Meeting with A Christian Missionary
from Jail Chityan
- Autobiography of Bhai Randhir
now leave aside the
story of my life in Nagpur Jail. If I remember any incident later
on, it can be included in the second edition. But there is one incident
worth mentioning before I close.
It was a completely dark cell in which I had
to spend day and night in ajapa jap (sempiternal contemplation of
the divine Name), in the wonderful celestial music of which I remained
absorbed most of the time. I could feel and see with my inner eyes
the close presence of my Guru and God. The ever refreshing bliss
of His presence and revelations, spread from the fragrant naval-seat
of inner consciousness, to the lotus of the heart and higher still
to the super-conscious states where the music of his divine Name
became a light and vision of an eternal splendour. The whole of
my inner being was ablaze with His Light and that Light spread and
lighted the whole space of my inner and outer being. "just
as the rays of the sun pervade all, so the Light of God can be seen
blended with everything." This is how I felt and experienced.
The Light of God that can be visibly seen is in essence really spread
like the light of the sun. My inner vision felt blessed and exalted
by the bliss of the vision in which I saw the Beloved so near and
in a form so clear.
One day I was standing close to the bars of
my cell, when my mind soared and fell into a state of samadhi of
a blissful state. I do not know how long I stood there, but I kept
standing even when the hot sun blazed and its burning light fell
on my body from the courtyard. Even then I stood there unconscious
of the heat. I stood in this condition till some one shook by my
shoulder and my eyes that were closed in deep concentration of nectar-laved
vision suddenly opened. I opened my eyes and for a moment saw nothing
around me. Then from outside the bars I heard a voice saying: "Excuse
me, I had to disturb you. For over fifteen minutes we have been
standing here in the cell yard. A Christian Missionary who has just
come from England has been waiting here for some time along with
the prison officials. The Padre Sahib has specially come to meet
I saw the Christian missionary standing in the
outer corridor under the shade of the wall, and addressing him said
"Come inside, why do you keep standing
at such a distance?" "Are you All right?"
questioned the Christian missionary. "Why
not come closer and ask me how I am? Why keep standing at such a
distance?" said I.
Actually the inner corridor was blazing under
the hot sun, while he was standing in the shade of the walls, in
the outer corridor. He did not find courage to come and stand in
the burning sun. The superintendent realised his difficulty. He
opened the lock of my cell and took me out close to him in the shade.
I laughed heartily and said to the missionary: "How is that
you could not endure the heat of the sun which we have been enduring
for eight years. He looked at my face and then addressing the officials
and other visitors he said: "His face is fragrant and flourishing.
I have seen innumerable political prisoners, but his face is unique."
Then addressing me he asked. "Are you happy? Are you well?"
"The Lord is gracious," I said. The superintendent told
him that I understood English quite well, but I said I preferred
to speak in my mother tongue, Punjabi. He sometimes spoke in English
and sometimes in Hindustani, but I gave replies in Punjabi, which
For how long have you been kept in this dark cell?
I: Ever since
I was brought to Nagpur Jail I have been kept mostly in this cell.
I might have spent about five or six months in solitary confinement
in other cells.
How many years of imprisonment have you spent in this Jail?
I: My history
ticket will tell you that.
(after examining the history ticket, which the Superintendent
gave him). So you came here towards the end of the year 1922. You
have been kept here for nearly eight years. For how many hours in
the daytime are you kept in this dark cell?
I: I am made to
spend the whole day and night in this cell.
For how many hours long are you taken for a walk? For how long are
you allowed to take exercise?
I: Not for a single
hour? All that I can do is to come out of the cell to the courtyard
attached to it where I can cook and eat my food, or take bath or
ease nature. Immediately after that I am again locked in the cell.
(Looking angrily at prison officials) Why is he treated like that?
Jailer: The Punjab
Government has given us strict orders not to allow him to meet his
comrades or any other prisoner. We have orders to keep him apart
from everyone. Even prison officials dare not meet him alone. We
have no objection to taking him outside, but we have strict orders
from above not to do so.
(addressing me) Do you get any newspaper for reading?
I: Never, although
the Inspector General of prisons has permitted it.
(addressing the prison officials) When the Inspector General
has given permission why do they not get the newspaper?
is some confidential reason for it.
(addressing me) Do they give you some books to read?
I: No, never;
they have even confiscated our prayer books which belonged to us.
My history ticket will show that.
Do you sleep in the corridor or in the cell at night?
please ask them.
Superintendent and others:
(with one voice) No political or other prisoner is allowed
to sleep in the corridor.
Do you stay alone in this cell?
I: No, never.
I am never alone even for a single minute.
Superintendent and Jailer:
(excited) What he has stated is a lie. He is alone in the cell.
There is no one else.
I: Both of them
are telling a lie. I am never alone in the cell, nor have I ever
been alone in the cell for a single day.
(addressing them.) Well Sirs, what is the meaning of this. Why do
you insist on saying that he stays alone when he says he is never
Sir, according to prison rules we cannot keep more than one prisoner
in one cell. We have strict orders never to lodge two prisoners
in one cell. We can show you the Jail regulations. We are telling
the truth and he is making a false statement.
