The recollections of that meeting will for a long time remain green in the garden of my memory. It was a summer's evening and the earth over which we moved was intolerably hot. I was in the company of Sri T. L. Vaswani; we were returning from Calcutta, where Vaswaniji had presided over the All-India Gita Conference, and on our way to Sind we halted for a few days at Banaras. Vaswaniji had to address, that evening, a meeting of Professors in the Benares Hindu University. Before proceeding to the meeting, Vaswaniji expressed a desire to see Pandit Malaviyaji.
The sun was fading out of sight when we arrived on the grounds of the University and the soft tints of the setting sun served as a wonderfully beautiful background to the landscape thickly covered by mango trees that grew there in great abundance. My heart within me throbbed; soon I would meet one of the greatest sons of Mother India.
In strange contrast to what I thought was the sight I beheld.
We entered the house; it was so simple and the atmosphere was so peaceful, undisturbed by the meaningless chatter of press correspondents and the official clatter of private secretaries and personal assistants. In the front room sat an attendant awaiting Vaswaniji's arrival. He took us into the next room and there on a cot lay one whose face had little resemblance with the stern, set countenance I had so often seen in the papers. For a moment or two I could not believe that I was face to face with Pandit Malaviyaji.
Quietly and calmly he lay with the repose of a sage, and in his eyes was the lustre of a Rishi. I looked, again and again, at his wonderful, velvety face; it was so radiant and serene. ‘What a marvellous man!" I said to myself. At a time when in the name of progress modern India is being swayed, more and more, by forces of an alien culture and civilization, and Hindu traditions are becoming a memory of the past, this man holds fast to the lamp of Hindu ideals. Here is a man who, living in the suffocating, strangulating atmosphere, inevitable in a modern University area, still aspires in thought, word and deed to bear witness to the wisdom of the ‘Rishis.'
As soon as he saw Vaswaniji, he made an attempt to get up. His heart was still brave and full of courage, but his body was weak. And he had to be helped into a sitting position.
Vaswaniji went up to him and said: 'I have come to get your blessings.' Malaviyaji smiled. 'You have come to get my blessings!' he exclaimed. 'You who are a shining star in the spiritual firmament of India!' What simplicity in those words, what humility and what beauty! And then he pointed to a booklet which lay near him. It was 'The Gita and the Modern Age,' Vaswaniji's presidential address at the Gita Conference, Calcutta. 'I have just been reading this today,' he said. “It is a marvelous thing. In fact, there is, in everything that you write, a flame; every word penetrates right into the heart.'
I bent low to touch his feet. He placed his soft hand of benediction on my head. And then I sat down at the feet of these two apostles of Indian culture and leaders and inspirers of India's youth. It was a rare privilege. In silence I listened to what they spoke to each other. I drank in every word as it came out of their lips; inspiration was in their talk. There was something ethereal about their conversation, something so delicate that the very act of writing it may destroy its fragile grace, its faint perfume. They spoke concerning the Indian situation, the problem of Pakistan, the pitiable plight of villagers, especially in Sind, the way the youths of India were drifting. The two exchanged views on the revival of Hindu culture and the return of India to her place of glory and greatness in the assemblage of nations. They spoke of the New Age that would surely come after the night, in which the nations are plunged, is over. 'We are still in the transition period', Vaswaniji said, and Malaviyaji added: 'The New Age is already in the hearts of seers and saints.'
The future of the Hindu University, which he had nurtured since its infancy, sometimes caused him anxiety. He seemed anxious that the University, which had cost two crores ofrupees, should reflect, more and more, the Hindu Ideal. 'I have one request to make to you', he said to Vaswaniji. 'You need not request me', Vaswaniji replied; 'you have but to order me." 'I request you to kindly spend a fortnight every year in the University and inspire the students with love for Hindu ideals and ancient wisdom', Malaviyaji said.
