Reflections To Gandhiji
A Retort Courteous
Mr A. M. Kumaraswamy
I am seventy now, Mahatmaji
During his visit to the Sabarmati Ashram in January 1930 the Poet Rabindranath Tagore remarked to Gandhiji: "I am seventy now, Mahatmaji, and so am considerable older than you". "But", said Gandhiji, with a hearty smile, "When an old man of 60 cannot dance a young poet of 70 can dance". "That is true", said the Poet, and added, "You are getting ready for another arrest cure. I wish they give me one." "But", said Gandhiji, "You don't behave yourself", and there was a peel of laugher among the inmates of the Ashram who were listening to the repertories of these two greatest sons of India.
Gandhi the Swimmer
The all India Christian Conference Leaders
"The all India Christian Conference Leaders or an Associated Body once met in the Ashram at Sabarmati for their committees discussions. We lived the simple ashram life and of course practised strict vegetarianism in recognition of the spirit of the place. But this did not set any bar on free discussions on Vegetarianism, on Pacificism, on Imperialism, on Commercial Morality, Caste, Metempsychosis and so on. One day, quite accidentally, Mahatma Gandhi who like all Hindus everywhere made no distinction between life and soul disappointed some Christian thinkers by the apparent shallowness of his arguments for ahimsa in the extreme form. C. F. Andrews, the Dinabandu, was present and though in practice he was a vegetarian within the borders of India, i.e. out of respect of respect for Indian sentiment - yet as a Christian priest he put up a reasonable defence for meat eating, while condemning needless cruelty and the causing of pain. Andrews argued that Nature is replete with evidence that the higher animal devours the lower, and therefore a chicken might be killed for the health and growth of a human being. With a twinkle in his eye and with a fascinating smile, Mahatmaji retorted, "Charlie, you are a Christian and I respect you for being a true disciple of your great master. Your doctrine of the cross fascinates me, for it proclaims the fact that Christ because he was divine, sacrificed his life to save us humble men. This I can understand, i. e. that the higher life willingly and and voluntarily offered itself in sacrifice in order to save the lower life. Your argument that the lower life must be sacrificed to help the higher life is something I cannot understand and I am sure it does not square with your Christian thesis on redemption."
Gandhiji was intensely popular with children. They flocked to him and made friends with him most readily. In England also boys sang "he is a jolly good fellow" whenever they saw Uncle Gandhi.In the year 1926 at the age of 57 Gandhiji swam a distance of 150 yards in Sabarmati simply to pleass a few young boys who wanted him to do so.
Shri Prabhudas Gandhi
Seven months with Gandhiji
Sri Krishnadas in his "Seven months with Gandhiji" describes a visit of on Englishman and a Bombay photographer. The breakfast over, Mahatmaji was going to write it when Miss Anasuaya Ben entered with an English gentleman from the city. This gentleman was private tutor to the children of Mr. Ambalal Sarabhai, Cotton mill owner of Ahmedabad, and brother of Miss Anasuaya Ben. After a short talk with him, Mahatmaji deputed me to show him round the ashram. The gentleman was so nice, simple and quiet that I easily felt drawn towards him. He also was pleased with me and asked what I was. "I am one of mahatmaji's humble attendants", was my reply. He then brought out his Kodak from his pocket, and took snapshots of different parts of the ashram. Returning he approached Mahatmaji who said, "If you ask for my permission, I can't give it, because I have definitely made up my mind not to give a sitting. But I will not prevent you from taking a snapshot of me if you so desire provided you do it without attracting my notice or interfering with my work. Mahatmaji then resumed his writing, and the gentleman took his snapshot.A certain photographer of Bombay was present there at the time who having heard all that Mahatmaji was saying did not leave the ashram as he had intended but stayed for a few days taking photos of Mahatmaji in his various postures. Finding that the gentleman was so persistent in his efforts, Mahatmaji one day told him with a laugh, "I tell you, you can't take an exact likeness of me. In fact nobody has so far succeeded in reproducing my figure. My form is never constant. It undergoes various transformations in the course of the day". The meaning of his was not clear to me at the time. But then having lived with Mahatmaji uninterruptedly a long time I have come to observe that his appearance does not indeed continue the same at all times. Sometimes he has appeared to me like a young man of twenty five pursuing his work with infinite and indomitable energy. At other times again his look has been that of an octogenarian, a shrivelled figure bent with the weight of years. What is at the bottom of all these fluctuation I cannot definitely say. But guess that the particles of his body may have become so pure and so shorn of grossness as to lend themselves to ready change in response to the changes of feeling within. It is as though his body has become a perfect mirror reflecting the feelings of his heart.
