Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Delhi on Tuesday, 9 Septemper 1947, from Calcutta. He was staying in Birla House at Albuquerque Road (now renamed Thees January Marg - 30th January Road).
A large carpeted room with an attached toilet was placed at his disposal for use by his entourage. This was an all-purpose room in the ground floor of the huge mansion.
A thick cotton mattress and a huge pillow to recline, with a desk in front, were placed in one corner of the room. At the other end was a table and chair piled with correspondence.
Gandhiji usually spent the whole day here attending to his correspondence, talking to people, spinning his charkha and taking his midday siesta. There was also a balcony, fully enclosed with glass doors, adjoining the room where he would sleep at nights on the carpeted floor, along with the rest of us.
Friday, 30 January 1948, dawned like any other day.
We got up as usual for our prayers at 3.30. We went about our daily routine with no thought about what the day had in store for us. Gandhiji roused his grand niece Abha to get up.
After his ablutions, Gandhiji came out of the toilet and squatted on the mattress. We sat before him.
Gandhiji's day always commenced with prayer. He described prayer as the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.
His prayers included recitations from the scriptures of all religions, particularly Hindusim and Islam, in order to stress the essential unity of all religions.
He closed his eyes in meditation. Abha was still asleep. He had noticed her absence.
Prayer was held without Abha's participation. Immediately after the prayer Manu went to the kitchen to fetch Gandhiji's morning beverage - a glass of hot water mixed with a tablespoonful of honey and lime.
When she handed him the marble tumbler of nectar, Gandhiji told her in Gujarati, "It appears my influence, even among my close companions, is waning. Prayer is like a broomstick meant to cleanse one's soul. Abha`s failure to participate in the prayer pains me. You are aware of the importance I attach to prayer. If you have the courage, you may, on my behalf convey my displeasure to her. If she is not willing to participate in the prayer she should take leave of me. This will be in our joint interest!"
Meanwhile, Abha got up and started attending to her work. Gandhiji, did not, for reasons known to him, confront her directly.
I continued to sit by his side to receive my instructions for the day. He wanted me to make arrangements for his visit to Sevagram for ten days from February 2.
I placed before him the typed draft of the new constitution for the Indian National Congress he had dictated to me the previous day, suggesting its disbandment and reconstitution as a new body with greater emphasis on social service and rural uplift. He was not inclined to go through it.
He summoned my superior Pyarelalji and handed the draft to him with instructions to peruse it carefully and make any suggestions or corrections that he may consider necessary.
Image: Gandhiji shares a lighter moment with visitors. V Kalyanam is seen to the right of the Mahatma.