Kottayam: Saraswathiamma, Pankajakshiamma and Sharadabhai cherish one collective, yet rare memory. All three of them were witness to Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Kumaranalloor in Kottayam. That was 83 years ago.
"We were on our way to the school when we heard of Gandhiji coming and we rushed here,” Saraswathiamma recounted.
Recollecting her experience, Sharadabhai said, "I sat on my father's shoulders and garlanded Gandhiji. He then greeted us with folded hands and patted my cheeks."
The three nonagenarians sat by the banyan tree at Kumaranalloor on Thursday and talked about the Mahatma’s visit. All three of them are neighbours too. Saraswathiamma and K Pankajakshiamma, both aged 94, were also classmates. Sharadabhai, 90, is their friend too.
Gandhiji visited the Kumaranalloor temple on January 19, 1937.
“The Mahatma was welcomed with a thalapoli (a ceremonial procession). I was standing in the front," Pankajakshiamma said.
"I sang ‘Bharata Dheeran Mahitha Prathapan…’. Gandhiji blessed me. Also, gave me a small silver pot full of coins," reminiscences Pankakshiamma, who was a teacher at the Kumaranalloor school.
"I went with my father C N Thuppan Namboodiri to meet Gandhiji. I also entered the temple with Gandhiji," Sharadabhai added.
Gandhiji’s prayer meet in Delhi
Saraswathiamma's husband Kuttan Pillai was an official with the Royal Air Force.
After her marriage, Saraswathiamma left for Delhi. Gandhiji's prayer meet used to be held in a place right next to her house in Delhi. She used to frequently attend the prayers.
"Once I took my infant son also with me. When he cried, Gandhiji walked up to us and patted his cheek," Saraswathiamma said.
Saraswathiamma was in Delhi when Gandhiji was shot dead. She remembers to this day the sight of people running along the streets in tears.
After sharing their memories, the three friends took leave but with a promise to meet for the Karthika festival.