My Father, Do Not Rest by Sarojini Naidu
Venue: Broadcast on All India Radio
Date: February 1, 1948
Like Christ of old on the third day he has risen again in answer to the cry of his people and the call of the world for the continuance of his guidance, his love, his service and inspiration. And while we all mourn, those who loved him, knew him personally, and those to whom his name was but a miracle and a legend, though we are all full of tears and though we are full of sorrow on this third day when he has risen from his own ashes, I feel that sorrow is out of place and tears become a blasphemy. How can he die, who through his life and conduct and sacrifice, who through his love and courage and faith has taught the world that the spirit matters, not the flesh, that the spirit has the power greater than the powers of the combined armies of the earth, combined armies of the ages? He was small, frail, without money, without even the full complement of garment to cover his body, not owning even as much earth as might be held on the point of a needle, how was he so much stronger than the forces of violence, the might of empires and the grandeur of embattled forces in the world? Why was it that this little man, this tiny man, this man with a child’s body, this man so ascetic, living on the verge of starvation by choice so as to be more in harmony with the life of the poor, how was it that he exercised over the entire world, of those who revered him and those who hated him, such power as emperors could never wield?
It was because he did not care for applause; he did not care for censure. He only cared for the path of righteousness. He cared only for the ideals that he preached and practised. And in the midst of the most terrible disasters caused by violence and greed of men, when the abuse of the world was heaped up like dead leaves, dead flowers on battlefields, his faith never swerved in his ideal of non-violence. He believed that though the whole world slaughter itself and the whole world’s blood be shed, still his non-violence would be the authentic foundation of the new civilisation of the world and he believed that he who seeks his life shall lose it and he who loses his life shall find it.
His first fast in 1924 with which I was associated was for the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity. It had the sympathy of the entire nation. His last fast was also for the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity, but the whole nation was not with him in that fast. It had grown so divided, it had grown so bitter, it had grown so full of hate and suspicion, it had grown so untrue towards the tenets of the various creeds in this country that it was only a section of those who understood the Mahatma who realised the meaning of that fast. It was very evident that the nation was divided in its loyalty to him in that fast. It was very evident that it was not any community but his that disapproved so violently and showed its anger and resentment in such a dastardly fashion. Alas for the Hindu community, that the greatest Hindu of them all, the only Hindu of our age who was so absolutely and unswervingly true to the doctrine, to the ideals, the philosophy of Hinduism should have been slain by the hand of a Hindu! That indeed, that indeed is almost the epitaph of the Hindu faith that the hand of a Hindu in the name of Hindu rights and a Hindu world should sacrifice the noblest of them all. But it does not matter. It is a personal grief that is, loss day in and day out, year in and year out, for many of us who cannot forget, because for more than 30 years some of us have been so closely associated with him that our lives and his life were an integral part of one another. Some of us are indeed dead to the faith: some of us indeed have had vivisection performed on us by his death, because fibres of our being, because our muscles, veins and heart and blood were all intertwined with his life.
But, as I say, it would be the act of faithless deserters if we were to yield to despair. If we were indeed to believe that he is dead, if we were to believe that all is lost, because he has gone, of what avail would be our love and our faith? Of what avail would be our loyalty to him if we dare to believe that all is lost because his body is gone from our midst? Are we not there, his heirs, his spiritual descendants, the legatees of his great ideals, successors of his great work? Are we not there to implement that work and enhance it and enrich and make greater achievements by joint efforts than he could have made singly?
Therefore, I say the time is over for private sorrow. The time is over for beating of breasts and tearing of hair. The time is here and now when we stand up and say, “We take up the challenge” to those who defied Mahatma Gandhi. We are his living symbols. We are his soldiers. We are the carriers of his banner before an embattled world. Our banner is truth. Our shield is non-violence. Our sword is a sword of the spirit that conquers without blood. Let the peoples of India rise up and wipe their tears, rise up and still their sobs, rise up and be full of hope and full of cheer. Let us borrow from him, why borrow, he has handed it to us, the radiance of his own personality, the glory of his own courage, the magnificent epic of his character.
Shall we not follow in the footsteps of our master? Shall we not obey the mandates of our father? Shall not we his soldiers carry his battle to triumph? Shall we not give to the world the completed message of Mahatma Gandhi? Though his voice will not speak again, have we not a million, million voices to bear his message to the world, not only to this world, to our contemporaries, but to the world generation after generation? Shall sacrifice be in vain? Shall his blood be shed for futile purposes of mourning? Or, shall we not use that blood as a tilak on our foreheads, the emblem of his legion of peace-loving soldiers to save the world? Here and now, here and now, I for one before the world that listens to my quivering voice pledge myself and you, as I pledged myself more than 30 years ago, to the service of the undying Mahatma.
What is death? My own father, dying, just before his death with the premonition of death on him, said: “There is no birth. There is no death. There is only the soul seeking higher and higher stages of truth.” Mahatma Gandhi who lived for truth in this world has been translated, though by the hand of an assassin, to a higher stage of the truth which he sought. Shall we not take up his place? Shall not our united strength be strong enough to preach and practise, his great message for the world? I am here one of the lowliest of his soldiers, but along with me I know that his beloved disciples like Jawaharlal Nehru, like his trusted followers and friends Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Babu, who was like St. John in the bosom of Christ, and those others of his associates who at a moment’s notice flew from all ends of India to make their last homage at his feet. Shall we not all take up his message and fulfill it? I used to wonder very often during his many fasts in which I was privileged to serve him, to solace him, to make him laugh, because he wanted the tonic laughter of his friends – I used to wonder, supposing he died in Sevagram, supposing he died in Noakhali, supposing he died in some far off place, how should we reach him? It is therefore right and appropriate that he died in the city of kings, in the ancient site of the old Hindu empires, in the site on which was builded the glory of the Moghuls, in this place that he made India’s capital wresting it from foreign hands, it is right that he died in Delhi; it is right that his cremation took place in the midst of the dead kings who are buried in Delhi, for he was the kingliest of all kings. And it is right also that he who was the apostle of peace should have been taken to the cremation ground with all the honours of a great warrior; far greater than all warriors who led armies to battle was this little man, the bravest, the most triumphant of all. Delhi is not only today historically the Delhi of seven kingdoms; it has become the centre and the sanctuary of the greatest revolutionary who emancipated his enslaved country from foreign bondage and gave to it its freedom and its flag. May the soul of my master, my leader, my father rest not in peace, not in peace, but let his ashes be so dynamically alive that the charred ashes of the sandalwood, let the powder of his bones be so charged with life and inspiration that the whole of India will after his death be revitalised into the reality of freedom.
My father, do not rest. Do not allow us to rest. Keep us to our pledge. Give us strength to fulfill our promise, your heirs, your descendants, your stewards, the guardians of your dreams, the fulfillers of India’s destiny. You, whose life was so powerful, make it so powerful in your death, far from mortality you have passed mortality by a supreme martyrdom in the cause most dear to you.