It is a known fact that Mahatma Gandhi had visited Pondicherry on 17 February 1934. But not many people know that his eldest son Harilal Gandhi had visited Pondicherry either during January or the early part of February 1934 and stayed for a brief period in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Chandulal Bhagubhai Dalal, in his biography of Harilal Gandhi (‘Harilal Gandhi: A Life’) writes: ‘There [at the Ashram], he begged for money. He got some money as well. It is possible that some Gujarati inmate might have given him some money. He also drank alcohol there. Perhaps for this reason he was driven out of the Ashram.’
Today, we take the opportunity to post three letters written by Harilal Gandhi to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The first letter, written originally in Gujarati, is undated and it appears that it was written subsequent to his banishment from the Ashram. His address is marked as “The Monk, Pondicherry”. In the postscript, he mentions a dream of his in which he was called to the Sabarmati Ashram. The second and third letters were written originally in English.
With warm regards,
My Revered Mother,
I know that you would like me to beg pardon. You know that I have sought forgiveness and as penance I gave a promise to Sri Aurobindo, a promise that I give unto you as well, that I shall not commit the same mistake ever again. I shall unconditionally live by this promise all my life.
5 May 1934
My Revered Mother,
Gandhiji has asked me to go toPondicherry. I cannot come now. But my heart is there. When will I fall at your feet? This is just to pray for your blessings. Please give my love to Kantilal. My obeisance to Shri Arbindo [sic].
Kindly give me a word of advise. I am awaiting it at the above address.
Harilal Mohandas Gandhi
Excuse p.s. : I call out to thee, Mother, Mother. Would the Mother still not respond? What can be done about it?
27 February ‘46
Revered Shrijut Arbindo Ghose,
About a fortnight back I addressed a letter to Mother. I expected an acknowledgement at least, for I know how she took care of me by sending Mr. Purani to my hotel. I was in Pondicherry when my father Gandhiji had visited Pondicherry in about 1935. Kashibhai Patel’s daughters were then there. Is Mother there or not is what I am worried about. Would you permit us—Mr. Nanjappa, his wife and myself to go there, stay in the Ashram for a few days to begin with. If we have this permission, we will state our desires further.
With all reverence to yourself
I remain ever in spirit at your feet
Harilal M. Gandhi.
Harilal M. Gandhi
c/o Sri A. Nanjappa
417 Middle School Rd.