+ All Categories
Home > Documents > Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences of Gandhi

Date post: 10-Apr-2015
Category:
Upload: sumanta-nayak
View: 231 times
Download: 7 times
Share this document with a friend
130
Reminiscences Of Gandhi
Transcript
Page 1: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Page 2: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Khadi Cap And Earth Poultice

- Kamalanayan Bajaj

1. Khadi Cap & Earth Poultice : Kamalnayan Bajaj

2. Boyhood Memories : Ramkrishna Bajaj

3. The Last Journey : Melville de Mellow

4. Bapu & My Father : Narayan Desai

5. Lessons-Big & Small : Kantilal Gandhi

6. My Grandfather : Sumitra Gandhi

7. In London & Delhi : John Haynes Holmes

8. At Sabarmati : Prema Kantak

9. Small Things I Learnt From Him : K. G. Mashruwala

10. Sweet & Sad : P. G. Mavalankar

11. Since 1915 : Hansa Mehta

12. How He Taught Through Letters : Margarete Spiegel

13. Four Anecdotes : Jack C. Winslow

14. Lessons From His Life: J. C. Kumarappa

15. A Glimpse Of Gandhiji : Gurdial Mallik

16. His Daily Life : Mirabehn

17. Light And Shade : Sushila Nayyar

18. Gandhiji And Women : Rameshwari Nehru

19. In The South African Days : Millie Graham Polak

20. With Gandhiji On Deck : Edmond Privat

21. Reminiscences : Sir Purshotamdas Thakurdas

22. Gandhiji And Romain-Rolland Meeting : Miraben

23. His Visit To Romain Rolland : Madeleine Rolland

24. Gandhiji And Medicine : G. R. Talwarkar

Page 3: Reminiscences of Gandhi

IT was in 1920 that Bapuji came to Wardha for the first time. I was about 5 or 6 then.

For the day my elder sister, and I had been dressed, in silk clothes with gold embroidery.

Bapuji had his. bath, and was having his breakfast when we were taken to him. We

bowed to him. After giving us his blessings and a couple of fondling slaps on the cheeks,

he smiled and asked us whether we liked our dress better, or his. (He then used to wear a

dhoti, a shirt and a whitecap.) We remained quiet, But when he repeated the question,

Kakaji (my father, Shri Jamnalal Bajaj) encouraged, me to answer him. I told him with a

childish pride that I liked my dress better: He took my cap in one hand and placed a white

khadi cap in the other, and told us how the white cap was simple and beautiful. The point

that appealed to me most was that it could be washed and could be kept clean. He asked

me whether my cap could be washed. I nodded "No". Then he put the question again:

"Now will you tell me which is better-the one which can become dirty, or the one which

is washable?" I agreed with him that the white cap was better. The next question was that,

if it was better, whether I would.1iketo exchange my cap with the one he had in his hand.

I knew I was caught. I agreed to the exchange. As I was returning with my sister, Bapuji

called us back and asked us to sit down near him. He told us that the cap I had given to

him in exchange was such as only the rich could wear. He pointed a finger towards

Kakaji, and told us that only Jamnalalji could afford, a cap like that for his children; that

there were many children in the country who could not get such a cap; and that what

other children could not get, we our- selves should not wear. "Children's clothes, he

Page 4: Reminiscences of Gandhi

added, should be simple, "beautiful, cheap, and yet washable. He pointed to our dress and

said that, though our dress" appeared to be bright and colorful, it was in fact not beautiful.

He said that the colour hit the dirt and the brightness, was only a show.

In December, 1928, on his way to Calcutta for the annual session of the Congress, Bapuji

came to Wardha for convalescence and also for a stay at Shri Vinoba's Satyagraha

ashram, on the site of the present Mahilashram. He was housed on the upper storey of the

central building. A temporary bath room was put up on the terrace. He had a quiet rest for

a few weeks, and his health" improved. With the exception of Mahadev Kaka, Kakaji

(my father), Mirabehn, and a few personal attendants, no one, was allowed to see Bapuji

unless the matter was very urgent. Kakaji ,himself had taken charge of the gates, and no

one could go in without his permission. National leaders and other visitors, who came to

Wardha, remonstrated and sometimes even got annoyed with Kakaji. But he was very

strict, and did not allow anybody even a couple of, minutes more than the allotted time.

Even after Bapuji completely recovered and resumed his normal work, Kakaji did not

relax the strictness about the interviews; and the leaders and visitors affectionately began

to call him a jailor.

One fine morning a group of leaders collected near Bapuji's residence; expecting him to

come out for the morning walk. Among those who had come were Pandit Jawaharlalji,

Sardar Patel, Dr. Ansari, Shri Shankarlalji Banker, Seth Ghanshyamdasji Birla and a few

others. It seemed most of them had sought an interview directly, in disregard of the

jailor's authority; and everyone had been given an appointment, individually, at the time

of the morning walk. Kakaji could not imagine how any interview could be arranged

without his knowledge; and the leaders top were very much surprised as to how they

were given the same time when every one of them had specifically asked for a separate

interview! Everyone thought that his own appointment was the fixed one, and that there

was some mistake about the others. Someone said his interview had been fixed through

Mahadev Kaka; others said they had got their appointments through Mirabehn or some

other member of Bapuji's entourage. Kakaji, on the other hand, said emphatically that

none of these had any business to fix up any appointment without consulting him, and

that any appointment fixed up in this manner was not valid. While the leaders were

Page 5: Reminiscences of Gandhi

joking, gossiping, discussing, arguing, and some of them even boasting that whatever

happened their own appointments had been fixed, and that they were surely going to have

a private talk with Bapuji. Some said they had to leave Wardha that evening or the

following morning. Presently the laughter and the heat of the argument both increased.

Every one of those present was in a state of eager animation. Then Bapuji descended the

steps and loudly said: "I have heard you all. Everybody is right in his own contention.

Jamnalalji is right in saying that interviews cannot be fixed without his consent. At the

same time everybody else is also right in saying that his interview has been fixed. Come

on, I shall now hear no grievance or complaint!" (I have paraphrased his words.) Having

said this, he discarded his sandals and began to walk very fast, and told them that only

those who could keep pace with him would have the interview that morning. There was

practically a race among the leaders to keep pace with him. The sandals which were left

by him were immediately picked up by Mirabehn. The road was unable even and strewn

with small pebbles. Mirabehn followed Bapuji with a singular devotion; and although

tears flowed from her eyes, she was very calm. We children also were running after the

leaders! In those days Bapuji used to go for a walk from the Ashram on the Sevagram

road up to the railway crossing and then return. So far as I recollect, only Jawaharlalji,

.Ghanshamdasji and Mirabehn kept company with Bapuji till the end of the walk. Others

tried for a while. For some time they kept actually running. Even Bapuji and Jawaharlalji

why, practically everybody else-ran! .. But when the others found the distance between

Bapuji and themselves considerably increased, they slowed down; and when Bapuji and

the advance guard returned, some of these, taking a roundabout turn, jocularly remarked:

"Look here, we are actually ahead of you!" By the time they all returned to the Ashram.

most of them had perspired, and they were all laughing and talking and passing remarks

about one another's style of running. Everybody was trying to show as if his own effort

was practically the best, taking everything else into consideration. It was a scene we

youngsters enjoyed immensely! For us it was a great fun!. That morning passed off in joy

and laughter. No one had imagined that Bapuji would play such a practical joke with

them all. In spite of the fact 'that additional hours were given that evening for interviews,

some leaders and others had to postpone their departure for a day or two.

Page 6: Reminiscences of Gandhi

After the Dandi March Bapuji went and stayed at Karadi on the sea-coast with his batch

of salt satyagrahis. I wanted to join them at Sabarmati but could not do so because of high

fever. When I joined the party later, I had a temperature of 1040; yet, because of my

insistence, he took me into the party. Previously for a year and a half I was on milk and

fruit diet. I had malignant malaria, which still persisted. Bapuji asked me to continue my

own diet in spite of the rules laid down for members of the party. But I refused to take

any special food or treatment. He also advised me not to walk, and said he would arrange

for some conveyance for me. But I refused to avail of the concession. In about two weeks

my fever was gone, my weight increased, and I felt much better. I had to report to Bapuji

every day as to my temperature, diet, activity, etc. By the time we reached Karadi my

body could not bear the strain any longer, and I was down with high fever. My eyes were

severely affected. They became very sticky and swollen. Bapuji made me fast, and earth

poultices were applied to the eyes. The fever got under control, but the eyes kept going

from bad to worse. He became very anxious, and informed my father about my illness.

The latter was busy with the salt satyagraha at Vile Parle. He replied that whatever

treatment Bapuji thought best should be given to me; and that, if necessary, he would

send some,. body to take me to Vile. Parle. I declined to go home, for we were under' a

pledge. Meanwhile Kakasaheb, ac- companied by an- eye-specialist from Ahmedabad,

had come to . see Bapuji. He got my .eyes examined by the doctor" who thought that I

had, lost my left eye, or at least it was beyond repair, and if. proper care was immediately

taken, I might lose the right .one also. Bapuji asked me to go with Kakasaheb to the

Gujarat Vidyapith and put myself under the treatment .of the eminent doctor. I said to

Bapuji: "Though I respect the doctor's opinion, I have complete faith in you and your

treatment." Bapuji said: "I am ready to experiment on you, but are you ready to lose your

eyes? Though the earth poultices have not given any encouraging results as far as the

eyes are concerned, your general health has improved, and if you have faith in nature

care, you should continue it even after going to the Gujarat Vidyapith, get yourself

periodically examined by the doctor, and send me regular reports about your health." I

went to the Gujarat Vidyapith with Kakasaheb: For nearly three weeks I lived an milk

and thereafter an a liquid diet .of curd and fruit juice, and applied earth poultices to the

eyes and the stomach. In nearly 'six weeks I completely recovered. The eyes were as

Page 7: Reminiscences of Gandhi

good as, .or perhaps better than, they were ever before; and the malignant malaria, which

had persisted for about two years, also left me. It had arrested my growth when I was just

16 or 17. But after my arrival at the Vidyapith, during the first month I put on 33 lbs., and

in six months I gained 70 lbs. Before that I used to weigh bet- ween 80 and 85 lbs. Within

six months I went upto 155 to 160 lbs. I have narrated this incident as a personal

testimony to the I efficacy of nature cure methods, and especially the 'earth treatment' on

which Bapuji pinned his faith to such a great extent.

Bombay, 27-9-1948

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Boyhood Memories

- Ramkrishna Bajaj

Page 8: Reminiscences of Gandhi

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 these 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.

Next I remember of him is when he went to stay at Maganvadi, Wardha. in 1935. My

father sent me to Maganvadi to stay with him. He took personal interest in me as he did

in everybody else. Every one of us felt the warmth of his affection. In those days I used to

collect postal stamps as a hobby. I had never spoken to him about it. But to my agreeable

surprise he told me one day that he had preserved two stamps for me for the last eight or

ten months! He asked his personal assistant to give them to me. The latter did not

remember where they had been kept. Then Bapuji tried to remember it himself. After a

few minutes he took out one of the many envelopes in his portfolio, and told me that the

stamps must be in that envelope. Oh yes! they were there!

Page 9: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Maganvadi is situated in a garden. I was about eleven at the time l am speaking of. I was

allotted the task of climbing up the trees every morning and collecting fruits like rose-

apples, jujubes, etc. After collecting them, I took them to Bapuji, and he would ask me to

distribute them equally among the inmates of the ashram.

At the time of the individual satyagraha in 1941, I was but 17. After the arrest of my

father, my young enthusiasm took me to ,Bapuji to get permission to offer satyagraha. I

had little hope of my request being grant- ed, because I was underage, .the requisite age

being 18. It seems, however, that he did not want to discourage me. He therefore

specially called me three or four times to Sevagram and had long talks with me. I hardly

realized that he was testing my capacity to stand the rigours of prison life. It was only

after he felt certain about it that he allowed me to court arrest. Indeed he went further,

and wrote out the notice I was to send to the Deputy Commissioner, Wardha, of my

intention to offer satyagraha. He also wrote out a fairly long statement which I had to

make at my trial in the court. He was busy and tired. It was night-time, and the next day I

was to offer satyagraha. He called me, read out the statement he had written for me,

explained the meaning of it in detail, and asked me whether I understood it properly and

agreed with it. He told me specifically that, if I did not agree with anything that was said

in the statement, he would change it. He also insisted on my spending that night, along

with my mother, at Sevagram. .

The following letter, received by me in prison, would show how particular he was about

even the smallest things in life (the original is in Hindustani, and in his own handwriting):

Sevagram, 23-3-1941.

Dear Ramkrishna,

Page 10: Reminiscences of Gandhi

I often read the letters which Mother gets from you. . . . . . I am writing this letter,

because today I was given to understand that I too can write to you. From your letter I see

that you have asked for an underwear. I would advise you to do without it. It is not at all

necessary in our climate. If, however, its use has become a habit with you, you can

certainly have it. Does not our duty lie in deliberately reducing our expenditure to the

minimum and to cultivate the highest kind of life? I wish you to try for an all-round

development. Love.