Dr. E. Stanley Jones
Gandhiji- The Drill Master
Gandhiji- The "Drill Master"Once Gandhiji visited Ahmedabad to meet the members of the Satyagraha Ashram at Sabarmati, whom the had not seen for a period of two years, and though most of his time was fully occupied with the work immediately in front of him, he willingly acceded to the request of Harijan friends and of the servants of Harijans to give them some time. Before he had talks with them he had a few minutes with Harijan children who saw him without appointment, and who could not be turned away, no matter how busy he was. In fact it would have pained him had they been turned away.They were thirteen and as there were other people in the room, they could not all stand or sit in a row, so Gandhiji gave them their first lesson by subjecting them to a little bit of drill."Come along, do you know how to count? Start from left to right. Let me see how many you are."One-two-three-four-four-four." The boy who was questioned looked dazed never gone throughThis sort of thing and repeated the same number as his predecessor. The same thing happened with the seventh boy. With difficulty they counted thirteen. The process was repeated thriceor four times, quite correctly the last time."Now tell me if you know odd numbers and even numbers."One or two smart boys shouted out 'yes', the rest were confused as soon as they learnt the mystery of odd and even numbers, the were asked to stand where they were and the even numbers were asked to take a step forward. There was again some confusion which occasioned plenty of laughter and mirth. Order was soon restored and there were now two rows of seven and six awaiting further orders."Now those of you who smoke - please raise your hands.' Six hands immediately went up. A tiny tot also raised his sympathetically. His elder neighbour immediately corrected him saying, "You must not raise your hand. You never smoke."This was followed by a little lesson on the evils of smoking."But now tell me something about your teacher. Is he a good teacher?"A chorus of "yes"."Does he teach well?"Again "O yes"."Does he beat you?""No"."Never?""That is very good. So he has no faults, at all?""No, Sir"."That cannot be. Do you know any one who is without a fault, any one who is perfect?"A pause for a minute or two."You", said the smartest of them to the pleasant discomfiture of Gandhiji."No. If I was perfect, would government send me to jail again and again?" Every one seemed puzzled and perplexed."Well, no one is perfect but god. We have all to be somewhat like him and the only way is truth. No one is perfect but god. We have all to be somewhat like him and the only way is truth. No matter what your faults may be, always speak the truth, and you will never come to grief."
Shri G. RamachandranShri
Dr. E. Stanley Jones, author of 'Mahatma Gandhi', a book which has several instances of Gandhiji's humour.When I was staying with Mahatma Gandhi in his Ashram at Sabarmati every afternoon there would be a walk with the children and some of the rest of us in company with Mahatma Gandhi. He would always go to the jail gate. It was before the time of his arrest and he anticipated the arrest and so he played a game going ahead with the children and seeing who could touch the jail gate first. It was a kind of grim joke, the kind that you would expect him to give. But the humour of it caught me at the time and the more I think of it the more I see the humor of it.
You are my Ma Bap-my mother-father
"The Indian often says to you when he comes with a request: 'You are my Ma Bap-my mother-father'. Gandhiji was the mother-father to a whole sub-continent. It was a serious business to be looked upon to solve the troubles of one fifth of the human race. And yet amid it all he was cheerful and at times playful. Lord Curzon said of Bishop Lefroy: 'He had the zeal of a crusader, the spirit of a boy and the heart of a woman'. Mahatma Gandhi had all three, especially the spirit of a boy. Each evening at Sabarmati he would take an evening walk toward the jail a mile away with a troupe of children around him and some of us older ones trooping behind. He played a game with the children of seeing who could touch the jail gate first. And yet those of us who knew how events were shaping knew that he would soon be in that jail, or a similar one, as a prisoner. He made a joke of it! At evening prayers the little children would crawl all over him and hang about his neck while he was talking. It didn't seem to embarrass him the slightest, nor did it embarrass the rest of us, for he seemed to be as simple as a child, and a child about his neck was as befitting as a beautiful ornament around the neck of a beautiful woman. They coincided. And yet he was a very wise child, for he was talking very profound things."