Great as a politician, he was greater in his love for Hindu culture and the wisdom of India's Rishis. Free from the interests and passions that inevitably creep into the life of a man devoted wholly to politics, he utilized the greater part of his energies in building a centre of education and learning, which has now grown into a world-renowned University and which is unparalleled in India for its technological departments. While politicians had always in view the next election, the thought of the next generation had ever been before him; while politicians had been working for the growth of their respective parties, the growth of the country had been foremost in his mind. Political giants like Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Surendranath Banerjea, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who in their own days influenced the destinies of the nation in no small measure, have passed away and today their work and names are gradually fading away from the memories of men, but the Hindu University will ever stand as a living reminder of the greatness of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji.
The dream danced in his eyes that the University might become a centre out of which would go out influences which would thrill India from end to end, renovate and re-vitalise this great and gifted land and make her once again a nation of the strong and free.... In his heart was the faith that the problems and perplexities of modern life could yet be solved by the application of the teaching of the Rishis and sages of ancient India. Has the University realised, in some measure, the vision of its great founder? Has the University succeeded in resisting the onslaught of the modern forces? Has it answered the challenge of western industrialism? Has the great institution of learning approached any nearer the one source of knowledge and life? Did Pandit Malaviyaji, in his life-time, see his hopes fulfilled, his dream realised, or has he passed on to the Great Beyond with his aspirations locked up in his heart? For an answer we must await the verdict of Time.
The cause of cow-protection was dear and near to him. When Vaswaniji took leave of him and left the room, I followed. And as I was passing out of the door of his room, he called me. 'I am an old man', he said to me, 'and I may not meet you again’. ‘But before you leave, I have just one word to say to you. Tell Vaswaniji to take up the cause of cow-protection and see that the barbaric and inhuman system of cow-slaughter is stopped by non-violent methods'. He spoke so quietly, so convincingly, and the words are still ringing in my ears. I assured him that the cow was very sacred to Vaswaniji and the cause of cow-protection very near to his heart. And then to re-assure him, I described to him how only a few days before we set out for Calcutta, Vaswaniji was taking his usual evening stroll in the Hyderabad Cantonment area when from a distance I sighted a cow being pushed and pulled and dragged, evidently much against its will. I drew Vaswaniji's attention to this and he asked me to go and find out what the matter was. I ran up to the spot, made enquiries, and was told that the cow would be slaughtered in a few minutes' time. I ran back and reported the matter to Vaswanji, and this was more than he could bear. In haste, he himself proceeded to the spot and offered to purchase the cow at any price, if only to save its life. The butcher very shrewdly raised hitches. The cow simply must be slaughtered, he said, as it was meant for the military officials. Eventually he agreed to sell it for more than double its actual price and Vaswaniji paid for it on the spot. 'The cow', I told Malaviyaji, 'is now happy and gay, grazing on the farm of a friend.' As soon as I finished speaking to him, I saw that a look of joy lit up his countenance and in his eyes appeared the glow of a light which was almost otherworldly.
I bowed down to him in reverence and asked for his blessings. Once again, in benediction, he placed his soft, tender hand on the back of my head and muttered a sutra in Sanskrit. As he spoke, I felt that in his words was a breath which breathed out peace to all mankind. And, as I left him, I felt renewed, re-vitalized, as though I had breathed a purer air, and had drunk from a fountain of fresh waters.
Today the news travels to me over the radio of the passing away of this great one. For a moment my eyes are touched with tears, but for a brief moment only. For the message comes back to me, the message he gave me on that memorable evening, the message of the Gita concerning the immortality of the soul. In a voice, tremulous with emotion, he uttered the beautiful lyrical sloka from the Gita: 'Never the Spirit was born and the Spirit shall cease to be never! Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the Spirit for ever. Death hath not touched it, dead though the house of it seems.'
Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji is not dead; he has but passed on to join the Band of the Shining Ones who, behind the veil, are building, stone by stone, the temple of India's Freedom. Generations unborn will salute him as a great builder of the Indian nation, as an apostle of Indian ideals and pioneer who called India to the Great future that awaits her. Homage to him!