Venkitaram Kalyanam, who was Mahatma Gandhi’s personal secretary, died in Chennai on Tuesday. He was 99 years old. Kalyanam was the sole survivor of the Mahatma’s personal team.
Her daughter Malini Kalyanam told The Pioneer that her father suffered from age-related issues but was aware of what was going on around him.
Kalyanam had joined Gandhi’s ashram as a volunteer in 1942 and later became his personal secretary following the death of Mahadev Desai, considered to be the Father of the Nation’s Friday man.
He was standing just behind the Mahatma when Nathuram Godse shot the first on the fateful evening of January 30, 1948. “Death was instantaneous. Gandhiji died seconds after the first bullet that pierced his heart. He did not utter a single word and fell into the hands of his two nieces Manu and Abha, ”Kalyanam told the Pioneer in an interview in 2018.
He said all the talk about Gandhi reciting “Hey Ram” and asking for Ganga Jal was absurd. ” Death was instantaneous. There was not even time to say ‘Oh’ because death occurred the moment the bullet hit his heart, ”Kalyanam said.
It was Kalyanam who drafted and typed important documents like Gandhi’s will as well as Bapu’s latest note to Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the need to dissolve the Indian National Congress.
In the 2018 interview with this correspondent, Kalyanam said Gandhiji was discouraged and disillusioned in the months following independence. “He told me on several occasions that he had no part or a say in many strange things that were going on in this country even after the British left, I am no longer the current play that I believed to be once, ”Gandhiji had said. Kalyanam weeks before he was shot.
“Congress was launched to campaign for Indian independence. He had no other assignments. The party could only mobilize compatriots and win the support of the whole country thanks to the cause for which it fought. Once the country freed itself from colonial rule, the purpose of Congress was over. What Gandhi asked the leaders was to dissolve the organization and set up a Lok Sevak Samithi to work for the welfare of all compatriots, ”Kalyanam told this writer.
Kalyanam had accompanied the Mahatma on his peace mission in Bengal where Muslims were killing following the diktat of HS Suhrawardy, then Prime Minister of Bengal, to liberate the region from the Hindus. “The Father of the Nation consoled and comforted the victims who lost everything in the community holocaust as India celebrated its independence,” said Kalyanam who was with Gandhi in Noakhali at the time of the partition.
Kalyanam lived like a true Gandhian and was particularly concerned with simplicity. cleanliness, gardening, discipline and diligence. He never appointed any assistants to help him and did all the chores on his own, whether it was cooking, cleaning or washing clothes. Until his last breath, he had kept a check issued by the Mahatma in his favor as a debt settlement. Although antique collectors approached Kalyanam with dream prices, he stuck it out and didn’t part with it. During the 2013 agitation launched by Anna Hazare against corruption, Kalyanam was at the forefront of the protest held in Chennai.
He is survived by two daughters Malini and Nalini. Born in 1922, Kalyanam shares his birthday with Independent India.