Chapter  7, Pt 4 of 4


He didn’t say any more, he seemed to have too much on his mind. He was writing down something, giving instructions to Mary now and again, nibbling a biscuit, stirring and sipping his tea at the same time. Mrs Green brought us a cup of tea each from the small kitchenette attached to that room. We refreshed ourselves with that and chatted to the ladies for a while.

“You know Krishna almost lives on those cups of tea and biscuits,” Miss Cresswell told me after we left the offices and were walking in The Strand once more.

“How on earth does he manage to keep healthy on that meagre diet,” I said. “Also I do think those ladies are heroines to sit and work in that office for hours on end.”

“They arc not the only ones,” Alice blurted out, “There are many more men and women who come in, at odd hours, to give a helping hand in the work. I myself have done that quite often. You see, we are ready to fight and work for any worthy cause, and at this moment we feel that India and its leaders need all the sympathy and help we can give them. Of course, there is no doubt that we are greatly inspired by Krishna Menon. He is the driving force behind all our activities. But you never hear him praise anybody openly. If he feels pleased about something you have done, he might give a twist to your ear or pat you on the shoulder. That is all the pay and praise we get from him. Yet in spite of that we are only too willing to work for him. He is so nice. And I do think he is handsome.”

“He would be flattered to hear that,” I said.

I became a member of the India League. I attended its meetings and gatherings whenever I could. If these fair-minded British people were trying to get together and press on for India’s Independence, then was it not an urgent duty of us Indians in this country to join hands with them and carry the work much further? I felt that it was.

The League’s gatherings, on which Mr Sorenson the MP. often presided, and Miss Agatha Harrison seldom failed to attend, were always peaceful. Gandhi’s principles were strictly observed. The extracts from his speeches were often read out to us. The following paragraphs impressed me a great deal.

“Friendship for Britain is greater than ever,” he said. “I would not like to see the Japanese in place of the British in India. I would like people not to harbour hatred for the British. We should be completely non-violent in our struggle. There is no hatred in my heart for the British. In fact, I am a greater friend of the British now than I ever was, the reason for this is that at this moment they are in distress. There is one principle in the fight, which you must adopt; never believe, as I have never believed, that the British are going to fail. I do not consider them to be a nation of cowards. I know, that before they accept defeat, every soul in Britain will be sacrificed.”

So most of our speakers from the India League platform stressed the need of hating only the Imperialist form of government, and not the Britishers.

Mr Krishna Menon had a habit of encouraging people to go on the platform and say a few words. He often sprung surprises on the members by enlisting their names among the speakers without their knowledge. He did that to me once.

A friend of ours from London came to visit us one Saturday and broke the news to me that my name was on the list of speakers with Mr Sorenson and others, for the next India League gathering; that the posters making the announcement were all over London. I picked up the telephone and had a word with Krishna.

“What is this I hear,” I said, “you know I have no experience of public speaking.”

“But you know how to express yourself, Mrs Chowdhary. You will be all right. Just say a few words in Hindustani, that is all.”

Now, how could you contradict a forceful and yet sincere friend like him?

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