Bapu

(M. K. Gandhi)

Apart from the lesson which he wished to teach me, there is another thing worth noting

about the letter. He wrote it only when I informed my mother that I had got permission

from the Superintendent, Nagpur Jail, to receive a letter from Bapuji. Even then he took

care to see that the letter might not be delivered to me without the knowledge that it was

from Gandhiji. Therefore, below the signature, he put into brackets" M. K. Gandhi"

He utilized the blank portions at the back of letters he received. There was a small and

very ordinary portfolio in which he preserved those papers (pastis as we call them). The

portfolio got dirty, and he asked one of the assistants to clean it. The cleaning was not

properly done. Bapuji never put up with any slovenliness. He explained to the assistant at

length like an expert how to do it-how to wash the ,cloth with soap, and then put the

whole thing under some equally distributed pressures that the inner cardboard which

though wet does not get dishevelled.

I was with him during his tours in Bengal, Assam and South India after his release from

the Agakhan Palace prison. I often felt as if we, the younger members of his entourage

had been sent by God to take his patience and forbearance. Our behaviour at times was

bad enough to annoy him, but- forgiving as he was-he would but gently remonstrate with

us. Indeed he would spend hours in explaining the smallest things to us. We sometimes

felt that it was unpardonable to take so much of his valuable time which could otherwise

be utilized for more useful and important work. But what qould have been a headache for

Page 11: Reminiscences of Gandhi

others seemed to be a pastime with him.

During this tour we stayed for a time at the Khadi Pratisthan in Sodepur. It was about 4

O'clock one afternoon, and Bapuji was spinning. Khan Abdul Gafar Khan was sitting by

his side. A batch of ten or twelve friends and relatives of mine came into have darshan

and blessings of Bapuji. They all came in one by one; made an obeisance. to Bapuji, and

sat down in front of him. He said nothing at the moment, but called me after the prayer

was over: and told me that Khansahab was also sitting by his side when my friends came

to see him, that it was not right of them to bow to him alone, and that thereafter whenever

such occasions arose I should take care to give a hint to the friends to give due respects to

others also, and especially to Khansaheb when they were with him.

I met him for the last time in company with some friends, a few months before the

faithful 30th of January, 1948, at Bhangi Colony, Delhi, in order to see his guidance on

Students' problems. We explained to him our scheme about the formation of the National

Union of Students. He said that the scheme was very good, but that we should not expect

much support for it because people were Interested more in exploiting the students

politically; that, however, he said, should not deter us from doing the work. "You should

keep one thing in mind," he added. Whether you get any. support or not, you, must never

lower the standard of your principles for the sake of accommodating others."

Page 12: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Bombay,

10-10-1948

Page 13: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

The Last Journey

- Melville de Mellow

HOW does one write about a saint? Ever since I was asked to contribute an article on the

passing away of Mahatma Gandhi. I have asked myself that question. As I sit down to

fulfill my promise I am still not sure of the answer. I am a radio commentator, and I was

flung by fate an9 circumstance into a ringside, seat from where I was destined to see the

last heart-breaking days, hours and minutes of Bapu's last journey. To me it was a long

night of tears-a nightmare of sorrow and tragedy which even to this day defies

description. As time goes by and the pain of the moments slowly subsides, certain

pictures register more clearly on my mind than others; These are the pictures I am going

to write about - unusual pictures perhaps-but pictures I shall never forget none the less.

It was the morning of the cremation. I reached Birla House at 6 o'clock to .take Bapu's

darshan before the crowds arrived, but already there was a long twisting line of mourners

slowly filing past the windows of his room. I met a member of the household who took

Page 14: Reminiscences of Gandhi

me by a private entrance into the room. there lay the great Mahatma, his fine broad chest

uncovered. I shuddered when I saw the bullet-wounds-dark ominous patches of hate and

madness. And then I saw his face'. What a wonderful face it was in death! As I looked;

the face of the mourners melted into hazy nothingness, the smell of incense may have

been reaching me from some distance, garden in Paradise-the chanting, likewise; may

have been the chanting of angels as Bapu's spirit climbed heavenwards. Only the face

held me-the face among the flying rose-petals that cascaded through the open window.

As I gazed at that face, words raced through my mind slowly penetrating the numbness of

body and soul-words I had learnt so well in my childhood. Words that Jesus Christ used

on (he Cross: "Father forgive them; for they know not what they do." Bapu's lips seemed

to be moving and saying just that. His was the most forgiving countenance I have ever

looked upon. As I stood there in silence, someone near me tried unsuccessfully to hold

back a sob. I turned my head to look straight into the tortured face of India's Prime

Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The look on his face was also something I shall never

forget. I left quietly, left behind for a moment the greatest man of our age in that room of

tears, tragedy and rose-petals.

FAREWELL, WITH ROSE-PETALS

Page 15: Reminiscences of Gandhi

It was during the State funeral cortege. My radio- van crawled slowly along Queensway,

Kingsway, Hardinge Avenue and Bela Road on its way to Rajghat. Just behind us, slowly

moved the trailer on which lay the body of Mahatma Gandhi, exposed to public gaze.

Around the body like figures in marble stood Pandit Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,

Devadas Gandhi, Sardar Baldev Singh, Acharya Kripalani and Dr. Rajendraprasad.

Millions lined the route-millions sang his favourite hymns-millions shouted his name-and

all wept-nowhere did I see a dry eye. We neared the District Jail-where two months

earlier Bapu had addressed a meeting of convicts -and it was here that I was to witness

the biggest demonstrations of love and affection along that sad and solemn road which

led to the cremation ground. The heavens were raining rose-petals-Dakotas streaked

across the sky and showered rose-petals and garlands on the bier-dipping their wings

reverently as they flew away-fistfuls of flowers were flung from tree-tops and

neighbouring buildings-"Mahatma Gandhi ki jai", thundered from a million parched lips-

the millions of the city who had taken up their stand at this point from an early hour. .

Page 16: Reminiscences of Gandhi

The cortege stopped here for a few minutes as the crowd surged forward to take a last

darshan. Our radio-van pulled up also, and as I gazed at the agonized faces of the people

lining the roads I heard a woman whisper: "It doesn't seem possible. It seems to me that

he will be back tomorrow at the prayer gathering, reassuring us all that it was just a

mistake." And then I realized she was talking to herself-trying to convince herself, for her

neighbour was a beggar-a decrepit old man, with swollen tearful eyes, blue lips, bristling

rags and unclean sores. One who had looked too long, poor soul, over the hopeless

landscape of an empty life of poverty. I saw him weep unashamedly, and the well-dressed

woman wept too. And I thought, how wonderful, tragedy has brought these two people

closer than they have ever been before! Gandhiji was all India that has toiled and

suffered. His simplicity drew a world of hearts.

As our van moved slowly onwards I heard a child innocently ask her mother: "Has he

gone for ever? Is he never coming back?" The mother's reply was drowned by the clip

clop of the horses, the rhythmic scuffing of marching men and the sound of sobbing.

THE CREMATION

Page 17: Reminiscences of Gandhi

I reached Raj Ghat five minutes before the funeral cortege arrived. Our second radio-van

was already in position about thirty yards from the cremation spot. I scrambled on to the

roof of the van to get above me crowds. One of the first things that struck me was the

elaborate arrangements made for keeping the crowds in check. Long lines or R.I.A.F.

personnel surrounded the cremation spot-standing shoulder to shoulder and reinforced by

the police. Then the cortege arrived, and a great wailing went up from the millions that

had packed themselves tightly into that green saucer like piece of hallowed earth called

Rajghat. The sun went down as the first flames leapt skywards from the sandalwood pile.

A great moan went up from the crowds as they surged forward. 'It was as if a storm had

broken over Raj Ghat. This was a storm of the spirit. On they came-these tragic men and

women-ironing out barricades, ropes, wire, guards and police. They milled around the

sandalwood pile as the flames leapt higher and higher and the smell of sandalwood filled

the twilight. Soon Raj Ghat was a sea of moving heads. Governors, Ambassadors,

Cabinet Ministers-all were one here on this green patch of earth by the sacred waters of

the Jumuna. Looking out over the heads of this continuous unbroken mass of humanity, I

felt as helpless as an ant adrift on a leaf in the middle of a whirlpool.

As the flames rose higher and higher and darkness approached, the crowds pressed

forward and the dust of a million moving feet filled the air over Raj Ghat. These millions

had begun to realize fully that the future that lay before them would be a lonely one

without the Father of Liberty and Love to guide them. In the flames they saw their last

hopes die-their hopes of seeing him smile again or of hearing him say: "Brothers and

Sisters". Many would have been happy to fling themselves on to the bier and say good-

bye to this world of meanness and corruption. Many would have been happy to mix their

ashes with the Apostle of Truth and Nonviolence who was born into a world of Untruth

and Violence. As I looked out over the heads of these tragic people, I suddenly felt a

lump in my throat-a lump that I had been trying hard to swallow all day. I made a few

incoherent remarks about listening to the crowds-put the microphone above my head, and

gave vent to my feelings under the cloak of some violent nose-blowing. After that, I no

longer felt like an ant adrift on a leaf in a whirlpool-I felt one with the heart-broken,

Page 18: Reminiscences of Gandhi

tragic millions that groaned to the Heavens under the silver pepper of the stars-

beseeching the Unknown to return the known-the loved, the tried and the true.

I sat on the hood of my van many hours after the commentary was over, waiting for the

crowds to diminish. By this time I was in strange company. A woman, who had fainted

had been lifted to the hood for safety, as also a little girl and a boy who had almost been

trampled to death. And then, I noticed a hand trying to take hold of the edge of the hood.

'I looked over and saw it was the Prime Minister-Pandit Nehru-I grasped the groping

hand and lifted him to the roof of the van, "Have you seen the Governor-General?" he

asked. "He left half an how ago," I replied. "Have you seen Sardar Patel?" "He left a few

minutes after the Governor-General," I replied. I soon realized that in the general chaos

friends had lost friends. As the crowd recognized. Pandit Nehru they surged round our

van expecting him to speak. A wonderful thought passed through my mind as I knelt near

this great man. How logical it seemed! There the flames leapt over the body of the

Departed Father; here stood a son of India, his closest follower, taking up the Torch of

Freedom and rededicating himself to the Nation.

At 2 o'clock next morning on my way back home. I drove to Raj Ghat. The embers were

smoldering, the crowds had melted, and the restless dust had settled back. A guard had

now been placed on the site. As I looked out over Raj Ghat, I reconstructed the scene all

over again. Through the darkness I thought I saw the upright figure of a man in spotlessly

white khadi, with a grim look of determination on his face, looking out over the heads of

his countrymen. He was a figure I had knelt near, a few hours before-it was the figure to

which all eyes turn in these days-for hope and succour-the figure of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Page 19: Reminiscences of Gandhi

LAST JOURNEY

The last journey. New Delhi: February 11th-and the time is 4-30 a.m. I am standing

opposite the green asthi special opposite the compartment in which the urn containing

Gandhiji's ashes was placed. It was me middle carriage of a special train composed of

third class carriages because the Mahatma always travelled third class. The middle

carriage-what a blaze of colour! The rectangular table, on which the palanquin with the

urn was laid, was covered with a handspun tri-coloured national-flag over which was a

chaddar of flowers woven in green murraya leaves, white phloxes and saffron-coloured

calendulas. On this rested a beautiful wreath of snow-white phlox. At each end of the

change hung carpets of multi-coloured phlox worked into a picturesque design. Wreaths

of phlox decorated each side mixed with candy tuft and sweet sultans. The ceiling was

completely covered with a huge national tricolour. Floodlights illuminated the central

wreath, and it was into this wreath that, the urn carrying the sacred ashes of Mahatma

Gandhi, was placed. The dark green of the cycas palms added to the solemnity of !lie

Page 20: Reminiscences of Gandhi

occasion., It was a fairy land of flowers-purple, pink, red, white and saffron, but saffron

predominated.

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to

smile, and some have a ,sad and lovely expression.

Outside, on the platform, thousands of people filet past for a last darshan. At 6-30 a

whistle blew, and the green coaches pulled out of New Delhi station-people wept as the

train carried away the last mortal remains of Bapu-others threw handfuls of rose-petals

and garlands chanting mantras-others just stood in silence-bowed their heads and placed

their palms together reverently, too broken to look up-too grief-stricken to do aught but

bow in grief-adoration-and homage to the one who had taught them how to hold their

heads high.

SPRING'S SORROW

Cold dawn broke deep-red over Delhi as the long green coaches pulled slowly away.

Early crows flew silently by our side-flying high, then low--dipping their wings as it were

Page 21: Reminiscences of Gandhi

in homage. Our compartment was next to the middle carriage containing the urn with

Gandhiji's ashes. As I looked out across the fields and at the faces of the mourners who

lined the railway track my heart was heavy. It was Spring, and the fields were gold with

mustard. Like a rippling blanket they stretched to the horizon intermittently touched by

wind-on and on till the end of time-and yet something was lacking. All this beauty

seemed out of key-the heart could not leap with joy at the sight of Nature, because, down

each little pathway dividing field from field, one saw the ghostlike. footprints of a man

who had carried his blistered feet over the length and breadth of rural India-preaching to

the peasants, who now wept silently as the asthi special sped by. Many were covered

with dust and dirt indicative of miles and miles of trekking. Outside, the engine threw

wreaths of black smoke over the yellow fields. Gentle breezes carried these smoke-

chaplets solemnly over fence and field.

