A glory has departed and the sun that warmed and brightened our lives has set and we shiver in the cold and dark. Yet he would not have us feel this way after all the glory that we saw, for all these years that man with divine fire changed us also, and, such as we are, we have been moulded by him during these years and out of that divine fire many of us also took a small spark which strengthened and made us work to some extent on the lines that he fashioned; and so if we praise him our words seem rather small and if we praise him to some extent we praise ourselves.
Great men and eminent men have monuments in bronze and marble set up for them, but this man of divine fire managed in his lifetime to become enmeshed in millions and millions of hearts so that all of us have become somewhat of the stuff that he was made of, though to an infinitely lesser degree. He spread out over India, not in palaces only or in select places or in assemblies, but in very hamlet and hut of the lowly and of those who suffer. He lives in the hearts of millions and he will live for immemorial ages.
What then can we say about him except to feel humble on this occasion? To praise him we are not worthy, to praise him whom we could not follow adequately or sufficiently. It is almost doing him an injustice just to pass him by with words when he demanded work and labour and sacrifice from us in large measure. He made this country during the last thirty years or more attain to heights of sacrifice which in that particular domain have never been equalled elsewhere. He succeeded in that, yet ultimately things happened which, no doubt, made him suffer tremendously, though his tender face never lost its smile and he never spoke a harsh word to anyone. Yet he must have suffered, suffered for the failing of this generation whom he had trained, suffered because we went away from the path that he had shown us, and ultimately the hand of a child of his – for he, after all, is as much a child of his as any other Indian – the hand of that child of his struck him down.
Long ages afterward history will judge of this period that we have passed through. It will judge of the successes and failures. We are too near to be proper judges of and understand what has happened and what has not happened. All we know is that there was glory and that it is no more. All we know is that for the moment there is darkness: not so dark, certainly, because when we look into our hearts we still find the living flame which he lighted there, and if those living flames exist there will not be darkness in this land and we shall be able with out effort, praying with him and following his path, to illumine this land again, small as we are, but still with the fire that he instilled into us.
He was perhaps the greatest symbol of the India of the past, and, may I say, of the India of the future, that we could have. We stand in this perilous age of the present between that past and the future to be, and we face all manner of perils, and the greatest peril is sometimes a lack of faith that comes to us, the sinking of the heart and of the spirit that comes to us when we see ideals go overboard, when we see the great things that we talked about somehow pass into empty words and life taking a different course. Yet I do believe that perhaps this period will pass soon enough.
He has gone, and all over India there is a feeling of having been left desolate and forlorn. All of us sense that feeling and I do not know when we shall be able to get rid of it. And yet, together with that feeling, there is also a feeling of proud thanksgiving that it has been given to us of this generation to be associated with this mighty person.
In the ages to come, centuries and maybe millenniums after us, people will think of this generation when this man of God trod the earth and will think of us who, however small, could also follow his path and probably tread on that holy ground where his feet had been. Let us be worthy of him, let us always be so.
2 February 1948