"Why should I, since you are my timekeepers?" Gandhi retorted.
By this time Gandhi was walking on the grass near the prayer ground. A congregation of about 500 had assembled for the regular evening devotions.
"I am late by ten minutes," Gandhi mused aloud. "I hate being late. I should be here at the stroke of five."
He quickly cleared the five steps up the level of the prayer ground. Most of the people rose; many edged forward; some helped to clear a lane for him; those who were nearest bowed to his feet.
Just then, a man elbowed his way out of the congregation into the lane. He looked as if he wished to prostrate himself in the customary obeisance of the devout. Manu tried to stop him and caught hold of his hand. He pushed her away so that she fell and, planting himself about two feet in front of Gandhi, fired three shots from a small automatic pistol.
The first bullet entered Gandhi's abdomen three and a half inches to the right down the middle of the body and two and a half inches above the navel and came out through the back.
The second bullet penetrated the seventh intercostal space one inch to the right of the midlde line and likewise came out at the back.
The third shot hit one inch above the right nipple and four inches to the right of the middle line and embedded itself in the lung.
One bullet, Dr Bhargava says, probably passed through the heart and another might have cut a big blood vessel.
Devadas, Gandhi's youngest son, touched his father's skin and gently pressed his arm. Gandhi's head lays in Abha's lap. His face wore a peaceful smile. He seemed asleep.
"So serene was the face and so mellow the halo of divine light that surrounded the body that it seemed almost sacrilegious to grieve ..." Devadas wrote later.
Mahatma was a moral man, and a civilization not richly endowed with morality felt still further impoverished when the assassin's bullets ended his life.
'I never saw Gandhi. I do not know his language. I never set foot in his country and yet I feel the same sorrow as if I had lost someone near and dear.' Leon Blum, the French Socialist wrote.
General Douglas MacArthur, supreme Allied military commander said: 'In the evolution of civilization, if it is to survive, all men cannot fail eventually to adopt Gandhi's belief that the process of mass application of force to resolve contentious issues is fundamentally not only wrong but contains within itself the germs of self-destruction.'
"I know no other man of any time or indeed in recent history who so forcefully and convincingly demonstrated the power of spirit over material things," Sir Stafford Cripps wrote.
In New York, a 12-year-old girl had gone into the kitchen for breakfast. The radio was on and it brought the news of the shooting of Gandhi. There, in the kitchen, the girl, the maid and the gardener held a prayer meeting and prayed and wept.
The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer; Harper Collins Publishers 1997