And so the asthi special continued on its last journey. The crowds that came for darshan

at Ghaziabad, Khurja, Aligarh, Hathras, Tundla, Ferozabad, Etawah, Phaphund; Kanpur,

Fatepur and Rasoolabad were gigantic. At Tundla our carriage became a dispensary for

fainting women, trampled children and injured soldiers. The crowds came in their

thousands, and none left without throwing his or her offering of flowers or taking a last

darshan. And all the way, the music of the rnantras was in our ears, and beautiful voices,

full of sadness, yet full of hope. Or, on and on, like the steady relentless rhythm of the

wheels below us, the voices read from the Gita. And I wondered as I listened, as the wind

tossed the words over the golden mustard, I wondered if they were saying:

Be who shall say, " I have slain a man!"

He who shall think, " I am slain!" those both

Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!

Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never.

Page 22: Reminiscences of Gandhi

A RED ROSE

"Would you like an orange?" I suddenly remember- ed I had not eaten anything, and I

looked into the kind face of the bestower who had moved to the window next to mine. I

liked him immediately, and soon I was being told all the lovely intimate sides to Bapu's

character--his love of children and of the small things of life that really make life worth

living. My friend was V. A. Sundaram, Gandhiji's disciple for thirty-two years. I

remember we had just left Fattepur. Men and boys had raced along with the train for

almost a mile outside the station, with hands outstretched for flowers from the urn, or

their shirts held out in front of them. Now, as the train picked up speed, they fell back,

and their shouts of "Long Live Mahatma Gandhi" faintly reached us as we pulled farther

away. My friend was preoccupied with a deep red rose. He looked up with tears in his

eyes as if anticipating the question. "This was the rose that I had placed on one of the

bullet-wounds,"-he whispered. No more conversation passed between us. Outside the sun

went down in a blaze of scarlet and gold. I touched the rose and thought it looked lovelier

than ever as its faint per- fume filled the twilight. As I gazed out of the window the train

Page 23: Reminiscences of Gandhi

slowed down to pass through a minor station. Above us, on a house overlooking the track

stood a soldier, on guard and in full battle-dress, silhouetted Against the stars. He bowed

reverently as the special passed by. It was the homage of the warrior to the martyr.

"THEY CAME TO A RIVER"

Millions en route paid their last homage-millions wept, millions filed past the carriage

shouting or whispering "Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai". Millions prayed, millions sobbed

unashamedly-and these millions belonged to all walks of life.

The feelings, of Indians found expression in shouts of "Long live Gandhiji", in streams of

floral tributes, or in tears. And so at last the journey ended at Prayer, King .of the holy

places-when they came to a River.

At the holy Triveni, the mortal remains of Mahatma Gandhi were immersed. The ashes of

the holiest and saintliest of human beings of our age were immersed at the confluence

Page 24: Reminiscences of Gandhi

regarded as the most sacred by Hinduism from time immemorial. I saw the ashes being

immersed in the sacred waters by Mr. Ramdas Gandhi. I was standing in an open boat

about forty yards away from the sacred "duck". Thousands of people had waded-in to get

a closer view. As the urn was emptied thousands cupped the waters of the river and drank

long and deep. Barrels of milk were emptied into the river-and the water was shining

white. At that moment starlings flew across the sky like handfuls of black confetti. It was

the journey's end. He had touched the Infinite and shared the divine current that thrills all

high souls. As for those who witnessed this last sacred ceremony-maybe they felt as I did

when I said a few days later "on the air":

"0 Lord, I do not serve in the temple: mine is no solemn office nor critical station, but I

thank thee that the River of God flows through the streets of the city and whosoever will-

may drink!"

Darkness fell over Prayag, and the lamps were lit. We prepared to. leave and took one

last look at Triveni Sangam. Now the lamps multiplied-like the slow punctuation of

fireflies in the garden. The stars leaned close, and some lost their hold and fell away. The

stars and the lamps. Bapu was amongst the stars, and his memory was like the myriad

lamps that shone through the darkness. Yes, the lamp still shines, and its light will

penetrate far into space and time and continue to shine; as long as our civilisation lasts.

Delhi, 2-10-1948.

Page 25: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Bapu And My Father

- Narayan Mahadev Desai

I WAS nine then. It was my first stay with Balm for a month. We had long since been

great friends, out, I never had an opportunity till now to stay with him for such a long

period. He had just finished his 21 days fast at 'Parnakuti' in Poona. My father was busy

the whole day, mostly in requesting visitors to spare Bapu as much as possible.

I had a severe attack of malaria, and the temperature remained high for two days. Father

was very anxious about m~, .but he was unable to sit by my side for long. Whenever he

came to me I asked him to send for my mother who was at Sabarmati. He did not

consider it necessary to do so, for he felt it would be a useless: expenditure of the nation's

money. The temperature did not come down even on the third day, and I became

delirious. In my delirium too I raved for my mother's presence. Manu, Bapu's

granddaughter, chanced to see my father trying without success to restrain his tears. $he

carried the report to Ba, who, in her turn, conveyed it to Bapu. He at once called my

father and asked him to bring a telegraphic form and take down a message he would

Page 26: Reminiscences of Gandhi

dictate. Father imagined it was some ordinary 'business' telegram. When, however, Bapu

dictated the text asking my mother to come soon, Father was amazed and argued against

sending the wire. "There are several friends here who can attend to BabIa, and Dr. Dinsha

is always available," he said. "It is quite unnecessary, therefore, to call Durga." "Well,"

replied Bapu, "I have only asked you to take down my message. I never asked your

opinion on it. I ask you to send this wire now, and you must send it." Mother came in

response to the telegram. I came to know of this incident only when Father related it to

me after. a couple of days with a smile on his face.

Bapu was to go to Madras to attend the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan to be held there in

March 1937. I was eager to go with him as I had never been to Madras before. l knew he

would take me with him for the asking; but I was afraid he would then refuse to take me

later to the Gandhi Seva Sangh Conference to be held at Hudli next month. Bapu had

shifted, about a year previously, to Sevagram; but we still lived at Maganvadi in Wardha,

as - Sevagram had no post office then. On his way to the station Bapu came to

Maganvadi Just for a peep, as the train was late by a few minutes. He asked me With a

touch of humour. "Don't you feel like going with we?".

"I do feel like it, but I have not spoken, for fear that you would refuse later on to take me

to Hudli."

"The promise to take you to Hudli stands. Now would you like to go to Madras?"

I still hesitated to say yes. So he cut the gordian knot by saying: "Let us have a toss." He

asked my mother to give him a pice. She was infected by his jocular spirit, and brought a

pice at once. Bapu then asked me with a smile: "Come on, say: King or cross'?" It was

Wholly a question of chance, but in-a childish spirit I preferred the cross to the King who

was a foreigner. Bapu tossed the pice, and I won! Bapu said: "Hurry up, Durga, get

together his clothes for the journey. I must leave this place in five minutes."

Just then my father, who was to accompany Bapu as usual, arrived on the scene. He said

to me: "It is not proper for you, Babla, to prepare to go just because Bapu made the offer

as a fun." To Bapu he said: "Why do you waste so much money in this way?"

Page 27: Reminiscences of Gandhi

"It is not a waste," replied Bapu. "He will be very useful to both of us."

"But he is not indispensable to either of us."

"That is not a sound argument, Mahadev. We are not going to send him to a regular

school. If he does not accompany us in our tours, when will he get a chance to be

trained?"

Father still opposed the proposal. Bapu said: "But I have given him a promise, and you

won't wish me to break it, would you?"

Father had no reply to this. Since then I formed part of Bapu's entourage in all his

journeys.

On our way back from Madras Shri Jamnalalji spoke to Bapu about the serene

atmosphere at Shri Raman Maharshi's ashram. Bapu said: "Mahadev, why don't you go

and see the place? The' sooner the, better." I began to pack Father's luggage, .as it was

decided" that he would take the train back from Bezwada. When the luggage was packed

and the train was passing over the Kistna bridge, very near to Bezwada station, Bapu

said, as if in continuation of his previous sentence, "and you can as well stay on for two

or three months, if you find the atmosphere peaceful"

To our amazement Father unpacked his things! "Bapu," he said with a serious voice, "one

Master is enough for me. I need not see the place."

The train moved on.

Father's health broke down in April 1942, and he had frequent attacks of giddiness.

Doctors advised him to take complete rest, but he did not like to leave Bapu when there

were talks of the coming struggle, the gravity of which was foreshadowed in Bapu's

writings and utterances. "How can I take rest at. this juncture?" Father said to his friends.

But he had to yield to Bapu's own pressure, and agreed to go to Nasik for about a fort-

night's rest. He started for the place one evening.

Page 28: Reminiscences of Gandhi

In about an hour a telephone message from Wardha came to Sevagram saying that Father

had an' attack of giddiness at the station and was in a serious condition, and that the Civil

Surgeon had taken him to his own bungalow. Bapu sent word in reply, asking Father to

be removed at once to Sevagram. I t was Sunday evening, and Bapu had already started

his weekly silence. On Father's arrival, ,however, Bapu broke the silence, and gently

asked: "How are you, Mahadev?" Father lay his head at Bapu's feet and said: "Bapu, I

should like to meet death, when it Gomes, with my head in your lap." He could say

nothing more. Tears were streaming from his eyes. Bapu put him into the bed which was

ready. He then sat by Father's side and began to fan him. "I know this quite well," he then

said. "Therefore I asked the Civil Surgeon to send you here at once, and told him that you

would be cured nowhere else, and that there is every chance of your being cured if you

are near me."

On the 8th of August, 1942, after Bapu returned late at night from the A.I.C.C. meeting,

those who were near him began to guess what would happen next. Bapu said

emphatically: "Surely they won't arrest me after the speech I made this evening. I have

said therein that I will still carry on correspondence with the Viceroy for about a

fortnight; they won't, therefore, arrest me for that period at least." Father was of the view

that Bapu would be arrested immediately. The air was thick with rumours about Bapu's

destination after the arrest. Bapu, however, was firm in his opinion that he would not be

arrested just then. After a while he went to bed, and asked others to do so. But there were

two persons who could not sleep-Ba (Kasturba) and my father. At two o'clock in the

night when I suddenly awoke, I heard the following conversation taking place between

them:

Ba : Mahadev, how many strokes did you hear just now?.

M.D. : Two.

Ba : Do you still feel that Bapu will be arrested?

M.D. : I do feel, Ba, that he will be arrested. But perhaps after all he may not be.

Hitherto whenever our own readings have differed from those of Bapu, he has always in

Page 29: Reminiscences of Gandhi

the end proved to be right.' This may happen even now, though I have no doubt he will be

arrested.

The talk ended there. During the next two hours Ba several times asked my father: "Are

you not asleep, Mahadev?".

"How can I get sleep?" Father replied.

When it was four, even Father began to feel that the arrest won't take place just then; but

in a few minutes the police arrived.

The police officer had warrants far Bapu, Mirabehn and my father, and had instructions

to. take Ba and Pyarelalji with him if they wished to. accompany Bapu. They were;

however, free to. decide far themselves. Father was happy because he was being taken

along with Bapu. But far Ba it was a testing time. It was quite likely that Bapu would

undertake a fast in the jail. Ba asked him: "What shall Ida?" Bapu smiled a little, and then

seriously said: "It is far you to. decide. You are free to. came with me. But I should like

you to. remain free just now, and court imprisonment later by same act of civil

disobedience." - Ba was in a dilemma. She was very eager not to. be separated from

Bapu, as there was every fear of the Government allowing Bapu to. die in prison if he

undertake a fast an going there. Bapu, an the other hand, wished her to. remain out far the

time- being. However, she did not take long to. make up her mind. She said to. Bapu: "I

should have very much laved to. go. with you, but I will keep back since you wish me to.

do. so."

"I knew," said Bapu with an air of satisfaction, "that you would take this decision. I had

no doubt about it."-

Vedchhi, 10-10-1948.

Page 30: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Lessons - Big And Small

- Kantilal Harilal Gandhi

WE were travelling in a third class railway compartment during Bapu's tour in the D. P.

in 1929. Even in a moving train he used to attend to his' correspondence or write for his

weeklies, Young India and Navajivan. It was about five o'clock in the evening. His watch

was lying among the papers in front of him. I was sitting with a watch on my wrist just

opposite to him. He asked me what the time was. I looked at my watch and told him it

was five o'clock. He also saw my watch through his spectacles and noticed there was still

one minute to five. Even looking at a watch for time was not a trivial thing for him. He

would not do that in a cursory way. But in this case it was not lack of proper observation

on my part. I had also noticed that there was one minute to five. Only I did not attach

much value. to that minute. 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 wrist watch? You have no value of time. Do you know how many

days or months thirty crores of minutes would make? What a colossal waste of time it

would mean for our poor country? It seems you have not even understood why I talk of

Page 31: Reminiscences of Gandhi

the Charkha. 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 meals.

It was in Juhu, sometime in 1935, that the following incident took place. Bapu and party

had planned to leave for Wardha by the evening train. I was one of the party. ~y maternal

aunt had come down to Bombay from Rajkot for meeting me. We had not met for the

past several years., Bapu asked me after the morning prayer if I was accompanying him

to Wardha that evening. He had thought I would like to stop for a day or two more in

Bombay in order to have some time with my aunt. But I could not catch his purpose in

asking me this question. Moreover, I myself did not think of my aunt and said: "Yes, I am

going with you." After the prayer, at my aunt's request, I agreed to stay on for a couple of

days more, and went to inform Bapu accordingly. He was in the bathroom. I announced

to him the change of my decision across the closed doors.

