1 O LORD, OPEN THY GATES !
THE SITE OF Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram, in his home province of Gujarat, has a significance of its own. This ashram lies on the banks of the broad Sabarmati River, facing the industrial city of Ahmedabad from across the water. It is said that somewhere near here, ages ago, stood the ashram of Dadhichi, the hermit who gave up his bones to be made into a thunderbolt for god Indra. The story of Dadhichi is an example of supreme sacrifice. But the story of the Mahatma (Great Soul) who built his ashram here in modern times is no less inspiring.
'This is a good spot for my ashram,' Bapu used to say, (We all called him "Bapu","Father"). 'On one side is the cremation ground. On the other, is the prison. The people in my ashram should have no fear of death, nor should they be strangers to imprisonment.'
One of us would chime in, 'Yes, Bapu, and across the river are the chimnyes of the textile mills, reminding us the forces we must contend with, as advocates of khadi' homespun cloth.
My earliest memories of Bapu are intertwined with those of Sabarmati Prison. Bapu would go for a walk each morning and evening. He would put his hands on the shoulders of those either side. These companions would then be Bapu's ("walking sticks"). We children were always given top choice for this job. Whether his human walking stick were really any help to him, perhaps only Bapu could say. But as for us, being chosen always made us swell with pride. In fact, in our eagerness to be chosen, Bapu's "sticks" would sometimes clash together.