Miss Angus and Miss Hindsley
G. Ramachandran is a distinguished graduate of the Visva Bharathi
(Shri G. Ramachandran is a distinguished graduate of the Visva Bharathi (International University founded by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan in Bengal). For 20 years he has worked in close association with Mahatma Gandhi. He went to prison seven times for taking part in the national revolution under Gandhiji. Also author of 'A Sheaf of Gandhi Anecdotes' - (Hind Kitabs). A valiant fighter of Indian freedom under Gandhiji, served several terms of imprisonment, wife of the poet Haundranath Chattopahyaya, brother of Mrs. Sarojini Naidu). There is one unforgettable picture that comes to me from those days. Every morning and evening Gandhiji went out for daily long walks. Some of the ashram inmates and many of the ashram children used to accompany him in these walks. Indeed it was one of their greatest delights to do so, specially for children. These children used to keep pace with Gandhiji by running with him most of the time as he walked with his usual long strides. While the elder people used to keep behind Gandhiji these walks, the little ones scampered about his legs like so many kittens or puppies. The children took the greatest liberties with him and he used to thoroughly enjoy it. He would shout and laugh with them and as they made faces at him he would do the same thing in return. He would crack endless jokes with them and so right through the walk it was all fun and frolic. One day as I was looking for the party returning from a walk, I heard a great shouting on the distance and a good bit of dust arose from the road as Gandhiji and the children came on at a quicker pace than usual. At first I could not make out what was happening. As the party came nearer I saw before me nothing less than a human idyll of laughter and happiness. All the children in the company were divided into two parties, one on each side of Gandhiji and they holding in their hands his long bamboo walking stick. Gandhiji himself was seated precariously on the middle of the stick with each of his arms thrown around the needs of the nearest children. They were carrying him and filling the air with their laughter and Gandhiji himself was laughing away for all he was worth and shouting, "quicker, quicker", At the time Gandhiji was fifty-seven or fifty-eight years of age and he had already become the world-famous Mahatma.
Shri S. Somasundaram
The following interesting account tells us of a 'surprise arrival' Gandhiji once gave at satyagraha ashram in February 1925 to Misses Angus and Hindsley who were sent from Adyar, Madras, to the ashram by Dr. Annie Besan to learn carding, spinning etc. so as be able to train others at Adyar. Gandhiji had then not returned to the ashram after the Belgaum congress and the visitors were received by Sri Devadas Gandhi and Mrs. Gandhi. A few days later Sri C. Rajagopalachar arrived. Gandhiji was also expected any time. The two visitors write in their leaves from a diary that "at 10.30 a.m. the whole ashram adjourns for its midday meal. At 11 a.m. we went to the Gandhi bungalow. Mr. Rajagoopalachari was awaiting us and was in good spirits. Just as we were about to begin our meal an Indian gentleman crossed the garden and there were loud exclamations. It was Mr. Gandhi's private secretary and they were all asking him where Mr. Gandhi was. Suddenly from his room at the end of the verandah came a voice saying, "Somewhere" and a moment later the great man came through the door and we were introduced to him. He extended a very warm welcome to us and made many enquiries as to whether all our creature comforts had been attended to by his people. He has a very charming manner and the thing which struck us most was the rich quality of his voice and his wonderful command of English. He had returned from Belgaum where the congress session had been held and evidently in excellent spirits for the vitality radiated from his frail figure
Dr H.M. Desai
I was one of the Secretaries of the Reception Committee elected at a public meeting in Colombo in connection with his visit to Ceylon in November 1927. That office gave me the rare privilege of being with him most of the fortnight he spent in Ceylon. Even after his visit to Ceylon I kept in touch with him by occasional correspondence with him and meeting him a number of times in India. I had also the good fortune of spending about three days with him at Sabarmati Ashram and a day at the Sewagram Ashram near Wardha. In December 1928 I spent three memorable days at Sabarmati. I was accommodated at the hut of Shri Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji's devoted secretary. The day after my arrival there Mother Kasturba Gandhi