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At the Feet of The Mother

IX. 1. TALES OF PRISON LIFE. Tales of Prison Life (IX)


At first no one allowed Gossain to guess that his designs were known to all. He too was so stupid as to be unaware of this for quite some time, he thought he was helping the police quite secretly. But when after a few days it was ordered that instead of solitary confinement we would have to live together, because of this new arrangement we used to meet and talk throughout the day and night, and the thing could not be a secret much longer. At this time one or two of the boys had quarrels with Gossain. From their language and the unpleasant behaviour of everybody else Gossain could see that his intentions were not unknown to any one. When later he gave his evidence before the court, some English newspapers reported that this had caused surprise and excitement among the accused persons. Needless to say, this was entirely the reporters’ fancy. Days ahead every one had known the nature of evidence that would be offered. In fact, even the date on which the evidence was given was known from before. At this time an accused went to Gossain and said — “Look, brother, life here is intolerable. I too would like to turn an approver. Please tell Sham-sul-Alam to arrange for my release.” Gossain agreed to this and after a few days told him that a government note had come to the effect that there was a possibility of favourable consideration of the accused’s appeal. After which Gossain suggested to him to eke out some necessary information from Upen and others, for instance, the location of the branches of the secret society and its leaders, etc. The pretended approver was a man with a sense of humour, a lover of fun, and, on Upendra’s advice, he supplied a number of imaginary names to Gossain, and said that among the leaders of the secret society were Vishambhar Pillay in Madras, Purushottam Natekar at Satara, Professor Bhatt in Bombay and Krishnajirao Bhao of Baroda. Gossain was delighted with this and passed on this reliable information to the police. And the police too rummaged the whole of Madras, and came across many Pillays, big and small, but not one that was Pillay Vishambhar, not even half a Vishambhar; as for Satara’s Purushottam Natekar, he also seemed to keep his identity hidden in deep darkness; in Bombay a certain Professor Bhatt was found no doubt, but he was a harmless person and a loyalist, there was no likelihood of any secret society using him as a cover. Yet at the time of giving his evidence, Gossain, depending on what he had heard from Upen  earlier, offered such ring-leaders of conspiracy as the imaginary Vishambhar Pillay, etc., at the holy feet of Norton and strengthened the latter’s strange prosecution theory. With regard to Bir Krishnajirao Bhao the police perpetrated a hoax. They produced the copy of a telegram sent by some Ghose from the Manicktola Gardens to Krishnajirao Deshpande of Baroda. The people of Baroda did not know of the existence of any one answering to that name, but since the truthful Gossain had spoken of a Krishnajirao Bhao of Baroda, then surely Krishnajirao Bhao and Krishnajirao Deshpande must be the same person. And whether Krishnajirao Deshpande existed or not, the letters mentioned the name of our respected friend, Keshavrao Deshpande. Hence Krishnajirao Bhao and Krishnajirao Deshpande are surely one and the same. From which it followed that Keshavrao Deshpande was a ringleader of the secret conspiracy. Mr. Norton’s famous theory was based on such extraordinary inference.

To believe Gossain one had to accept that it was at his suggestion that our solitary confinement was done away with and we were ordered to stay together. He had said that the police had arranged it like this and kept him in the midst of the other accused with the intention of drawing out secret information about the conspiracy. Gossain did not know that his new business was known to every one long before, when he started to ask questions about those who were engaged in the conspiracy, and the whereabouts of the branches of the secret society, about patrons and contributors, about those who would now be in charge of continuing the secret activities, etc. I have already given examples of the kind of answers he received. But most of Gossain’s words were false. Dr. Daly had told us that, by persuading Mr. Emerson, it was he who had brought about this change in our accommodation. Possibly Daly’s was the true version; afterwards on hearing about the change in arrangements the police may have imagined this likely gain. Be it as it may, everyone, excepting me, was extremely pleased at the change. At that period I was unwilling to be in the midst of a crowd, for my spiritual life, sādhanā, was proceeding at a rapid pace. I had tasted a little of Equality, Non-attachment and Peace, but these states had not been yet fully stabilised. By being in company, the pressure of other men’s thought-waves on my unripe young ideas, this new state of being might suffer, or be even washed away. In fact, it did happen like that. Then I did not understand that for the fullness of my spiritual experience it was necessary to evoke opposite emotions, hence the Inner Guide, antaryāmin, suddenly deprived me of my dear solitude, flung me into the stream of violent outward activity. The rest of the group went wild with joy. That night the big room in which singers like Hemchandra Das, Sachindra Sen, etc., were staying, most of the accused persons collected there, and no one could sleep till two or three in the morning. The ring of laughter, the endless stream of singing, all the pent-up stories began to flow like swollen rivers during the rainy season. The silent prison reverberated with noise and merriment. We fell asleep but every time we woke up we heard the laughter, the singing, the conversation going on as before. Towards the small hours the stream thinned, the singers too fell asleep. Our ward was silent once again.

(Suprabhat, 1909-1910)

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