While the country is celebrating its 70th Independence Day on Monday, J.
While the country is celebrating its 70th Independence Day on Monday, J. Hallie Gowder (88), a Badaga community man and the lone surviving freedom fighter in the Nilgiris, recalled some events during the Independence struggle and his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi.
Advancing age and fading memory may have impacted his health, but Mr Gowder’s spirit is yet strong. Hailing from Nanjanadu, he cherishes memories of the freedom struggle and how people of the pre-independence era suffered slavery and humiliation at the hands of British rulers.
Mr Gowder said that his education was limited to the primary school level, but somehow he learnt Hindi well. He said that he spent nearly four weeks in a prison in Bengaluru during the freedom struggle.
He added that he still remembers celebrating the first Independence Day with puja and prayers in Nanjanadu hamlet. On Mahatma Gandhi he said, “I was a child when the Mahatma visited Ooty in the early 1930’s and I still remember waving to him,” Mr Gowder said.
During that occasion, Kakka Gowder from nearby Kuruthukuli village made a donation of Rs 100 to the Mahatma. When I was around 16 years, I had a chance to meet the Mahatma at Chennai; I asked him to give me tips on how to draft strong yarn from the hand spinning wheel, as I was unsuccessful in good drafting of yarn. The Mahatma told me to rotate the wheel three times to get good yarn and not rotate it more than 3 time in a phase,” he added.
Mr Gowder said that though the country has made tremendous progress in all spheres, corruption has crept in a big way. When asked what is his advice to the present and upcoming generations, he said, “be honest, simple, self-disciplined and patriotic. Always be proud to be an Indian and work for the development of the country,“ he added.