asked me to have the mid-day meal (lunch) with them at their hut. Gandhiji, myself and a friend sat (on the floor) together and the meal was served by Kasturba and Lakshmi, daughter of Rajaji who later married Devdas Gandhi. Food was served on metal plates and at the end of the meal I got up with the plate intending to wash and put it back in the kitchen. Kasturba wanted the plate to be given to her for washing but I said that I would do it myself and hesitated to give over the plate when Gandhiji told me that the washing of the plate was the duty of the host in the Ashram and that I should not break that rule. I of course had to submit to the order. There are no servants in the Ashram and the cooking, cleaning et cetera are done by the inmates themselves. At the time I was there, there were about 250 inmates-men, women and children engaged in various activities and the children were taught in a school there which later became known as the Gujarat Vidyapith. There was no corporal punishment in the school.. I arrived on a day where Gandhiji was observing silence and when I went into his room he wrote on a piece of paper that he was glad that I had come to Sabarmati and that I should go round and study the activities of the Ashram and also the good work of Vallabhai Patel in Ahmedabad as its Mayor. The day before I was to leave Sabarmati I told him that I was leaving for Bombay the next day by the night train. He asked me to use one of the carts in the Ashram to go to the Ahmedabad Railway Station from Sabarmati, a distance of about five miles. But later I changed my mind in regard to the time of departure and wanted to take an earlier train at about 1p.m., so as to spend a few hours at Baroda on the way to Bombay. That morning I went to Gandhiji to tell him that I thought of leaving by an earlier train instead of by the night train. He asked me why I had changed my mind and I told him that I thought I could see a little of Baroda on my way if I left by the earlier train. He laughed heartily and said "you want to see Baroda for a few hours and like the Americans want to be able to swear on the Bible that you have seen Baroda." I had nothing to say in reply and muttered that I would take the later train. He laughed again and said that there was no harm in seeing a little of Baroda and that I could take the earlier train.There was another incident which is worth recording. A wealthy lady had come to the Ashram and given a handsome donation towards its funds. The lady looked rather sorrowful and when questioned by the Mahatma she said that she had no children and was very unhappy. This provoked a characteristic reply from Gandhiji. He said to her that all over India there were thousands of children in great need and some of them orphans and she could adopt one or more of them and that she had a large field for selecting healthy and handsome children. It may be that a child born to her may be defective in body and mind and which may make her unhappy for life. He added that in adopting a child she could select one which satisfies her and that the fact that the child was not born to her should me of no concern as it was a matter of mere sentiment. He also said that in adopting such children she would be doing an act of merit in that it brings happiness and comfort to unfortunate children.
Dr. Sushila Nayyar
When Gandhiji established his ashram at Ahmedabad on the banks of the Sabarmati, I was appointed his and the ashramites' medical adviser. Of course, as doctor, I took only second place, because to experiment was one of the Mahatma's creeds and there was hardly any patient on whom he did not try his hand before turning him or her over to me. Gandhiji had returned from a tour of the South and had taken it into his head to try eating raw gram (soaked in water overnight). After a few days of this experiment I received a message from Mahadev Desai to visit the Ashram. Accordingly I went there. Mahadevbhai met me outside Gandhiji's hut and told me that Bapu had taken to eating uncooked gram and was passing blood with his stools. He warned me not to tell Bapu that I had been asked to come, for fear he might chide Mahadevbhai for giving me unnecessary trouble. I was aware of Gandhiji's temper. He never liked anyone to be bothered on his account. Now Mira Behn took me to the commode and , after examining the stools, I went to see Gandhiji. He looked surprised and asked what was the purpose of my visit. "I thought I would just drop in for you darshan as it is some time since I came here last", I replied. "Do you know, Doctor, Bapu is experimenting with eating uncooked gram?" asked Mahadevbhai. "What's the harm? Do many people eat it?" said Gandhiji. "Only goats can digest raw gram," I said. "We are all