He gave me the permission, but added: "Now listen. Why did I ask you after the morning

prayer whether you were going with me or not? 1 knew your aunt would like to have

some time with you. Could you not think of this before answering me that you were

going with me to Wardha? And if you had thought about it, you should not now change

your mind. Once you make in your mind you should carry out the resolve at any cost

unless of course you feel that to do so would be p sin. Don't think I am scolding you. I"

tell you this for your future guidance. You can never achieve great things if you neglect

this advice. You must cultivate the habit of sticking to your decisions and learning from

your mistakes." "Yes, Bapu, I understand what you say, and I shall. . . " "No," Bapu at

once interrupted, "You can stay on with your aunt. This is a matter now between you and

her. But you can't serve people if you don't develop the habit of thinking well and acting

with courage upon your decisions."

Once while going to Bombay from Poona Bapu asked the headmaster of Bombay high

school, who had come to see him at Kalyan, who was more intelligent among the two

boys studying in his school and in whom Bapu was interested. The headmaster gave the

name of one of them, whereupon Bapu enquired about the character of ~he two, and said:

Page 32: Reminiscences of Gandhi

"Yes, character is more important in my view. We have no dearth of intelligent men

among our educated classes; but we are very short of men with character. "

It was sometime in 1935 just after the establishment of the All India Village Industries

Association by the Congress. Whenever Bapu placed before the Congress any new

scheme the work had to begin with his ashram. So village industries began with

Maganvadi at Wardha. Bapu called Mahadevbhai, Kanubhai and myself, and entrusted to

us the work of organising the grinding of flour which we required in the kitchen. At 'this

time he used to look carefully into everything we did in Maganvadi. Once Kanubhai and I

were cleaning vessels at a well.. Bapu happened to pass that way and saw us pouring,

water profusely over a small vessel to wash it. He came to us and said: "Look here, Kanti,

how much water you are wasting! Even now you don't know how to lean vessels." It was

not that we did not know how to clean vessels. We had several lessons from the same

guru at Sabarmati. It was our carelessness, or rather our inability to think of our actions in

terms of millions of people, He continued: "How much water you are wasting!" "Well,

Bapu, it is our energy that is spent in drawing more water, and in the well the water is

inexhaustible," we argued. He gently said: "Quite right, but why do you forget that here

we live for the service of others? Can you waste your energy like this? No, you must

preserve it for the service of our country." Then he sat down and showed us how to clean

vessels with a minimum quantity of water. As he went on cleaning another vessel he said:

"See, take a small quantity of wet earth and rub all over the vessel; then pour plenty of

dry earth in the vessel and clean the vessel dry; after this you don't require a large

quantity of water to wash it. Now, will you do like this?" he said finally. We promised to

do so thence- forth. But Bapu did not leave us until he saw that we could perform the

operation well.

In Wardha I was one of his stenographers. He dictated to me letters which I took down in

shorthand. Sometimes I could not hear a word here or a word there, but I filled the gap.

by looking at the context. Once I could not do so, and there were some bad mistakes. For

this he rebuked me so severely for nearly an hour that I went to Mahadevbhai at night

,and told him with tears in my eyes that I did hot want to stay with Bapu. Mahadevbhai

tried to pacify me for a long time, and promised to speak to Bapu. Next day when he

Page 33: Reminiscences of Gandhi

asked Bapu not to rebuke me so much for mistakes which even the professional typist,

who was employed there, made. "Besides," he added, "now Kanti is more afraid and

commits more mistakes! I have to correct a lot of them. So the purpose of your rebuke is

not served."

Bapu said: "Mahadev, don't .compare him to the typist employed by us. We pay the latter

for his work, and there the matter ends. It is not so with Kanti. I want to train him up. I

can't tolerate any mistake in his work. He can sit very near me and ask me if he cannot

follow me. He should be more vigilant in his work."

Only once did I see him losing his temper. It was at Sabarmati in 1926. The second bell at

4-20 in the morning had gone. The prayer had to begin. Bapu looked by his side.

Lakshmi, the Harijan girl who stayed with us, was not present.. He asked: "Where is

Lakshmi? Has she got up?" "Yes," I said. The prayer could not begin unless Lakshmi

came there. In those days Bapu used to make her sit by his side. We all sat silently for

several minutes. At last Lakshmi came and took her seat by Bapu's side. Bapu inquired

why she was late. The girl was of a very shy nature. She would not open her mouth. Bapu

repeated the question several times. Each repetition was exhausting Bapu's patience. In

the' moonlight we were observing Bapu's face. Even the voice was getting firmer and

stronger. But the girl wouldn't reply. Guilty conscience had aided her shyness to seal her

lips. Bapu never knew defeat. After asking . her. half a dozen times why she was late, he

got very angry when she did not reply. He lifted his hand in the attitude of giving a slap,

but the hand did not come down. For me it was a surprise to see Bapu about to slap

someone! Then, fortunately, the girl murmured that she was combing her hair. That was

enough for Bapu. He swallowed 4all his anger. The prayer began. Soon after the prayer

we went to our house. Bapu called Lakshmi and gently explained to her the need of

removing her hair which came in the way of her attending the prayer in time. Lakshmi

was too young to be given a chance to decide. A pair of scissors was sent for, and

Lakshmi's hair was bobbed by Bapu himself!

This reminds me of another incident at Maganvadi, Wardha. I was late in the prayer. .Of

course the prayer did not wait for me. But I was asked by Bapu after the prayer why I was

Page 34: Reminiscences of Gandhi

late. I said I was waiting to ease my- self and the latrine was not vacant. In Maganvadi we

had no brick-wall latrines. They were shifting superstructures made of bamboo-mat and

placed over a small, narrow and long trench. Hearing my reply he said: "You could have

dug out a small pit by hand somewhere in the field where the place was ploughed and

eased yourself. after all, the night soil should not lie uncovered and outside the field. It

should be made into manure. The darkness of the night dispenses with the need of any

screening. We should use our common sense in all that we do. Don't do anything without

thinking why you do it."

Bapu's hosts during his tour had always a hard task to look after his party which consisted

of an assorted lot. Often we wouldn't go in time for meals. The kitchen would have to run

all the day long. As if we were smaller "Bapus", some of us would have their

idiosyncrasies in the matter of food. Some invalids also swelled the party occasionally.

Bapu could realise the difficulties of his hosts. So he saw to it that we gave the minimum

of trouble to them. Once during his tour in the U.P. in 1929, we were guests of Rajasaheb

of Kalakankar. Several rooms were placed at our disposal. Even though our host had

many servants Bapu went round all the rooms we had occupied, at the time of our

departure. He was sorry to note in one of the rooms flowers, bits of paper, and the skin of

oranges scattered here and there. He said with sorrow: "Look at this, Kanti, you have

made this room look like a third class railway carriage." I promptly replied: "No, Bapu, I

did not do it." He said, "Yes, I know you may not have thrown those skins of oranges

there. But whosoever has done this belongs to our party, and we have all to share the

blame." Then he asked me to take up the duty of inspecting our lodgings wherever we

went, during the rest of the tour, before starting off for another place.

At Sabarmati when my younger brother, Rasik, and I were yet children, I remember Bapu

taking us on his shoulder and throwing us into the trough in front of a well. Once during

the rainy season the Sabarmati was in spate. We used to jump into the river at a ghat up

the stream and would be carried by water to the ghat down the stream. Then we would

walk along the bank back to the first ghat. Our house was. just on the bank of the river

between the two ghats. The path joining the two ghats passed through our compound.

Bapu used to, sit in the open verandah facing the path. One morning. we, brothers, were

Page 35: Reminiscences of Gandhi

performing our trips in swimming from one ghat to the other as usual. Rasik just called

out, while passing across our compound: "Bapuji, come on with us to jump into the river;

it is so pleasant to swim on the waves of the flood." It was just the time for Bapu's bath

also. He left off writing, got up and said: "Come along, let us see who swims better. Don't

think I am old." (He was over fifty five then.) All the inmates of the Ashram who were

staying along the bank came to know this and ran to have the unique sight of Bapu

swimming in the flooded river. I had the good luck to witness a similar incident of Bapu's

ride on a bicycle while going from the Ashram to the Gujarat Vidyapith in 1928. We had

reach- ed half .way to the Vidyapith when Bapu asked one of the inmates of the Ashram,

who was returning from the Ahmedabad city, to give him his cycle because it was getting

late for him to reach the Vidyapith. He got on the bicycle and asked me to follow him

slowly.

Once at Maganvadi I was about to take a vow of eating only three things and only thrice,

for a year or so. Ba came to know of this. She of course could not dissuade me. She

therefore complained to Bapu about my pro- posed vow. He was walking after the

evening meals on the terrace. He called me, and exchanged one of his 'sticks' for me.

(Bapu often used to support himself on shoulders of two persons while having his walks.

These were known as his 'sticks'.) Then he exclaimed: "Kanti, is Ba's complaint about

you true?" I said: "Yes." "No, no," said Bapu, "you should not take such. vows, and that

too at this age. (I was about 25 then.) We in the ashram do not cook anything for our

taste. Our food is quite sattvika, and meant for body-building. I don't want you to practise

such asceticism now. You must have an ideal of eating well and then serving well. Do

you know I used to take a dozen plaintains, besides other things, in break- fast alone, and

then used to walk 8 to 10 miles for my work, in South Africa? Don't take such vows. I

may understand your doing such things when you are old but' not now. All right, go, don't

take such vows." There was no scope for argument. I had to obey him.

In January 1936 he went. to the Gujarat Vidyapith Ahmedabad, to recoup his health. The

party included, be- sides Mahadevbhai and Ba, Kanu Gandhi, Prabhavati Devi Mrs.

Jayaprakash Narayan-and myself. My birthday fell during this period. I made my

obeisance to Bapu, Ba, and other elders and got their blessings. After the morning walk

Page 36: Reminiscences of Gandhi

as I was massaging Bapu's feet with ghee as usual, I said to him: "Bapuji, half my life is

over. When I look back across all these years I do not feel very happy, for I have

rendered little service to anybody. I don't know what I shall be able to do in the coming

years." Bapu said: "Oh, you think half of your life is over! No, no, I think only a quarter

of it is over. Why should you think it to behalf?" ~'Is not India's average longivity much

less than 50?" I asked. Bapu said: "It certainly does not apply to you! You should always

expect to live as long as you can and serve." Afterwards I went to the city for some work.

When I came back to the Vidyapith rather late, Prabhavatibehn served me my meals, and

to my surprise there were two small sweet balls in the plate. It was almost impossible for

us to have such delicacies while we were with Bapu. On my inquiry Prabhavatibehn told

me how Bapu had asked her to prepare those sweet balls from his own wheat flour and

jaggery with a sprinkling of milk. It had been always a rare thing to have such indulgence

from Bapu. Therefore whenever it came, it was all the more welcome and was long

remembered.

Mysore, 27-9-1948.

Page 37: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

My Grandfather

- Sumitra Ramdas Gandhi

I WAS about five years old when Bapuji came and stayed in a building near Mahilashram

at Wardha. Our house too was near by. My eyes had been a source of anxiety to my

parents and grandparents since my early childhood. I had beautiful curls on my head, and

it was a difficult task for my mother to tidy them and comb them. I was a naughty child,

and used to play recklessly, dishevelling my neat curls. They spread on my face and eyes.

I looked through the locks, and that weakened my eyes still further. This added to my

parents' worry. I did not like the idea of cutting my hair, and opposed the proposal

whenever it was made. Then Bapuji played a trick with me.

During the Divali festival that followed, Mother prepared a number of sweets and sent

them through me to all her friends. The day after the Divali is our Gujarati New Year

Day. As is customary for youngsters to pay their respects to the elders and receive their

blessings, I went to Bapuji. After making an obeisance to him I boast- ed to him that I

had distributed sweets to all our friends.. Bapuji said with a twinkle in the eye: "But you

did not give me any!" I was nonplussed. Presently, however, I gathered courage and

Page 38: Reminiscences of Gandhi

replied: "Yes, I forgot to do so earlier, but I will bring some now for you." He cunningly

said: "No, now it is too late. Now I won't take sweets; I will ask for something else from

you!" I asked him: "What do you want?" He said: "Do you promise to give me whatever I

ask for?" How could I imagine what he had in mind? I therefore said: "Yes, certainly!"

He said: "Then give me your hair!" For a while I was shocked find became speechless,

but gradually I calmed down and replied: "Well, you may have it, but on the condition

that you ,yourself must cut it. I won't allow anyone else to touch it." He agreed and there

and then asked Kanubhai to get him a clipper. He cleaned the machine, and closely

cropped my hair. I felt like weeping, but restrain ed myself. Then I went to my mother

and narrated the whole incident to her. Later I often got my hair cropped or bobbed, but

never regretted it. Older persons admire me for it, and remarked: "She is a clever child,

for she has caught Bapu to do this job for her!"

Later, when I was, eleven, I had to undergo an eye operation, and was asked by the

doctor. to give complete rest to the eyes, for one whole year. During that period I

accompanied Bapuji and Ba (my grandmother) to the Congress session at Haripura in

February, 1938. We stayed in' a special tent put up for Bapuji. At night 1 slept near him.

One morning he ,asked me to bring his chappals. I put them on and brought them to him.

He immediately told me that children should not put on the chappals or shoes of elders

and that they should bring these in their hands. He then asked me to take back the

chappals to their original place and to bring them again in the proper manner.

