A: Although I was far away from home, I was not really cut off from the life and thought of our people. We were operating a strange kind of a news agency—something like a Bush Wireless in the jail. News filtered through many channels. Once I received a letter from a prisoner in the Punjab. He had written on the back of a ticket of a convict who delivered it safely to me. I used to pick up old newspapers from the water closets of the British officers and old soiled wrapping papers. From these, I learnt a lot about what was happening in the world outside. Many prisoners lost their privileges of working outside the jail for bringing in pieces of newspapers. But the news agency worked continuously because of these daring messengers who knew the art of hoodwinking the jail warders and guards. Also, a system was devised by which messages were transmitted by political prisoners through peculiar sounds of the chain. My thoughts in the Andamans naturally turned to the revolutionary struggle that was being waged in India and by Indians abroad. I was given a very hard job in the Cellular Jail. I was yoked to an oil-mill like a bullock. But I knew that each drop of oil that fell in the bucket would set aflame the hearts of all revolutionaries. It was this thought that helped and inspired me in the dark, difficult, agonizing solitary life in the cellular jail.
You have asked me, how my mind functioned in jail? Well, it required terrific willpower, grim determination and a passionate devotion to the cause to be able to face the deadly and maddening solitude of a solitary cell in Devil’s Island. When I was given the work of chopping the barks of coconuts with a wooden mallet, my hands bled and swelled. But I endured. When I was yoked to the oil-mill—the most horrible, painful and demoralizing job given to me—I did not complain. I suffered in silence. The idea of committing suicide came once. But reason prevailed. For I wanted to die a hero in freedom’s battle and not by committing suicide. So, you see, how the mind functioned during the grim battle, within and without.
More Questions from the interview :
Q: Do you think that the ‘1857 Mutiny’ was India’s first organized revolt against the British for the freedom of the country as a whole? Some historians say that the ‘1857 Revolt’ was organized by half a dozen disgruntled but daring leaders who banded together for the maintenance of their respective privileges and status. What do you think ?