goats in this country. Where do you see tigers and lions?" retorted Gandhiji with his characteristic laugh. "But, Bapu, you are passing blood with your stools," interrupted Mahadevbhai. "That will stop in a few days. Why worry about it?" said Gandhiji. I pretended that I had not seen the stools and asked Mira Behn to show them to me, if they had still been preserved. I went out with her and reinspected the stools. Returning I told Gandhiji that there was a fairly large amount of blood in the stools and that uncooked gram did not agree with this system. "Every change of diet takes time for one's system to get used to, doesn't it?" he asked. "Of course," I replied. "But it all depends upon how long it is since you began this experiment and whether the blood in the stools is getting less or more day by day." "It is now two weeks since he took to gram and the loss of blood is increasing", interrupted Mahadevbhai. "I am sure it will stop in a day or two", said Gandhiji. "I hope it will", I said. "But if it doesn't?" "But I am sure it will!" the Mahatma insisted. "But suppose it doesn't?" I continue. "We will see about it then", was the reply. "I have a suggestion to make", I said. " will come again after two days and if the blood has not stopped you will have to carry out my instructions. Do you agree to that?" Gandhiji pondered over my suggestion for a while. He was so confident about the success of his experiment that he replied in the affirmative. With my pranams, I left. Kasturba and Mahadevbhai followed me. They both looked very worried. "What do you propose to do, Doctor?" asked Mahadevbhai. "The old man doesn't listen to any one of us." "Leave the matter to me, Mahadevbhai,"I said. "If the bleeding doesn't stop within two days, Gandhiji has promised to follow my instruction and he will never break his promise. And, Ba, keep fresh curds ready on the day of my visit and don't tell anyone about it. If the blood does not stop I will make Gandhiji swallow the curds and give up his experiment." So saying I departed. They looked skeptical, but I was confident. I returned after two days and enquired of Gandhiji whether his stools were now free from blood. He replied in the negative, but added that it was getting less every day and would stop altogether in a few days. I went out with Mira Behn to inspect the stools. There was more blood than I had seen on my last visit. I went up to Gandhiji again and said: "I believe you are passing more blood than you did before." "Maybe, but I am sure it will stop altogether in due course," he replied. "Do you remember your promise?" "Do you want to tie me down to it?" "I do," I said firmly. "What do you want me to do?" "I want you to drink a cup of curds and give up your experiment." Bapu gazed at me for a while and said: "I must keep my promise. But how will you find curds in the Ashram at this hour?" he asked with a chuckle. I turned to Kasturba and asked her whether she could get fresh curds. "Plenty!" she replied, "we always have it!" The Mahatma looked surprised and said: "I didn't think the Ashram was so well managed." Gandhiji did not suspect that Kasturba was a party to the conspiracy! Curd was brought in and he drank a cupful. "Now I want to give you an injection, Bapu," I said after he had taken the cuds. "Injection! Never! I don't want dead germs to be introduced into my body." "But I assure you this injection is a pure vegetable product", I said. "If you are sure, I must submit to your wish," he said resignedly. A syringe was sterilized and I gave him an injection of emetine. After a while I left, followed my Mahadevbhai. He tapped me on the back and said: "you have performed a wonder, Doctor. You alone have been able to tackle the old man. He wouldn't listen to any one of us and was ruining his health and causing us worry."
Miss Muriel Lester
G. Ramachandran is a distinguished graduate of the Visva Bharathi
The little children of the Sabarmati Ashram used to address him questions every week which he would answer. His extremely laconic replies sometimes exasperated them. One of the bolder spirits expressed the grievance on behalf of this comrades thus: "Bapuji, you always tell us about the Gita. In the Gita Arjuna asks just a one-line question and Bhagwan Krishna rolls out a whole chapter in reply. But you answer our full-page questions with just a word or a sentence. Is it fair?" Quick came the reply: "Well, Bhagwan Krishna had only one Arjuna to deal with, while I have a host of Arjunas on my hand, and each one of them a handful. Don't I deserve sympathy?" And the little Arjunas laughed. The grievance was drowned in the joke
Mr. Richard B. Gregg
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in his Ashram or village community at Sabarmati.