In 1942-43 when Bapuji and my grandmother (whom we children addressed as 'Motilal

were in detention in the Agakhan palace, my grandmother was ill, and during one of the

visits to her I accompanied my father, as grand- mother loved to hear children's talk and

laughter. My mother gave me two handkerchiefs daily for use at school, but to me they

seemed more of an encumbrance. But in Poona, for the sake of dignity, I took care to

have one of these with me whenever I went out. The day on which I went to see my

grandparents was Monday, Le. Bapuji's day of silence. We started from our place at 10

a.m., and reached the Agakhan palace at 2 p.m., after paying a few visits on the way. By

this time my kerchief got crumpled and soiled. I was indifferent" about it; nor had I

Page 39: Reminiscences of Gandhi

another 'to replace it. But it did not, escape Bapuji's notice and by his facial expression he

showed his disapprobation of my dirty handkerchief. He asked me to get it washed. When

I said that I had not got another with me and that I badly needed it, he gave me another

kerchief, and I washed the offending one. Next day the kerchief I had left behind was

returned to me with the remark: "Now your kerchief is clean."

In July 1945 I was staying at Simla with my uncle and aunt, when Bapuji came there for

the conference convened by the Viceroy. We, children, joined him in his daily prayers

and walks. Once while talking .in Gujarati I used an English word 'education' about

which he reprimanded me. He said nothing to me directly, but turning to his secretary

nonchalantly asked him: "What does Sumi mean? Is it a horse or a bull? I am unable to

follow her. Do you know the meaning of the English word she used?" I realized my

mistake and corrected it. After that, whenever I was at a loss to find 'an appropriate

Gujarati expression, I apologised to him, and he gave me the correct word. What he

disliked was a hotchpotch of words, and he was keen on our using the correct words in

the language which we for the moment were using. He also corrected' the mistakes in our

letters and pointed these out to us. .

He never liked my studying in a college, and said it was a showy type pf education, and

that it was not related to practical life. As, however, I was obstinate he had to give in.

When I went to him after my first year examination, he minutely inquired into my hostel

life and studies at college. He wanted girls to be as sturdy and bold as boys. During his 21

days fast at the Agakhan palace in March 1943 I travelled alone from Wardha to Poona;

and when I saw him and bowed to him he had no strength to speak, but he smiled and

gave me a thump on the back in appreciation of my pluck and courage.

Banaras, 16-9-1948

Page 40: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

In London And Delhi

- John Haynes Holmes

I first heard of Gandhi in 1922-more than a' quarter of a century ago. I had at that time

never heard his name, but found it by chance in a magazine article which told the story of

his achievements in South Africa. From the moment I read this epic tale, Gandhi became

the hero of my life, the saviour of my soul. I proclaimed him, in a sermon which

unexpectedly went to India and beyond, "the greatest man in the world". How abundantly

was my faith vindicated in all that the Mahatma did and! said in the crowning glory of his

career!

Of course, I got into touch with Gandhi. Thus, I wrote him letters-very presumptuous on

my part, it now seems. But Gandhi responded, and I became his friend and follower.

Soon I was receiving and reading the weekly copies of Young India. How excited I was

when the chapters of his autobiography began to appear in the columns of this paper. I at

once cabled- Gandhi, asking if I might have the rights to publish this work in the pages of

a weekly paper, called Unity, which I was editing at that time. He agreed at once, and the

Page 41: Reminiscences of Gandhi

autobiography was thus printed in full here in America. I later secured its publication in

an abbreviated form as a single volume edited by C. F. Andrews. The publisher argued

that Gandhi was not well enough known in this country to justify the printing of the

original text of so extended a work. Now there is a spate of volumes about the Mahatma,

and among them is the autobiography in full.

All this while I was close to Gandhi, but had never seen him. It happened, by mere

chance, that I was in Europe in the summer of 1931, which will be remembered as the

year of the Indian Round Table Conferences in London. Picking up a German newspaper

one day I read, to my vast astonishment and delight, that Gandhiji was on his way to

attend the Conference. Instantly I abandoned all my plans of travel on the continent, and

hastened to England. I could not miss this unexpected opportunity to meet one whom I

had so long revered! There, in Eng- land, I met Charlie Andrews and Reginald Reynolds,

and together we went to Folkestone to meet the distinguished traveler from India. It was a

cold, foggy, rainy September day-typical English weather in the fall. I can remember

shivering as I stood on the pier-partly from the chill which penetrated my bones, and

partly from sheer nervousness at the prospect of at last coming face to face with the great

Indian, my friend.

The Channel boat was delayed by the fog. But suddenly we saw her nose pointing

through the heavy curtain of mist and rain. At last she was made fast to her moorings, the

gang-way was down, and I was the first aboard. As I entered the cabin I saw Gandhiji

sitting cross-legged on his bunk. Instantly he arose to greet me,. and held me in. his

embrace. Then, as his first word, he said: "Why didn't you meet me at Marseilles?"-the

port where he had disembarked to cross the continent by train. He laughed with eager

merriment as I tried to explain that I felt I had no right to intrude upon him unduly. "You

should have come," he said. "Then we could have talked."

But the train for London was waiting, so we must hurry. I remember my consternation as

I watched Gandhi going out unclad, as it seemed to me, into the cold and wet of one of

the worst days I had ever seen in England. He wore only a loin cloth, a cotton shawl over

his shoulders, and leather sandals on his bare feet. Someone, as solicitous as I, had raised

Page 42: Reminiscences of Gandhi

an umbrella over his uncovered head. I trod behind him as we made our way from boat to

train, and thought how grotesque he looked. This was a very different figure from that

presented centuries be- fore by Julius Caesar and William of Normandy, when they

landed on these shores to conquer England. But here was a greater and nobler conqueror,

destined for mightier deeds. Yes, how little did I know that, in less than sixteen years,

India would be free and Gandhiji's victory won!

On arriving in London we went at once to the Friends Meeting House, where a good

audience had gathered to receive the distinguished visitor. Then there was the long drive

out to the East End, to Kingsley Hall, where Gandhi was going to stay, as the guest of

Muriel Lester, during his attendance on the Round Table.

With this there began a week when I was with Gandhi at intervals each day. Certain

memories stick right out! Thus there was the bright, sunny Sunday morning when I talked

alone with Gandhiji on the terrace of Kingsley Hall. I recall how he enjoyed the warm

sun, and how happy he seemed to be. Later on, I spent a late afternoon with him on the

same terrace as he ate his frugal but nourishing supper. Then there is the Sunday evening

when a group of us, including tenement mothers from the neighbourhood, gathered about

the Mahatma while he talked to us about prayer as an exercise of the spiritual life. I think

also of our meeting in St. James's Palace, where the Round Table sessions were being

held, when we discussed pro and con the question of his coming to America. " It was

after this discussion that Gandhiji took me in his automobile for the long ride out to

Kingsley Hall. There were other occasions when I saw him. I shall 'tell them in detail

some day. But all too soon there came my sailing date for America, and I had to say

good-bye.

As I look back upon this week in London, I am amazed that I saw so much of the

Mahatma, and came so close . to him. Here was one of the busiest men in the world.

Upon him lay the burden of India in her quest for national independence. Here in England

he was attending the dally lessons of a conference of momentous significance. In this

conference he was grappling with the world's greatest empire and, therewith was

challenged to make decisions, interpret policies, and offer leadership which affected the

Page 43: Reminiscences of Gandhi

fate of millions of human beings. Gandhi sat at the centre of the council table. He was

pressed upon from every side-there was no incident or instant which was, free of

responsibility. Yet he seemed to find it easy to meet and talk with this unimportant

clergyman from America, and to show him a hospitality which seem- ed to spring from a

heart which had not a care in the world. A part of the explanation lies in Gandhiji's

humility, his utter lack of pretension or pose. He had no need of spending time to

maintain his dignity or parade his importance. He was as simple as a child, and thus free

to do what he would. Along with these qualities, of course, went an affection, a love of

people, a concern for courtesy and kindness, which made him accessible to all who would

know his spirit and walk in his way. In all that week in London, there was not a moment

of hurry, not a trace of impatience. On the contrary, there was a constant serenity and

calm, a sweetness of temper, an unquenchable good humour, which made him the most

attractive and lovable of men. In all that seething city, with its noise, confusion, and

hurrying crowds, there was at least one man who, in Matthew Arnold's phrase, was "self-

poised and independent still". .

Years passed, and I could reach Gandhiji only by letters. The correspondence continued

at long intervals. I had a feeling that I had no right to bother the Mahatma with frequent

communications. I must write only when I had something definite to say. He always

answered my letters, sometimes by his own hand, sometimes by dictation to a secretary. I

hoped that I might see him again, but this seemed more and more unlikely as time went.

The war imposed a kind of final veto upon Gandhi's travelling west, or my travelling east.

Then came to me, right out of a clear sky, the invitation of the Watumull Foundation to

go to India on a lecture-trip to the schools and colleges. I accepted at once--and wrote

joy- fully to Gandhiji of what had happened. I shall never forget his reply-the precious

letter in which he wrote:

"You have given me not only exciting but welcome news. The news appears to be almost

too good to be true, and I am not going to believe it in its entirety unless you are

physically in India."

Page 44: Reminiscences of Gandhi

I left America for India on September 18, 1947, and arrived in Bombay, after ten days in

England, on Sunday, October 5th. On the Saturday following, I addressed an enormous

mass-meeting at Chowpatty beach in celebration of Gandhi's birthday. On the following

day, I went to New Delhi, and there met the Mahatma twice. The first time was on the

very day of my arrival in the capital. To my astonishment and delight, I learned that he

had already arranged an appointment in anticipation of my coming, and I must go round

at once to Birla House, to see him.

I was ushered promptly into his presence-in the little room where he was tragically fated

to die within a few weeks. He seemed to be troubled by a bronchial cough, and was

wrapped in a cotton shawl, high about his neck. This fell away as we talked, and I saw his

chest and arms. I was amazed at what seemed to be his superb physical condition. His

skin was like a baby's, his muscles firm and stout. I told him that he looked better than

when I saw him last in London, seventeen years before, and was pleased to be told that he

was ten pounds heavier than he had been at that time. We talked easily and in formally

together. I did not press him on the great and distressing events of the hour. Of course I

expressed my deep sympathy over the disorder, violence and bloodshed which had been

raging in the land, and could see how great was the grief in his own heart. But he was not

overborne. His courage was as great as ever. And he trusted still in God. I t was an

amazing experience to see this man whose single influence was bringing peace again to

his stricken land, and all so quiet and simple. Here was the pure spirit, burning as a clear

flame upon an altar, to shed light in darkness.

The night of this first day I went to the six o'clock prayer-meeting in the garden. The

thought came to me, as I saw no police or soldiery in the place, that assassination would

be easy. But surely there could be no violence in this lovely place and on this sacred

occasion. Nor would Gandhi seek the protection of arms. The hundreds of persons

present were all worshippers, of different races, religions and languages, but one in the

spirit of the Mahatma. Their reverence was a beautiful thing to see.

I saw Gandhiji a second time at the end of the week. I was leaving for South India, and

then for a long trip east- ward to Calcutta. I confidently expected to return, and see

Page 45: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Gandhiji for one last, long communion of mind and heart. So this was just a good-bye,

and to me a kind of benediction. Gandhiji was tired that afternoon-he received me

without appointment, and to the interruption, I fear, of important work. But he was never

more gentle and kind, and his conversation was full of vigour. But I did not stay long. As

I rose to go, he told me that I must surely see him again. I promised to come back, if my

schedule permitted. But, alas, I never saw him again, but had to content myself with a

long letter of farewell, written from Calcutta. .

I had a leisurely journey, flying the vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean. I stopped a few

days in Tokyo, a week in Honolulu, five days in Los Angeles, then by train across the

continent to New York. I went promptly to my study, to take up the work which had long

been awaiting my return. And there, right on top of my great accumulation of mail, was a

long letter from Gandhiji, placed there reverently by my secretary, that this might be my

welcome home. A few days later-the assassination! And the greatest chapter of my life

was closed.

New York, 1-10-1948.

Page 46: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

At Sabarmati

- Prema Kantak

IT was on, the 26th of May, 1929, that I first entered the Satyagraha ashram at Sabarmati

along with Gandhiji. Here are a few memories of the days I spent under his care till he

started on the Dandi March next year.

He liked to sleep under the sky, unless it was actually raining. The other inmates of the

ashram, who lived near him, generally liked to sleep in the open, but in the chilly winter

they, took shelter of the roof and shifted their beds to the verandah. But he never

flinched. There lay his cot in the open, in winter as well as in summer. I followed suit,

and placed my cot outside at a respectable distance from his. He would often bid me good

night with his favourite saying: "Now sleep the sleep of the innocent."

There was a parijat tree in front of his residence, at the ashram, which was known as

Hridaya kunj (i.e. the Bower 'of the Heart). In the rainy days of July and August the tree

put forth all its floral glory. Early morning one day I gathered all the delicate, fragrant

Page 47: Reminiscences of Gandhi

red- white flowers with which the ground had been strewn . overnight, wove them into a

garland, put it into a basket, I and covering it with the upper skirt of my sari, approached

Gandhiji as he sat writing in his room.

"Mahatmaji, may I garland you?" I asked with some hesitation.

He looked up. "Why, is there any special occasion today?" he asked.

"Today is a grand holiday," I playfully replied. "I have gathered these lovely flowers of

parijat from the garden, and made a garland for you."

"Where is it?"

"Here!" I showed the garland to him.

"Very fine! Now do this much for me. There are two patients in the ashram. When you

have the satisfaction of garlanding me, take the garland at once, cut it I into two pieces,

give one each to both the patients, and let me know afterwards how they fare. Do you

agree?"

