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Friday, 2nd January, 1948

'' Liquor is worse than poison ''

Repeatedly thoughts of death came now to the Mahatma. Death was the inevitable final dissolution of the body, he knew. But so overwhelmed was he with sadness over the way things were going in newly-free India, that he had begun to wish for that final release, and even started praying to God to take him away soon. Of course, he always added that he would be here on earth as long as Almighty had work for him. On death and the mortal condition of man, Bapu reflected with the greatest of calm and in an impersonal mien. Aspects of his thinking on this subject emerged often in his speech and in his letters. In a letter in Gujarati to a bereaved friend, Bapu said, So your brother has departed. We must be thankful that God has relieved him of his suffering. One day all of us - you, I, and our near and dear ones - have to go. All over the world, thousands of people die every day. Many of them leave behind orphans with no one to support them. Many others lose innocent children of tender age. You must consider the plight of those, and console yourself. It is selfish to be thinking only of one''s own sorrow.

Long as the list of India''s woes was, what caused the Mahatma to grieve the most was religious intolerance among the people leading to the worst communal frenzy and violence running amok. Roundly he reproached the people for thinking narrowly and vengefully, and said in a letter, How can we apply the rule of measure for measure to something which is bad, and imitate it? It betrays meanness to talk about the number of Muslims killed in India, or the number of Hindus and Sikhs killed in Pakistan. I pray toGod that He should grant good sense to all. Today I am sustained only by that prayer.

Gandhiji came to his prayer meeting punctually at 5 p.m. on Thursday. But it took some time for a group of women to find seats, and the hubbub to subside, before the prayers could begin. After the devotionals, Gandhiji told his audience, Today is New Year''s Day according to the English calendar. I am happy to see such a large number of people. But I regret that it took no less than seven minutes for us to make room for the women.

Even one minute lost is in sum thousands of minutes lost by thousands of people. Our brothers everywhere should learn to offer first place to their sisters. A country in which women are not honoured is not really civilised. We should learn to behave with added restraint now that we are free. I hope the audience attending these prayer meetings will be even larger in future. But all those that come here should come with prayer in their hearts. Prayer is the food of the heart, and it nourishes the soul. Nowhere else can we get such nourishment as we can get from God.

Laying strong stress on Prohibition, Bapu said, People should keep away from it as they would from poison. Liquor is worse than poison. Poison can kill only the body. But liquor destroys the very soul. Taking liquor, one loses the ability to control oneself. I would advise the Government to close down all liquor shops and replace them by eating- houses, where the people can get pure and light food. I am sure that giving up alcohol will increase the physical vigour of man and his capacity to earn. That is why Prohibition has been part of the Congress programme since 1920. Now that we are free, our Government should redeem that pledge, and give up the unholy excise revenue.

A letter Bapu wrote to Shri Jaisukhlal Hathi showed the Mahatma in a somber mood. He said, I find myself here in a fiery pit. It is difficult to say that will happen. May be we shall know soon. Manu (Gandhi) is completely exhausted. Her condition causes worry. I have made her work eighteen hours at a stretch. And I have subjected her to equal, or greater, mental strain. After all, she is only a young girl of sixteen or seventeen years. Still I am convinced that if she has Rama Nama inscribed in her heart, she will suffer no real enfeeblement. But how can I measure this? In my yagna her part is of no small significance. But in the matter of service, Manu, considering her age, surpasses all others. Now my only wish is to see her restored to health. I cannot say how long I have to stay here in Delhi. I have to do, or I have to die. There is no third way.