Founded, in co-operation with her sister Miss Doris Lester, Kingsley Hall, named in memory of their brother, for the service of the poorer people of the East End of London. Gandhiji stayed there during his visit to London in 1931. Miss Lester visited India several times since 1926 and has traveled extensively all over the world on lecturing tours and investigation surveys. Works include: 'My Host the Hindu', 'Entertaining Gandhi', 'Gandhi-World Citizen', 'Gandhi's Signature', It Occurred to Me', 'It so happened'.It is thirty years since I first met Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in his Ashram or village community at Sabarmati. It was his birthday and a thousand others had come from far and near to wish him well. They departed that night. I was lucky enough to stay a month.I had been working since the beginning of the century in the East End of London, one of a strictly disciplined group who held Non-Violence to be an essential part of the Christian programme. You may imagine what it meant to this tiny and much ridiculed minority group when we first heard about Gandhiji. Here was an Indian leader not only convinced, as we were, that Non-Violence was the only means of attaining peace, justice and independence, but whose public pronouncements and practice of the doctrine were becoming front page news in the world's press.All day long from far and near people would come to him at the Ashram with questions to get a remedy for their ailments (for he loved playing the role of doctor) or to get a renewal of confidence, sometimes perhaps just to relish his ever ready humour.At 4 o'clock each morning we all went to prayer. Of course I could not understand what was said or sung but I used my own familiar forms, and the Spirit of God upheld us all.Can you picture the scene? A tiny silver crescent mounting up from the horizon, behind a serene figure seated on the ground, facing a hundred of us, as we rededicated ourselves to the service of the poorest and the practice of the presence of God.Gandhi's rule about possessions was quite positive. "If you have more than you need while others have less than they need, you are a thief." Gandhi only possessed his 5/- watch, his fountain pen and his walking stick. On my last visit to him, shortly before his death, I noticed he was using an ink pot and a cheap pen. "Where's you fountain pen?" I demanded. Gandhi looked up with that characteristic, quick, interested gesture of his and said rather ruefully, "I'm afraid it was stolen. Of course someone at once gave me another. But when that too disappeared, I realized that having an expensive pen was causing others to do wrong. I find this wooden one perfectly satisfactory." This was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi the great, historic figure who gained freedom for India and prepared it to play its new role in world affairs. But I and countless others, remember him as a deeply human, compassionate, humour-loving man, and a dear personal friend.
Shri Ramkrishna Bajaj
American friend and co-worker of Gandhiji.
Works include: 'Economics of Khaddar', 'The Power for Non-Violence', 'A Compass of Civilization', 'Which way lies Hope?'There must be few in this world who could equal the amount of work which Bapu did. But under heaviest pressure of work and worry Bapu could have a healthy laugh. On hearing the sound of his laughter from a neighbouring room, I used to get astonished and my esteem for him grew. Once I asked him how he could laugh so in the midst of seriousness. His reply was that had he not had that capacity, he would have gone mad a long while ago.Another characteristic of his which struck me deeply was his insistence on going round the Ashram at least one in a day, and see the inmates, especially the sick ones. It impressed me very much.Once I visited the Ashram in the company of my wife. During our stay Bapu took personal interest in out comforts and especially of my wife. He would not miss to remember her before dining, bathing or retiring.I remember an incident which impressed me much at the time. Bapu had just recovered from serious illness. Shri Ambalal Sarabhai and his wife Shri Sarladevi of Ahmedabad were anxious that Bapu should get perfect rest and doubted if he could do so at the Ashram. They invited him to their bungalow. Bapu thanked them in sweet and kind words, but did not agree to leave the Ashram.
SHRI MUKUL DEY
Shri Ramkrishna Bajaj is the younger son of Shri Jamnalal Bajaj
My parents lived for a time in the Ashram at Sabarmati when I was about five years of age. The only memory I have of those days is that Bapuji walked very fast during his evening strolls, and that we youngsters had practically to run all the time to keep pace with him. It was a coveted privilege to become his 'walking sticks' and we used to long for it: but it was not an easy task because of his speed.
