“He stopped writing and exclaimed: ‘Is it five?’ I replied with a guilty conscience: ‘No, Bapu, it is one minute to five.’ ‘Well, Kanti,’ he said, ‘what is the use of keeping a wristwatch? You have no value of time…Again, you don’t respect truth as you know it. Would it have cost more energy to say: It is one minute to five, than to say It is five o’clock?’ Thus he went on rebuking me for about fifteen to twenty minutes till it was time for his evening meal.”
The interfaith prayer meeting was a crucial form of outreach through which Gandhi met the public and tried to calm the fissile atmosphere in Delhi. The capital of a newly independent India had been engulfed in savage Hindu-Muslim riots and only a fast by Gandhi had stopped the bloodletting. Upset, he hurried forth, saying, “It irks me if I am late for prayers by even a minute.” Minutes later, he was dead, as was his watch—not at “around five” or “five-ish,” but at 5:12, a chronometrically precise salute to the man who loved time.