"I do," I said, and carried out his instructions.

Once there was a sport competition on the ashram grounds between students of the

Gujarat Vidyapith and those of the ashram. The Iatter were beaten by a small margin.

Gandhiji was present on the occasion for nearly In hour and a half. At the end of the

match all the players gathered round him and asked him to say something to them. "I

would say only this," said Gandhiji, that the defeated party should not be disheartened,

and the victorious one should not feel elated." The remark was hailed with joy and

laughter.

A month or so before the Dandi march in 1930, a smallpox epidemic 'broke out in the

ashram. Gandhiji was opposed to vaccination, and parents in the ashram had not got their

Page 48: Reminiscences of Gandhi

children vaccinated in deference to his opinion. When the epidemic broke out some

children got severe attacks. Gandhiji ,took all possible preventive and curative measures

which were approved of by competent doctors. Many of the patients were cured, but a

few succumbed.

Gita was a girl of nine. Her soul flittered away while she was listening to her father who

was reading the Gita at her bedside.

That night at 12 I suddenly got up. Gandhiji was sitting in his bed and was writing letters.

The lantern was burning.

"Why are you writing at such an odd hour? Is it something very important? May I help

you?" I asked him.

"No, no, you may sleep on. Let me go on writing," he replied drily, without turning his

head.

I had no alternative but to sleep again. That light passed on. A few days later it was little

Vasant's 'turn. He passed away while his father, Pandit Narayan Khare, was conducting

the evening prayer of the ashram.

That night I again happened to wake at about mid- night, and saw Gandhiji sitting on his

bed and writing, as on the previous occasion.

And again when tiny Meghji followed suit, some days later, and as before I saw Gandhiji

burning the midnight oil, I could not keep to my bed, but got up, and approaching him

straightaway asked: "Oh, Mahatmaji, why do you get so much disturbed on the nights of

these deaths? Every time a child passes away, you get up at dead of night and bury

yourself in writing!"

"What else can I do?" he replied with a sigh. "I can't sleep. These kiddies are fading away

like little buds. I feel the weight of their deaths on my shoulders. I prevailed upon their

parents not to get them vaccinated. Now the children are passing away. It may be, I am

Page 49: Reminiscences of Gandhi

afraid, the result of my ignorance and obstinacy; and so I feel very unhappy."

"Is it the Mahatma who is uttering these words?" I said with a taunt. "You have made the

correct diagnosis. You have applied correct remedies. Doctors have approved of your

method of dealing with the disease. Now no one can resist death. If, after all, children die,

who can help? But why should you, of all persons-you who always teach us to look to

death as a friend and act in a dispassionate manner-should give way to attachment? It

does not become a Mahatma. Why should your heart be so weak as that?"

"True," he replied," I admit my weakness." He mused for a few seconds, then looked up,

and said: "However brave and dispassionate a man may be, can he not be tender-hearted

as well?"

Next evening he poured out his heart before the ashramites and declared that, while he

himself had no faith in vaccination, he did not wish to impose his opinion on others. If

any parents wished to get their children vaccinated, he added, they were free to do so.

No one availed of this liberty, and after that day there was no fatal case in the ashram. It

was a strict rule at the ashram that after 9 p.m. there should be quiet everywhere and

lamps should be put off. Talking after 9 p.m. was prohibited. Occasionally, however, I

saw Gandhiji himself breaking the rule. Mirabehn came to bid him good night, and at

times Gandhiji talked to her for several minutes, even beyond the prescribed time limit.

No one dared to speak about this or to give a timely hint to either of them: One night I

heard a sister, who was my neighbour, talking loudly to a guest of hers after the bell was

gone. When I drew her attention to the fact, she expressed her regrets, stopped the

conversation, and went to bed. I then left my room and came to the compound to go to

bed, when-lo and behold-there lay Gandhiji on his cot, talking to Mirabehn who was

standing in front of him!

"Mahatmaji, the bell has gone," I told him.

"Ah! is it? I had no idea!" he exclaimed.

Page 50: Reminiscences of Gandhi

"Can a satyagrahi be so negligent?" I said. "behn too was chatting just now, when I had to

pull her up." "She ought not to have, one so," he said.

"And what are you doing?" I asked, and added: "When you break the rule, others follow

suit."

"If I break the rule, you must pull me by the ear and bring me to my senses," he said

quietly. "I too must obey the rules, for my responsibility of abiding by them is greater

than that of anyone else."

He at once put an end to the conversation, and went to sleep.

Sasvad, 23-10-1948.

Page 51: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Small Things I Learnt From Him

- Kishorelal Mashruwala

DO not exactly remember the occasions on which I learnt several small things from

Gandhiji. I shall just mention what they are.

1. This was perhaps when I met him for the first time in Champaran in 1917. He

asked me to copy out a passage from the Indian Year Book on a sheet on foolscap

paper. As the paper was larger than I needed I folded it up, made a crease by

passing my fingers over it, and began to tear it along the crease. Gandhiji stop- ed

me, and asked me to cut it with a knife. "When you tear along a crease with your

hands," he said, "fibres appear along the edges. They jar upon the eye. You should

make it a rule always to divide the paper with a paper-cutter or an ordinary knife."

2.Once he showed' me how to open up the flap of an envelope, the gum of which had

got stuck. He introduced a fountain pen into a slight opening under the flap, and

quickly rolled it round the edge. He said: "Do you see how it opens up without

injuring the paper? This is a method which everyone should know."

3. He was displeased if he saw a letter placed in an envelope with irregular folding.

Page 52: Reminiscences of Gandhi

He said: "When you fold your letter you must see that the edges coincide properly

and the fold is regular. An irregular folding creates a .bad impression upon the

receiver about you. It looks slovenly."

4. One of my young nephews lived with me at Sabarmati. He once. tore his

clothing during play and then went straight to Bapu's. room. Bapu saw the torn

condition of the cloth, and when he saw my wife later he showed his displeasure

at it. He said: "One need not be ashamed of clothes repaired with sewing or

patches. Poverty in itself is not a matter for shame. But there is no excuse for a

person to put on unmended or dirty clothes. A cloth must be repaired as soon as it

is torn, and washed if it has become dirty.'.'

5. I may also mention a habit which I developed, under his influence, to a greater

extent than commendable, as it verges on miserliness and disorderliness. It is that

of preserving and using bits of paper written on one side, wrappers on book-post

packets etc., and used envelopes. Perhaps the instinct of thrift was inherent in me,

and it got encouragement by his example. I am not at all proud of it; I rather feel

ashamed of the extent to which it has grown. But it seems to have got hardened in

spite of my own mental protest against it.

Wardha, 31-8-1948

Page 53: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Sweet And Sad

- P. G. Mavalankar

WHEN I was studying in the English sixth standard, I contributed an article to the school

Annual, wherein I stated that my life-ambition was to advance culture, through work in

the field of education. All seemed to like my writing. Thereafter my father went to

Sevagram for the first time in 1944, after his release from jail, for a meeting of the

Kasturba Trust Fund. I insisted on his taking my article and give it to Bapu for his

opinion. My joy knew no bounds when I got, through my father, a letter in Bapu's own

handwriting:

Dear Purushottam, .

You have selected the best but a difficult ideal. May God help you. Do come here some

time. Love.

BAPU

Page 54: Reminiscences of Gandhi

It was May 1944. Bapu was at Juhu. I went to him with my father. After the talks

(between him and my father) were over, I placed in Bapu's hands my autograph- book for

his autograph. He took the book with the five- rupee note, and asked for a fountain pen,

which was then offered to him by my father. But he returned it, stating that it was of

foreign make. He even rejected my pen, which was known as 'Gooptu's Perfection' and

was made at Calcutta, under the impression that it was of foreign make. He signed his

autograph with a pen lying near him. While signing his autograph, he gave us, in a

romantic manner, the history of his own pen. He said: "Once I had been to Banaras.

Mahadev was with me. I lost my . pen there. Mahadev was naturally upset. So our host,

the late Shivaprasad Gupta, presented a pen to me. He gave one to Mahadev also. I am

still using that pen. It is entirely Indian-made,-manufactured in Banaras-and it works

well." After saying this, he said with a smile: "I was told the story (of the manufacture of

the pen) by Shivaprasad. I do not know anything about it. But what he stated must have

been true."

It was the month of May in 1945. There was a meeting of the Kasturba Fund Trustees in

the cool climate of Mahabaleshwar. Bapu presided over it. During the discussion on a

certain subject, Shri Devdas (youngest son of Gandhiji), who is a trustee of the Fund,

said: "Bapu, I wish to say something about this." Bapu said: "Surely, say whatever you

like." "But it is something against the view you propound," said Devdas. Bapu smiled and

said: "An obedient son may feel shy of speaking to the face of his father. But you need

have no such feeling. Say frankly what you want." Pointing to Shri Thakkar Bapa, he

added with a hearty laughter: "But look here, here are two instead of one Bapa (father). I

can appreciate, therefore, your embarrassment." Shri C. Rajagopalachari happened to be

there at the time, and he caused addition to the peals of laughter by saying: "But, Bapu,

here there are three fathers instead of two! This was quite correct; as Shri Rajaji is the

father-in-law of Shri Devdas. Bapu had all along joined in the laughter.

I was in Delhi in October 1946, and one day (on 24th October) accompanied my father to

the Bhangi Colony at prayer time. As we approached the place, we noticed some turmoil

Page 55: Reminiscences of Gandhi

from a distance. We were afraid that we were a bit late for the prayers. Instead, we saw a

different situation. Bapuji was standing on the plat- form, with others, and was talking to

the crowd, some among whom were raising some slogans. The situation appeared to me

from a distance to be strange and sad.

Bapuji was standing and was saying something with a sad heart as appeared from his

face. It was not possible to know what exactly was happening. I imagined that he might

be saying .good-bye with a heavy heart, to the crowd, on the eve of his departure for

Bengal next day. We entered the premises with curiosity, and stood on the left side of the

prayer platform. We saw some young and angry faces, among the crowd, carrying boards

displaying the following slogans: "Down with Bengal Ministry", Save Bengali Hindus

from mass slaughter", "Expel Ben- gal Governor", "Remove Suhrawardy Ministry",

"Rescue abducted women". They were very vocal, with slogans against the Muslim

League and the League Ministry in Bengal. We learnt afterwards that they were local

Bengali Hindus. Bapuji was appealing to all of them to be quiet. He said to the angry

crowd: "Prayers will begin if you keep quiet. You have come here for prayers. You can

go elsewhere, if you do not wish to join these. There is no obligation on anyone here (to

remain present); but if you choose to stay, you must keep quiet."

For a while nobody complied with his request. The slogans continued. He was patiently

trying to have his say; but Who would- hear him in such a tumult? At last one voice

angrily said to him: "Gandhiji, we want the Central Government to intervene in this

matter. We want that our people must be saved from this calamity. We want you to

intervene. Why don't you immediately go to Bengal?" I also felt moved at the piteous

appeal of the man to the Father of the Nation. What could helpless people do in such a

situation? Whom else could the afflicted appeal to, but to the Father of the Nation?

Did Bapuji not know the situation in the country? .

But his hands were tied in many ways. At last he showed great presence of mind and

abandoned a large part of the prayers. He took up only Ramdhun. He saw that it was

Page 56: Reminiscences of Gandhi

impossible to induce the excited crowd to keep quiet for fifteen - to twenty minutes. The

'Ramdhun' brought about a sweet silence. Cheerfulness and patience replaced irritation.

and anger. Bapu then began his address to the crowd. He had felt the pulse of the

distressed people. This was not a new experience. He did not attempt to find fault with

people who had gone mad with rage. On the contrary he spoke to them with sympathy:

"All leaders are fully alive to the situation in Bengal. The Congress Cabinet is at present

considering the very question, and I am also preparing to go to Bengal. All of us are

moved, when we read or hear the Bengal atrocities; but you should all keep some

patience, have some courage, and trust in God. Solid work and not mere slogans are

essential on such occasions. First decide whether you want to kill or to die. Empty

slogans will serve no purpose. I can only show to you the way to die, to sacrifice all that

you have, not the way to kill. I have been preaching this in India for the last thirty years-

in fact, since the South African days and therefore for the last fifty years." Bapu spoke to

this effect. His voice showed the deep sorrow of his heart. He even referred to the Interim

Government and said: "Pandit Jawaharlal; Sardar Patel and other leaders have been very

much grieved at the Bengal atrocities; but leaders cannot afford to sit silent in grief. What

an amount of responsibility Jawaharlal is bearing today! He carries the burden of .

anxiety for the entire nation. He is overburdened with work. He could not sleep till two

o'clock last night. But what is the remedy? Everyone must discharge his duty. If

Members of Government feel convinced that the Bengal conflagration can be put down

by their sacrifice, none of them will fail to act accordingly."

Bapu then turned to the atrocities against women. While explaining that, though our

sisters in Bengal might keep with them knives for self-defence if necessary, the knives

would be of no avail against crowds, he said: "I have told women long ago that it is better

to end one's life by poison than suffer insults. I wish our sisters become brave."

At the end, congratulating the crowd for maintaining peace, he said: "I am very grateful

to you: all for having given a patient hearing to' me, after participating in Ramdhun."

Ahmedabad, 21-11-1948.