Mr H.S.L. Polak
Early one afternoon in 1928, when the celebrated Bengali artist, Mukul Dey
Early one afternoon in 1928, when the celebrated Bengali artist, Mukul Dey , was staying at the Sabarmati ashram, where he did some of his brilliant sketches of Gandhiji , a, man who was obviously the worse for drink entered the Mahatma's room . Gandhiji was sitting at the charkha , spinning. The man, who came from the other side of the river, made a lot of noise and disturbed everyone in the room - except Gandhiji , who continued to spin serenely. Kasturba began to cry, and Mukul Dye was so angered by this noisy and drunken intruder that he was about to get up and forcibly remove him .Recalling this incident during his visit to London in the winter of 1959 for an exhibition of the works at south Kensington, Mukul Dey chuckled as he described how Gandhiji remained perfectly calm and unruffled by the noisy and aggressive demeanour of the drunkard, who complained that he was hungry and wanted food.Gandhiji said to the man with great patience, "Acha, Bapu, what do you want?",recalled Mukul Dey. The man replied, "I am hungry, Mahatmaji , I have had no food". What he really meant, laughed Mukul Dey, was that he wanted some more drink. It was about three in the afternoon, and in the ashram Gandhi had his meal about mid-day. Gandhiji then said to then said to the man, "acha, you can eat here, you can have whatever I have", and he asked for the food to be brought to the man, but the man said in a whining voice, "Mahatmaji, I have a wife and children who are also hungry".Gandhiji replied, "alright, I will feed all of them, bring them here to the ashram".Of course, he didn't really want food, he wanted money to buy more drink, so he said, "but my family are on the other side of the river. If I get some money , I can but some food and take it to them" .In his quiet, calm voice Gandhiji replied,"I am a beggar myself, I have no money here. Other people give me whatever money I need. But what-ever I have in my ashram in the way of food, I will give you if you wish".The man then realised from Gandhiji' s patient answers that he was not going to get any money for drink, and he left the room quickly, after making his obeisance to Gandhiji . We all felt relieved, and were moved by the way in which Gandhiji had spoken to the man as a friend of brother.
Mahadev Desai in 'Harijan' (8.6.1935)
My own recollections of Gandhiji
My own recollections of Gandhiji, as I was a child, I am afraid I can remember nothing of the South African period, but am enclosing a short note of a visit we paid to him at his ashram at Ahmedabad, when he was suffering the effects of a fast and accepted my mother's argument that his vow against the consumption of milk referred to cows 'milk and not goat's milk, which I hope you may find of some interest. In 1917 when I was nine years old my mother had brought my brother and myself to India to join my father who had come to that country the previous year with the intention that the united family should after a short visit of my parents to their several friends, proceed to England where my father was proposing to make his permanent home. We were staying in the town house of an Indian friend at Ahmedabad in the early part of the summer and Gandhiji had just completed one of his long fasts which had brought him practically to the end of his physical resources. My father was in Bombay and my mother went to visit Gandhiji at his ashram taking us two boys with her. To this day I can recollect going from the bright sunlight of the courtyard into the comparative darkness of the room in which Gandhiji lay. He was thin and emaciated almost beyond belief and so weak he could scarcely raise his hand, yet there was a gentle luminous serenity about which not only distracted one' s mind immediately from the signs of physical distress but also seemed totally dis-associated from what was, in fact, a very near approach to death. He greeted us with his characteristic smile, full of affection and cheerfulness he raised his hand slightly in greeting and we stood around the bed talking to him. his mind was quite unclouded and he took an obvious interest in his visitors and what we had to say. My mother was naturally concerned at his condition and spoke to him of the steps he should take to build up his health again, stressing especially the advantage of milk as a diet for one in his weak condition. He then disclosed to her that he had taken a vow against milk and for a little time my mother was silent. Then she said to him that when he had taken his vow he was not thinking of goat's milk and his vow could not apply to that. Why did he not, therefore, have goat's milk against which he had taken no vow and which was possibly even more readily assimilated by him. He smiled at the ingenuity of her argument and although she pressed it repeatedly and in many ways he would not immediately commit himself until he had a chance to think it over. He did, however, promise to give it consideration and I can remember how relieved we all felt later to learn that he had accepted her suggestion. When we saw him shortly before leaving Ahmedabad he was well on the road to recovery. Although the occasion was an important one, for I have little doubt that he would not have survived if he had continued on the diet he was taking before my mother's intervention, the overwhelming impression which the whole episode had left upon me was the degree to which his spirit was completely divorced from the weakness and demands of his body. Having acted in accordance with his conscience he was quite unaffected whether he was to live or die. His spirit was entirely upheld by the conviction that whatever the outcome he had done what to him was right. On the other hand his fast having accomplished the purposes for which it was under taken he was trying to die and as his subsequent actions showed he was quite prepared to avail himself of any legitimate method to restore his body to health so that he might continue his work in this world.
