Fr Alberty Tirkey of Harmutty (Province of Dimapur) dropped in with Solomon. He was a good friend of Prembhai / Henry Gaikwad and told us many things about him and his untimely death. It seems that the Bishop had assigned the SVDs to Prembhai's ashram, and things had become difficult for Prembhai. He had his own spontaneous, easy-going way of running the ashram which after all he had founded and built up from scratch. Anyone was free to come at anytime, find a place to stay, get a meal. All that had begun changing. Prembhai had been very distressed. This probably was one of the causes of his untimely death.
After his death, the diocese wanted him to be buried in Sri Lanka itself, but there was such an uproar from the people that they changed their minds and brought his body back to Arunachal Pradesh. The youth got together and organized the funeral; people contributed so much money that they were able to feed the large crowds who came to the funeral.
Prembhai is now buried in his ashram; they have built a small replica of the house where he used to stay, as a sort of museum. He had little or nothing: some tribal waistcoats, the wooden pillow, a bag.... He was unique in his ability to just walk into a village, and live with what the people would give him. I asked Tirkey whether it was true he had baptized more than 25,000 people. He said yes. Before building his ashram, in the days when it was difficult to enter Arunachal, Prembhai used to live with the Salesians at Harmutty. He had been given a small room there. He would return there from time to time, relax a little, wash his clothes, and then go off again.
Prembhai was from Pune, or at least his family is now in Pune. His life is a wonderful inspiration for all, but I was thinking most especially of our Catholics of Nagar. Henry Gaikwad is one of our very own, the Apostle of Arunachal, but hailing from amchi Maharashtra.