I am telling the truth. They are wrong. We, Sikhs of the Guru, never
tell a lie.
How can this enigma be solved? Responsible prison officers are making
a statement which cannot be called false, but my conscience tells
me that this Sikh is also telling the truth. A prisoner in his position
who is not given any books, nor given any newspapers, nor is allowed
to talk to anyone, and is lodged in this dark cell day and night,
cannot survive and live with such a beaming face as his. Look at
his face. How glowing and refreshing it is. There is not a trace
of gloom on his face, but it is red with glowing radiance. After
being locked up day and night for so many years, I cannot imagine
such beaming radiance and fragrance on any human face. So I cannot
believe that he is making a false statement. After all how can we
solve this enigma. (After a silence of a few minutes, addressing
me) I cannot dub the statement of the responsible prison officials
to be false. I also cannot believe that you are making a wrong statement.
Please solve this mystery. If you are not staying alone then who
lives with you all the time.
On hearing this my mind soared high and in a
voice filled with deep mystic fervour, and under a musical inspiration
suddenly leaping from the unknown, I sang the following divine song
in answer to the question: "The
Guru is with me ever and ever; Contemplating Him I live in His presence:
I contemplate ever,
the Name of God within my heart,
All comrades and companions are thereby saved;
The Lord (the Guru) is with me ever and ever;
Contemplating Him I live in His presence. (refrain)
Their Will is ever sweet to me, Lord,
Nanak seeks only the Word of God,
Guru Arjan: Rag Asa.
Everyone was thrilled by the Song. Like statues
all stood motionless and felt the magnetic influence of the divine
song. The refrain became the burthen of the song. For many minutes
the whole atmosphere was charged with the spiritual influence of
the song. Everyone stood silently with fixed attention. No one spoke,
no one moved. Every one felt the bliss of the song. The Christian
Missionary who understood every word of it was the first to speak
and break silence.
Christian Missionary: The mystery
has been well solved indeed. So your Guru is ever with you. So you
were indeed telling the truth, and in a way, the prison official
were also telling the truth. But I wish to test your statement a
little more. (addressing the prison officials) Who stays in the
adjoining cells? Please call them.
Jailer: Well Sir,
in the day time they remain empty. At night different prisoners
are lodged in these cells.
Why do you lock them up at night? Who are locked up here? Some special
prisoners or you pick them at random and lock them up here.
Jailer: No Sir,
those prisoners who have been ordered by the Magistrate to be kept
in solitary confinement alone are kept locked up day and night in
What is the maximum period for which the prisoner can be kept in
solitary confinement? Could you quote the regulation?
Jailer: For a
month at the most.
Is there any prisoner who is kept in this cell only at night but
is allowed to move about outside in the daytime?
Jailer: No there
is no such prisoner, Sir.
But you say two prisoners are always kept locked up at night in
the adjoining cells. Why is that punishment given to them?
Jailer: Well Sir,
they are not kept here because they are punished for something but
according to prison rules we cannot keep these cells vacant; so
we ask other prisoners to spend one night in them by turn. So one
prisoner is kept by turn in each of these two cells.
Why do you change the prisoner every night? Why can you not keep
the same prisoner for some nights in the cell?
Jailer: We cannot
compel any prisoner to be locked up in this cell every night. For
one night or so they gladly come and volunteer to be locked up 'in
I: No one is gladly
willing to spend a night in these dark cells. Would it not be better
to ask those who have already spent a night here, whether they would
be willing to spend a night in these cells again.
The Christian Missionary then examined the logbook
and found that no prisoner had stayed in those cells more than one
night. He then ordered five or six of those prisoners to be brought
who had brought who had spent the night in the cells during the
preceding week. He asked everyone of those prisoners how they feel
during the night in that dark cell and why do they not volunteer
to stay again for another night in it?Everyone with one voice said:
"Sir, God save us from this dungeon.
Even to pass one night has been a great torture. The terrible loneliness
and gloom is unbearable."
After inquiring everything about their experience
in those dark cells from the prisoners, the Christian missionary
made up his mind to spend one night in one of those cells as a matter
of experiment. So he expressed his strong wish to spend one night
in the cell.
Superintendent and others:
Sir, how can we do that without the orders of the government?
I would be getting locked up in one of these cells for a night voluntarily
and gladly for the sake of experiencing how a man feels.
When the prison officials found him adamant
in his determination to carry out the experiment they agreed to
lock him up in the daytime but not in the night, and that for a
few hours only. The Christian missionary agreed to be locked up
for at least three hours. The prison officials were, however, seriously
upset. "Why do you worry?"
I said to them, "the Padre Sahib
will not be able to stay in the cell for more than one hour. Let
him experiment. What do you lose by it." "Of course, Of
course," said the Christian Missionary, "I
just want to experience it myself, how one feels."