At Sabarmati in 1935
In 1935 on his way back to Wardha, Gandhiji went to Sabarmati to visit Gaffer Khan in the jail. He had not been to Sabarmati since the day he had marched down the road, to Dandi from the Satyagraha ashram and vowed never to see the Harijan School attached to the ashram. Gandhiji talked to the children, asking them about their work, who were their teachers, what they were taught. "Carding" said one."Spinning", said another. "Music", said a third. "Breakfast", said a fourth. "That must be a very good teacher indeed," exclaimed Gandhiji, and all broke into laughter. At last it was time to go. "So our play is finished", said Gandhiji, "and I shall say good-bye. Shall I?" "No, no" exclaimed the children."Why? Do you want to ask me anything? Out with it?" "Tell us why you did not stay with us.""Because you did not invite me, and Budhabhai did.""We too would have invited you. But you will not stay with us. Tell us why not." "I shall stay with you when you have won Swaraj.""It was all right so long as it was your ashram," argued one of the girls."You would not stay in your own ashram again until you had Swaraj. It is the Harijan ashram. Why will you not stay with us?"Gandhiji laughed heartily and said: "well, when I came next time, you will give me the invitation."
When Gandhiji went cycling at sixty!
The incident when Gandhiji, to keep up an appointment rode a cycle at the age of sixty and that too without having had any practice before, is related by Puratom Buch in the National Herald.In 1928, Gandhiji had come to a meeting in the Vidyapith from the ashram. The meeting was held in the evening, and it was attended by some citizens. It was decided that Gandhiji would return to the ashram with some one of them by car. Accidentally, it so happened that no car was left at the end of the meeting. It was about 5.30 in the evening. When Gandhiji came out into the compound of the Vidyapith, he had to reach the ashram in time for the evening meals at my cost. "Only twenty minutes are left. How can I reach there in time? Asked Bupu. "What could be done now?" We were also puzzled and began to stare at each other's faces. Kaka Kalelkar had to go with Gandhiji, looking at his watch which was hanging down his waist, said to me: "Can you bring a cycle?""Most certainly," said I, "but ..."I was hesitating to reply wondering how he would be able to ride a cycle at his age."But ...why?' Gandhiji interrupted."Would you be able to ride it?" asked I."You bring a cycle and then see," said Bapu laughingly.Immediately two cycles were brought, one for Gandhiji and one for Kaka Sahib.It was decided that they should begin cycling after reaching the main road leading to the ashram. I began to lead Bapu's cycle."I hope you will be able to guide me properly," said Bapu in a jocular tone"Yes, why not? But do you know it well or not?" I asked. "It is very easy to mount the cycle, but I hope your cycle would not collide with anything." Both Bapu and I roared with laughter."No, no, I have no such fear," said Bapu. "The only thing I have in view is to reach the ashram in time."As soon as we reached the main road, we helped Bapu in mounting the cycle. I firmly caught hold of the seat from the back and began to lead the cycle after setting it in motion just as we do in the case of amateur cyclists. Gandhiji had begun pedalling by this time. He was confident that he would be able to cycle. So, he said to me, "Now you need not run with the cycle, otherwise you will get tired.""All right, I would not run more," said I, "but do you know that till now I was holding the seat?""So, now, let me try by myself. You go back If am successful," suggested Bapu. I let Bapu go alone and saw that he was cycling straight in the middle of the road without the slightest fear of losing the balance."Now you have passed test and are permitted to go along," said I, laughing, trying to control my gasping run for about a furlong, leaving Bapu and Kaka Sahib to themselves.Next day, we came to know that bell for the evening meals was just being rung when Gandhiji reached the ashram and that he had unmounted the cycle by placing his feet on the ground like an amateur.I saw then how strictly (unflinchingly) Gandhiji carried out his fixed programme.Even if he had not kept the appointed time, everyone could have easily understood that he must have been detained for some work-more so, because he was the head of the ashram.Gandhiji, however, always insisted on not making any change in the fixed programme. I could understand this from his cycling from the Vidyapith to the ashram at the age of 60 and that too without any practice. Gandhiji was not only strict in carrying out his fixed programme but he insisted on others doing so equally rigorously.He said: "just as the sun, the moon and the stars do their work regularly and without fail, similarly why should we, human beings, not?"
My Father and Master
I knew of nothing which is of greater profit than reading the Gita, re-reading it and reciting it by heart, so as to let its meaning sink in .. And yet, if know of anything which is of greater profit, it is finding a living person who has let its meaning come through in his life and gives a new illustration of it. I know such a living person. He is my Father and my Master and it is him I am going to find again on the banks of the Sabarmati in Gujarat.