“These musings gave me a shock. In the whirring noise of the rolling steamer, in those offals around me, in the obscene chatter of the lunatics thereby, and in the fetid and oppressive atmosphere of the place, I felt my life choking within me.
I had often the fear and the feeling that this philosophic reverie may be the first intimation of lunacy creeping over my being and under it things visible may be rapidly melting away into illusion. I felt the weakness of my shattered nerves at the time as I had never felt them during the ten years of my life in prison.
The weak nerves were due to that life, no doubt, but I felt it overwhelmingly in the steamer and at that moment as I had never experienced them before. I appealed and protested to the officers on board the steamer to remove us from that place. There was a part of the steamer occupied by other Indian passengers bound for India, and they also interceded on our behalf. Their efforts and chiefly the persuasion of one who shall remain unnamed secured for both of us seats in the other half of the compartment, and somewhat detached from the space allotted to the lunatics.
But there was no breeze on that side.
There were other prisoners carried by the same steamer to India and among them were some consumptive, dacoits and robbers. These convicts were accommodated on the deck that they might get fresh air to breathe. My brother, who was more sick than any-one of them, had to rot in the cage on the lower deck - the cellar of the ship as it were - and in the cage I have already described. He was consumptive, his body was burning with fever, and I suffered from hard breathing due to chronic bronchitis, and we two were placed in that stuffy atmosphere.
Again, I appealed for fresh air; again I wrote to them that we needed very badly some fresh air to breathe in. From the following day a sort of ventilator was improvised to let down fresh air from the deck above two times during the day. A heavy gunny bag was suspended from the top downwards open at both ends from which air passed downwards from the deck above. Later on we were taken on the deck, under guard, for half-an-hour every day to sit there and inhale fresh air. The passengers on the deck and officers, at times, came in the cellar below to have a talk with us on the sly. The Indians among them were full of sympathy for us; but even some Europeans treated us with respect. One educated Anglo-Indian gave me a living proof of it by presenting me a copy of my favourite book, “Thomas a Kempis's ‘Imitation of Christ”’ which he asked me to cherish as a keepsake from him. They sent us by private arrangement good food to eat. I sent back out of it soda-water bottles, ice, and sweetmeat as not wanted by me. Some of them would force us to accept gifts in money which we refused with thanks. I told them that we were sure to be back in prison in India where we had no use for money. I distributed the sweet-meats among our fellow- passenger - the lunatics on board.
At night my brother would narrate to me the story of his prison- life. I left India for England, in 1906. And from that date till fourteen years after, we were not in one room for a single day or night, so that we could talk together and exchange our thoughts. He told me how the movement of Abhinav Bharat had spread in the country after I had left for England, the names of members enrolled in it, how he happened to be arrested, how he was persecuted by the police to force from him the information necessary to round up all of them, how he breathed not a word about them and their whereabouts, how, at last, he had fainted under the torture, so on and so forth. They tried to get out from him information about conspiracies in Maharashtra and Bengal, but they failed. I heard that thrilling narrative with rapt attention. While on that steamer, I constantly remembered the friends I had left behind in the Andamans! And the thought brought home to me the void in my life that their separation had made.I often had the yearning that I should go back to the Andamans and meet them! Oh, for the touch of a vanished hand!
On the fifth day as I was seated on the deck for half an-hour’s daily draught of fresh air, I saw a fortified wall right in front of me. A fellow-passenger told me that we were almost in India and the fortified wall was its boundary. I startled. The fortress of India. The embankment, sighing for which I had kept my body and soul together during all the hard years I had passed, in the Andamans; was right in front of me and I was soon to be landed on it!
This was Mother India whom I was seeing again with my eyes. Her holy feet I was touching with my head. In this very life, I was seeing and touching them. I turned round to my brother and ejaculated, “Dear brother, behold our dear Bharat once again! Behold her feet washed by the blue waters of the sea around”
We both got up from our seats full of adoration and worship We folded our hands with reverence and devotion. We felt a thrill passing through us, and we uttered the following prayer:
‘Victory to the Goddess of Freedom,
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