Page 57: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Since 1915

- Hansa Mehta

THE first glimpse I had of Gandhiji was in December 1915 when he attended the session

of the Indian National Congress held in Bombay:' He had returned from South Africa in

the beginning of that year, and gave an account of the position of Indians in that country

and the battles he had waged to improve it. He was hardly audible. Clad in his

Kathiawadi dress he looked unimpressive and out of place in the midst of the frock-

coated and top-hatted gentry who formed the bulk of the Congress members in those

days.

Years passed. I went" abroad, and as students we discussed the happenings in India. The

non-cooperation movement launched by Gandhiji in 1920-21, came in for, much.'

criticism, in particular Gandhiji's appeal to students to leave colleges. Some of the

Page 58: Reminiscences of Gandhi

students who had left colleges in India came to England to join the universities there, and

we could not understand this action on their part. In 1921, I returned home and landed the

very next day after the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, had reached Bombay. At

Gandhiji's bidding this visit of the Prince of Wales was to be boycotted. The boycott.

resulted in a terrible clash in Bombay 'between the loyalists, mostly Parsis, and the

Congress people. The Government of India was very much annoyed with Gandhiji, I, .

.especially as the boycott was a great success., They waited for the Prince Of Wales to

leave the shores of India before they arrested Gandhiji. When the news spread about his

arrest there was. terrible tension in the country. I remember to have written an article later

f-or a paper in England under the caption "Peace of the Grave!" Gandhiji was removed to

the Sabarmati Jail, and people from all parts of the country poured in Ahmedabad to have

a last darshan of him before he was thrown into prison or transported. I remember to have

joined a batch of women from Bombay. We were taken inside the prison walls where

Gandhiji was sitting. Shrimati Sarojini Naidu was there and introduced me to Gandhiji.

This was the first time I met him face to face. He sat talking and laughing while all those

around him looked sad and miserable. Nobody knew when we would see him again. It I

was a most pathetic scene. I was moved to tears and could hardly speak or reply to

questions he was asking. There must have been something terribly pathetic about him, for

I always felt deeply moved .in his Reference whenever I was with him.

In 1930 his march to Dandi made history. Every day during the march he held crowded

meetings of men and women to whom he explained the meaning of his movement. I t was

at one of his halts in a village that he called a special meeting of women whom he wished

to harness in the service of the country. He had different plans for women, and called this

special meeting to explain them to those who were anxious to I serve. Women from all

over the country were invited. Some of us had gone from Bombay. He sat on a raised

platform under a huge tree bunyan or mango tree I forget which-and we all sat round him.

His face was I exultant with the joy of action. He spoke for an hour asking women to take

up the picketing of foreign cloth shops and of liquor shops. After his speech he invited

questions in order to clarify and solve our difficulties if any. We had many questions to

ask. Why boycott all foreign cloth and not British cloth only-that was a question in the

Page 59: Reminiscences of Gandhi

minds of most of us. Gandhiji explained that our fight was for principles. Swadeshi

Dharma meant encouragement of all indigenous products and boycott of I foreign goods.

We were asked to begin with foreign cloth . first as much money violated the very

principle of ahimsa on which our fight was passed. British goods and other foreign goods

came under the same category, and we should not single out British goods only. Then

came questions about picketing liquor shops. How could women do it? These liquor

shops were frequented by low people, They might insult women, they might attack them.

How could women talk to such ruffians and persuade them not to drink? Gandhiji smiled

his bewitching smile, He had a way with women and knew how to handle them. He

desired women to be brave and face all these difficulties., He gave examples of women,

who had done heroic deeds in the past and asked us to emulate them. Did not women

wish to see India free? How could they daunted by such imaginary fears? He won in the

end as usual. His persuasive powers were wonderful, and we agreed to do the picketing. I

remember when we had promised to do!

He always attracted large crowd wherever he went. It was obvious to most of us that

these men and women who came for his darshan came only to satisfy their religious

hankering or out of curiosity. There were few among them who really understood his

message or what he stood for. I wished to know how he felt about these crowds. We were

travelling in the same compartment from Poona to Bombay. He had come down from

Panchagani, and on his way had met with such big crowds at Wai that it was with great

difficulty that he could get away. To my question as to what he felt about this madness on

the part of the people he said that he was not at all happy about it. He deplored the lack of

discipline and lack of consideration shown by the people. He confessed to the failure of

the Congress to instil this very essential quality into the people. I then asked him if the

Congress was not responsible for encouraging indiscipline among the young people. I

told him what had happened in 1942 when even school-children were asked to leave

schools and engage themselves in activities like stone- throwing etc. Gandhiji could not

approve of these activities, and felt hurt at what had happened. However, he pointed out

that it was not the Congress who was responsible but those persons who in the name of

Page 60: Reminiscences of Gandhi

the Congress were carrying on such activities. He agreed that they were exploiting the

name of the Congress to achieve their own end. At Kalyan where we got down there was

a large crowd waiting, and in spite of all precautions Gandhiji was nearly crushed that

day and was rescued from his worshippers and admirers with great difficulty.

The last time I saw Gandhiji alive was on the day he broke his last fast, i.e. 20th January

1948. I expected to see him resting in bed after his ordeal but was very much surprised to

see him sitting and spinning. He looked tired and exhausted and had to stop now and

again for breath, and yet he insisted on finishing his allotted work. We all tried to

persuade him to rest and put aside this I self-imposed task in view of his utter exhaustion.

But he was adamant. In reply to our importunities he merely I smiled the smile of a

naughty child as much as to say that we were wasting our breath. He propounded the

theory that a man must work in order to earn his food. And since he had started taking his

food that day he must also start working!

A few days later when I entered that same room again I saw him lying in bed taking his

last rest. His face did not betray the violent end he had met with. It was I beautifully calm

and serene. After the fitful fever of life I he slept well. What could one feel but moved to

the very depths of one's heart in the presence of such peace, the supreme triumph of an

enlightened soul?

Baroda, 14-9-1948.

Page 61: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

How He Taught Through Letters

- Margarete Spiegel

SINCE a very young age I was interested in India. Living in Germany during the first

World War, I was drawn towards pacifism. Rabindranath Tagore was my favourite

author. Through Romain Rolland's book I came to know of Gandhiji, and then read all

the books by and about him which were available in the State Library at Berlin, where I

was a teacher at a Government college. In Germany there used to be no prescribed text-

books for higher classes, so I chose a German school-edition of Gandhiji's speeches and

Page 62: Reminiscences of Gandhi

writings for a class I was preparing in English for the University entrance examination. In

order to study the Gandhi movement I got leave to visit India for two months in 1932.

After travelling over several parts of India I stayed as a guest at the Sabarmati Ashram for

three days, taking part in all Ashram activities. In December 1932 I saw Gandhiji for the

first time sitting under a mango tree in the Yeravda jail. He scolded me for having given

up vegetarianism because it was troublesome during my journeys, and I again became a

vegetarian. In reply to a letter written on my way back home, he wrote on 12th January

1933:

"I had your love letter from your ship. I was glad that you were at the Ashram and were

able to take actual part in the service of the Harijans, and in my opinion, in as much as

you rendered this selfless service to down-trodden humanity, you served the whole of it.

You were quite right in giving up spinning 'ropes' as you were doing. If you could have

learnt the art properly, I would certainly have advised you to continue to spin not cotton

but wool, but perhaps you have no talent for such work. God has blessed you with many

other gifts, and it is well with you so long as you use them for the service of mankind

including of course your dear mother.

Next time we meet, if we do, you are not going to be 'awed' by me, if you are to be a

daughter to me. Do not hesitate to write to me whenever you feel like it."

He wrote another letter only two days later, i. e. on the 14th of January, which said:

"I must continue to dictate. You are entitled to call yourself an Indian, since you have felt

like one from your childhood, but that is not a substitute for your' German birth. The

adoption should be an addition both to your name and to your strength; and what , can be

finer than that we should all add on the virtues of our own nations to those of others?

Why was there a struggle to choose between Gurudev [R. Tagore] and myself? We are no

competitors. Gurudev occupies a throne which belongs to him by sheer merit. I have none

Page 63: Reminiscences of Gandhi

of the gifts that he has, and what is more, we dearly love each other, and as years roll on,

our love becomes stronger, and we understand also each other better and better. I would

have you, therefore, to say that you like us both equally for, whatever gifts God has

bestowed on us. No more, therefore, of choice-making, if you would be a real daughter

like Mira."

He wrote again on the 17th of February:

"I hope you have been receiving all my letters. You should not think of coming here in

the hope of getting a professorship or something of that kind so as to enable you to

support your mother. You will only come when the way is perfectly clear for you. Surely

it is possible for you to love India even from where you are and to do many acts of

service. You have plenty of years before you. Go through the necessary training, keep

India your goal, and some day you will gravitate here. Of course you are like Lakshmi to

me or Mira. But you must also realise that it is a hard yoke to bear." .

The next letter is dated the 2nd of March:

"You are sending me letters regularly. But you are telling me nothing except about

myself. You must now begin to tell me something about your children and the many

things that you teach them and how you teach them. You don't think that these things will

not interest me. They will, because they might be of use for the Ashram children. You

should tell me also, as a teacher, what you would do to and for the Ashram children, if

you had then under your charge."

And the next one the 1-7th of the same month:

"Why do you want to come here for three days or at the most for a fortnight? [during 5

weeks' summer vacations. If you have at all imbibed the central truth of the Gita, it will

tell you that this kind of wish has to be subjugated and sublimated into pure action which

for you consists in doing your duty there. You should hold on to your savings, and if you

cannot restrain yourself from spending them somehow, you should send them here for the

Page 64: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Harijan cause. I do hope you got all my previous letters as also the Ranjan which is being

posted to you every week."

A week later, on the 24th, he wrote a long letter, evidently in reply to one from me:

"Your letters continue to 'come with clock-work regularity.

Of course you are not going to be upset if you are turned out as a I Jewess. I shall be now

eagerly waiting for your letters to know your fate.

If you will have it so, you can take the palm for economy, though you must remember the

old proverb that 'one swallow does not make a summer. And for that reason, your

summary dismissal of the question of food does not mean that the solution is as easy as

you fancy it is for you [giving up meat-eating]. Whilst it need not be given undue

importance, it is a gross error to think that food has nothing to do with a person's moral or

even physical growth. The experience of the sages of the world shows that they have

given importance-some more and some less-to it, and the majority have admitted that a

bloodless diet is necessary for full spiritual enlightenment.

You need not worry over the poor comprehension that your girls have shown of ahimsa. I

do not wonder. There is no response to ahimsa from the atmosphere. They have never

been taught to attach the slightest value to it, and probably they have been taught to

despise it. You cannot expect them all of a sudden to understand the value of ahimsa in

an atmosphere so hostile as yours.

Mahadev has been receiving your letters, and he has got your booklet too. As I had heard

of Parsifal, and as it was quite a booklet, I read it during odd moments in two days, and 1

liked it very much."

His next letter is dated the 10th of March:

"I receive your letters regularly, and 1 have now your notes from your pupils' papers

[essays on Gandhiji]. They make very interesting reading. What worries me is the time

Page 65: Reminiscences of Gandhi

you have spent Over the translation and copying. 1 hope you have had my letters that I

have been sending you not quite every week but fairly regularly. I hope you are now

satisfied that the work you may be doing there is also my work inasmuch as you are

observing the rules of the Ashram and doing your work purely from a spirit of service,

and 1 have no doubt that so long as your mother lives, your duty is to be by her side."

Again he wrote on the 13th of April:

"Your letter of 20th March is disturbing. Everything done in a hurry generally proves

unsatisfactory, when. it is not positively harmful. All haste must be deprecated. From the

highest stand- point-and that is the only one I am sure which you want to apply to

yourself-your coming will be justified only when you are ready for the Ashram life. That

clearly you are not. Your immediate duty is to be by your mother's side. You cannot risk

bringi11g her to India. If you are thrown. out of employment and have to be ill search of

one, you have to courageously stand by your people and suffer the hardships that they

will have to suffer; and if you have imbibed the fundamentals of the Ashram life, you

might even render inestimable help to them. All your letters to 24 people ill India,

therefore, to get a job should not have been written. You do not want a job ill India, but

you want to give your free service, the whole of yourself, to India. 1 wish, therefore, you

would give up the idea of the job, remain there by your mother's side and live the Ashram

life there, so that if God wills dt, He will send you some day to. the Ashram."

This letter was redirected to me to the boat for India. On April 1st, 1933, I was dismissed

from the Government College in Berlin for being a Jewess. As the Jews were deprived of

their passports, I left for Venice on April 2nd and waited there for twelve days for the

next boat to India. From Venice I wrote to Bapu that I was coming, and after landing in

Bombay I went straight to Yeravda jail, and stayed in Poona for some time, seeing him

almost daily in the prison. In May he began a fast for 21 days. I had evidently not

understood the science of satyagraha well, for I started a fast in order to make him give

up his; but he was adamant, and I gave up my fast after two days. On the same day (10th

May) I got the following little note from him:

Page 66: Reminiscences of Gandhi

"I am glad you have broken your fast. You were too decent to persist in your folly. Now

be good. You are forgiven. You should come and see me when you feel like it Love."

He then sent me to the Ashram at Sabarmati, and gave me my Indian name-Amala. At

Sabarmati I got the following letter from him dated June 6th, 1933:

"You are with me when you are at the Ashram doing the Ashram work. I am sure you

understand this very simple truth. There were many prisoners occupying the same yard.

Do you suppose that they were living with me?"