So the Christian Missionary was ready to be
locked in the dark cell. I humorously said to him, "How fine
it would have been if you put on the dress of the prisoners and
then got into it. But the prison officials will not permit you to
do so." So it was soon decided that the Padre Sahib would be
locked in the third cell, adjoining mine, and he would be kept in
at least for three hours. Just as he was about to enter the cell,
I whispered into his ear: Well Sir, there is a chain dangling in
the cell. It is connected with a bell outside. If you find any difficulty
in staying long, please pull that chain. The Warder Incharge would
at once open the door." He thanked me for this information
and entered the cell where he was locked up. I was also locked up
in my cell. All the prison officials, the warders and the sentries
went away. The Warder Incharge of the Octagen went to his office.
Within an hour the bell of the Padre Sahibs
cell began to ring as loudly as a fire alarm. The Octagen-Incharge
warder came running. The Christian Missionary was shouting from
inside: "Open the door quickly,
take me out quickly, I am dying." The door was opened. The
Christian Missionary came out and after breathing open air for some
time he said: "Take that Sikh of Guru Nanak out of the cell
and bring him here."
I was taken out and brought before the Christian
Missionary, who placed his hands on my shoulders and said repeatedly:
"Well, noble Sikh, your Master,
Guru Nanak is indeed ever with you, but my Master Lord Jesus does
not abide with me as your Guru Nanak does. I am now convinced that
your Lord, Guru Nanak must be visibly living with you. Please repeat
that song you sang." I sang that song under renewed
inspiration, and while I sang my face flushed with the rapturous
joy of its inner experience. After hearing it the Christian Missionary
said: "I now realise the true significance
of the words of this song. It is quite true that your Guru resides
in your heart and soul, nay in your whole inner being, and you never
feel lonely. I have seen it from experience that apart from other
difficulties, the gloomy torture of loneliness is the greatest difficulty
to be encountered. Oppressing loneliness was the only difficulty
I encountered. Every moment I felt the desolateness and dreariness
gnawing at my heart. Blessed art thou O noble Sikh of the Guru,
who spent years in this dungeon all alone. Nay, I make a mistake
again, not alone but with the unusual spiritual powers you have
acquired from your Guru, you appear to see the blazing Light of
the Guru ever burning in your heart. You must be in constant communion
with your great Guru, and you must be experiencing His nearness
and discoursing with him every moment. That is why you neither feel
loneliness, nor are you ever upset, nor is there any evil effect
on your body. I was almost dying from dreary and dark loneliness.
Great and glorious are you O noble Sikh and great and glorious is
your Guru". After saying this he went away along with
When he reached the prison gate he asked for
the prison log book and wrote three pages of his impressions of
the prison. The sympathetic officers who read it reported to us
that he gave a vivid portrayal of what was happening in the prison.
He particularly mentioned that the cruelty perpetuated and the tortures
inflicted on me were unprecedented. He wrote many things in my favour.
A few sympathisers even promised to procure. a copy of his report,
but they did not get an opportunity to do so.
After recording his complaint in the log book,
he went straight to the Governor of Central Province and met him
about this matter. I do not know what he said to the Governor but
after three days I was suddenly taken to an open barrack where there
was a hand-pump close by and a large open-air courtyard. There was
sufficient ground to take a walk and a mosquito net was also given
to me. The whole barrack was at my disposal. I was also informed
that my friend Bhai Kartar Singh would be allowed to stay near me
soon enough. But even before this happened the Punjab Government
sent a telegram to send me to Punjab immediately. As soon as the
telegram reached the office I began to receive congratulations and
the date for my departure was fixed. The Superintendent and the
Jailer informed me that it was not mere transfer order but a step
to release me soon. I was assured that I would be released as soon
as I reached Punjab. They also informed me that they would be sending
one or two sepoys with me and I would travel without being handcuffed.
I requested them to send Bhai Kartar Singh to me so that before
I left we could stay together. The Superintendent promised but the
Jailer did not agree. However said, "If
you were not to leave we would have certainly brought you together".
The Jailer feared that Bhai Kartar Singh might inform me of the
tortures inflicted on him secretly, and the matter may go out to
the public when I was released. But the Superintendent took courage
to permit us to be together at least for a day or two. So we were
allowed to meet for a day. Living in the same prison we met there
for the first time after three years or so. We embraced each other,
told each other what we had experienced and how we had suffered.
Many secret feelings and thoughts were exchanged. After meeting
for the whole day we were again separated at night.
All the books that were confiscated were returned.
All the things that were taken from my personal possession on the
day I was arrested were returned. These things included my clothes,
a rosary, a kirpan, a chakar, and iron bangles. A very precious
Kirpan which I generally wore with strap was not returned. God alone
knows where it was lost. They searched for it but could not get
it. They were however prepared to pay for it, when they lost all
hope of finding it. "I told them
that the kirpan was, priceless. It was not possible for them to
pay the price. If I had demanded any amount they would have paid
it, but I did not feel like taking any money for the kirpan, which
for me was a religious symbol. What could I get from some money?