the highest regard for Gandhiji also. The news of Gandhi's assassination hit him hard. All of us at home were inconsolable in our grief. The mournful music which is played to mark deaths and the song `Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram' were heard everywhere."

Freedom fighter R.M. Subbiah remembers. "For nationalists and freedom fighters, it was a moment of great disillusionment. The belief that Indians would be safe only among Indians formed the basis of the freedom struggle. The bloodbath during the Partition and then the assassination of the Mahatma gave the lie to the belief."

P.F.

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