After his release from prison in August 1933, he went from Poona to Wardha in the last

week of September, and I had the good fortune to stay with. him there till he started on

the Harijan tour on 7th November. His next letter is dated 28th February, 1934, written

from some- where in South India:

"If you don't believe in God as a permanent, living and the only reality prevailing all,

naturally you 'cannot feel Him while praying or in the earthquake. The belief comes to a

certain extent through reason and finally through faith. As children we derive belief from

parents, as grown-ups from reason, and then we have faith or become sceptics. You will

grow to faith in time, because I believe you to be a seeker, and because you have faith in

one who believes in God."

The next one was dated the 15th of March:

"It is just now 12-40 a.m. The alarm that should have gone off at 2-30 a.m. went off at 12

midnight. I am attending to arrears at an affected place in Bihar. That many' Hindus are

callous to the sufferings of animals is but too true. It is a mark of degradation and

lifelessness of the religious spirit. You don't need to be a Hindu but a true Jewess. If

Judaism does not satisfy you, no other faith will give you satisfaction for any length of

time. I would advise you to remain a Jewess and appropriate the good of other faiths."

Page 67: Reminiscences of Gandhi

And yet the next one is dated the 22nd of May, 1934, written while he was on a walking

tour. in Orissa:

"My condolence on the loss of your companion, the squirrel. You are right in thinking

that those round you don't act up to the principle they profess. They do not realise that

mere refraining from killing is not enough. It is necessary to show active sympathy for

sufferers.

You should not be anxious about me. The march will do me good. I am certainly keeping

well."

Baroda, 22-3-1948.

Page 68: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Four Anecdotes

- Jack C. Winslow

One characteristic incident of that visit remains with me. Charlie and- I had left Bapu

lying on the verandah, and Charlie was telling me about an article he had just written for

the Manchester Guardian about the satyagraha movement then in progress in Travancore.

In glowing terms he had described how all eyes were now concentrated on this wonderful

movement and no one was interested any longer in the proposed Government reforms.

"I'll just go and show it to Bapu," said' Charlie, "before I send it off." Presently he

returned, thoroughly crest- fallen. "What did Bapu think of it?" I asked. "Oh," said

Charlie, "Bapu said: Charlie, it's what you'd like to be true; but it isn't true!" With all

Bapu's idea's went a strong strain of realism, which Charlie Andrews sometimes, lacked.

Page 69: Reminiscences of Gandhi

During the fast which Bapu undertook for the alteration of the 'Communal Award' for the

Harijans, I went to see him in the prison at Yeravda. He was lying on a cot in the open

court under a tree; and, as I approach- ed, I struck my head on an overhanging bough.

A few days later, I went again to see him; and, as I approached, Bapu lifted a warning

hand and said: "Mind the branch!" 'With visitors coming all day, it was amazing that he

could remember so trivial a matter concerning one unimportant person!

When landing from the steamer on his way, to London for the Round Table Conference,

he was approached by a newspaperman desiring an interview. The latter, in the course of

conversation, commented playfully on the scantiness of his attire in view of the rigours of

the English climate. "It seems to me," replied the Mahatma with a smile, "that your plus

fours are quite as amusing as my minus fours."

While at Oxford, Bapu was invited by the Master of Balliol to speak to a number of

Oxford dons at his college. At the end of his address an opportunity for questions was

given. A young don, slightly swollen-headed through having recently been made a

Fellow of All Souls, commented a little scornfully that he could not under- stand how Mr.

Gandhi could possibly reconcile two particular statements which he had made. Bapu

smiled at him and replied in the politest manner, "If you cannot understand, I will take

you step by step,"-a remark which the entire company. greeted with delighted laughter.

Lynton, 26-9-1948.

Page 70: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Lessons From His Life

- J. C. Kumarappa

1. OUR MEETING

IN the year 1929 I returned from the United States where I had made a study of public

finance, and wrote out the story of the British exploiting India through their taxation

policy in the form of an essay. It was suggested that I should publish this. I was

negotiating with some of the publishers in India in this regard when I was told that the

subject was one in which Gandhiji would be intensely interested, and I was urged to

submit the manuscript to him first. At that time Gandhi was merely a name to me. at was

hardly associated with any definite ideas. The person who was responsible for this

suggestion was very persistent about my getting into touch with Gandhiji. Gandhiji was

passing through Bombay towards the end of April that year after his South Indian tour. I

was then practising as an Auditor in Bombay. I was directed to go and see Gandhiji at

Mani Bhavan, Laburnum Road, Gamdevi, which was his usual Bombay residence at that

time. I went in European clothes up the staircase, and the door was answered by someone

Page 71: Reminiscences of Gandhi

whom I took to be a servant clad in dhoti and shirts. I asked him if I could see Gandhiji,

and I was told that Gandhiji was busy in a Working Committee meeting, and that he

would not be able to see me just then. I had taken my manuscript with me, and marking

that the person who was talking to me was able to speak good English,. and thinking he

might be worthy of taking a message, I left the manuscript with him and asked him to

give it to Gandhiji. (This person later turned out to be Gandhiji's Secretary Pyarelal.) ,

Pyarelal telephoned to my office address later to say that Gandhiji would want to see me

in Ahmedabad after he had had a look at the essay, and suggested that I see him at

Sabarmati on the 9th of May, 1929 at 2-30 p.m. I reached Sabarmati accordingly that

morning, and went to the Ashram where I was horrified at the emptiness of the 80 called

guest room. It was devoid of all furniture excepting a charpai, though glorified by the

designation of a guest, room. Squatting toilet arrangements further made me anxious to

get away from the place at the earliest moment. With these personal difficulties, my

appointment being in the afternoon, I anxiously waited to get it over. The house where

Gandhiji stayed was pointed out to me, and I was told that was the place where I should

report myself at the appointed time. With a walking stick in one hand and the manuscript

in the other I walked down the bank of the Sabarmati at about 2 p.m., and after enjoying

the beauty of the bed of the river, walked up the bank again towards Gandhiji's house.

On the way up, I saw an old man seated under a tree on a neatly cleaned cow-dunged

floor, spinning. Having never seen a spinning wheel before, I leaned on my walking stick

and standing akimbo was watching, as there were still ten minutes for the appointment.

This old man after about five minutes opened his toothless lips, and with a smile on his

face enquired if I was Kumarappa. It suddenly dawned on me that my questioner might

be no other than Mahatma Gandhi. So I, in my turn, asked him if he was Gandhiji; and

when he nodded I promptly sat down on the cow-dunged floor regardless of the well-kept

crease of my silk trousers! Seeing me sitting without stretched legs, more or less in a

reclining position, someone from the house came rushing down with a chair for me, and

Gandhiji asked me to get up and sit in the chair more comfortably. I replied that since he

was seated on the floor I did not propose to take the chair.

Page 72: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Gandhiji told me that he was interested in the essay I had written, and that he proposed to

publish that in a series in his journal Young India. Then he enquired if I would undertake

a rural survey for him in Gujarat, as he found that the approach that I had to economics

was almost exactly the same as his, and that I was about the first student of economics he

had come across with that same view point. I raised the difficulty of language, but he

quickly got over that by saying that he would place the professors of economics of the

Gujarat Vidyapith with all their students at my disposal to help me with the survey, and

suggested that I go and see the Vice-Chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapith, Kaka Kalelkar,

who, Gandhiji informed me, was the very person who came running down the steps' with

a chair for me!

In the afternoon I went to the Gujarat Vidyapith to see Kaka Kalelkar. Seeing that I was a

young man dressed in the most fashionable Western style, Kakasaheb did not feel that I

would fit into the sort of work that Gandhiji wanted me to do, and he made my ignorance

of Gujarati to be a great handicap and discouraged me. I got into a huff and, even without

taking leave of Gandhiji, returned to Bombay, and wrote to him that I should be glad to

help him with any work that he wanted done, and reported that Kakasaheb did not feel

that I could be of any Use. By return post I got 'back a letter from Kakasaheb to say that

he would be most happy if I would go back and do the work that Gandhiji wanted. (Years

later Gandhiji, in the course of a conversation on the study of characters, referred to this

incident and said: "You remember Kakasaheb} was not able to size you up when he first

met you. On the other hand, the moment I saw you I felt here is a I young man I must

grab." And he succeeded in doing so, as the later events proved.) While I was doing the

survey later, Gandhiji started off on the Dandi march as the first stage of the salt

satyagraha, and after his arrest the trustees of the Navajivan Trust invited me to conduct

the paper Young India in the absence of Gandhiji and Mahadev Desai. My writings in

Young India ultimately landed me in jail, after which it became impossible for me to go

back to resume my practice as an auditor in Bombay, as a great many of my clients were

European and Parsi firms who would not tolerate a man with Gandhian sympathies. It

was after this that I threw in my lot with Gandhiji.

Page 73: Reminiscences of Gandhi

2. AN UNANSWERABLE APPEAL

When Gandhiji was on the Dandi March my articles on 'Public Finance and our Poverty'

were published in a series. Gandhiji wished them, to be collected together in the form of a

pamphlet, and I desired that it should bear a foreword from Gandhiji. To discuss this

matter he invited me to meet him at Karadi where he was camping then. In my own

'efficient' way I had prepared a foreword for him, and took it all typewritten and ready for

him to sign! Gandhiji looked at it and smiled and put it aside saying: "My foreword will

be my foreword and will not be written by Kumarappa."

He then said he had called me there not to discuss the question of the foreword but to ask

if I would write regularly for his paper Young India when he was arrested. He informed

me that the arrangement was that when he was arrested Mahadev Desai was to take over

charge and he, therefore, wished me to help Mahadevbhai. I replied that I knew nothing

about Gandhian philosophy nor what had gone before in Young India, neither did I know

how to . occupy a journalistic chair! I told him that I understood auditing dusty ledgers

much better, and if there was any work in that line I would gladly undertake, and asked

him to spare me from doing any writing work. Then Gandhiji replied: "As regards your

qualifications to write, I, the Editor of the paper, have to sit in judgment and not you, and,

therefore, I invite you to write to this paper. We have the tradition of publishing the name

of the writer under each article. If you write any trash, the public will Say Mahatma

Gandhi's paper publishes trash. But if you write anything that is appreciated, they will

give all credit to this Kumarappa who is writing in Gandhiji's paper." This presentation of

the appeal was irresistible. It was then I promised Gandhiji that I would send some

articles as soon as I heard that he had been arrested. (It may here be stated that as the

events came about, Mahadevbhai was arrested before Gandhiji, and later when Gandhiji

was arrested I was required not only to contribute articles to Young India but to take up

its editorial charge.) This incident indicates the masterly way in which Gandhiji makes

his appeal irresistible.

Page 74: Reminiscences of Gandhi

3. POT - WASHING

Gandhiji's sense of humour often saves the temper of people around him. When he finds

danger coming ahead he immediately brings the ludicrous into play, and thus glances off

at a tangent and avoids friction. .

When the All India Village Industries Association was formed Gandhiji came to live with

us at Maganvadi .so as to be on the spot to guide the policy of the Association. One. of

our rules at that time was that everyone should take part in all our daily activities. This

included washing of heavy kitchen utensils coated with soot and dirt. One day it fell to

Gandhiji's lot to clean the kitchen pots: I was his partner. So we both sat down together,

near the well, with cocoanut fibre in our hands, and ashes and mud by our side, and we

were scrubbing the black stuff off.

Suddenly, Kasturba Gandhi appeared on the scene. She could not tolerate the sight of the

great Mahatma with his hands up to the elbow in dirt, She watched him for a few minutes

and burst out in Gujarati, telling Gandhiji that this was no work for a person like him, and

that he ought to be engaged in better work. In a rage she asked him to get up and go

away, leaving the work to be done by others; and, swiftly suiting her action to her words,

snatched off the dekchi from his hands, leaving Gandhiji bewildered at the quickness of

her action. With the cocoanut fibre in one hand and the other hand all full of dirt, he

looked at me with open mouth and laughed, saying: . "Kumarappa, you are a happy man.

You have no wife to rule you this way. However, I suppose I have to obey my wife to

keep domestic peace. So you will excuse me if I go away leaving her to partner your

washing of the kitchen pots!"

Page 75: Reminiscences of Gandhi

4. HUMILITY AND DISCPLINE

The greatness of a man does not consist in the power he wields to control the life of

others, though it may result in such powers being granted to. him as a result of his

greatness. The real greatness comes in the personal humility of the individual and self-

discipline imposed on himself. Consequently, this alone brings us the so-called 'power'

over our fellow-men. Power so obtained is a responsibility rather .than a privilege. It

should make us cautious in using that power. Gandhiji's life is full of incidents which

show the great humility and the iron discipline he imposes on himself.

During the relief work in Bihar, after the earthquake of 1934, I was functioning as the

financial adviser of the Bihar Central Relief Committee. Later Gandhiji arrived ,in Patna

for a tour in Bihar. In order to check a tendency to be extravagant and spend much on the

upkeep of volunteers and their expenses, I had made a rule that the daily allowance for

food of volunteers should not exceed three annas. I myself was eating in the volunteers'

camp on this basis. It became a little embarrassing when Gandhiji with his entourage

arrived. Gandhiji's milk, fruit and the various requirements of his entourage, which called

for provision of dates and nuts and other articles of food which would ordinarily be

regarded as luxuries, would cost much more than the daily provision we had made for the

volunteers, and, therefore, I told Mahadevbhai that I was not prepared to feed Gandhiji

and his group. Again, I had a strict register kept recording the mileage of the cars, time

when used, by whom used, and required sanction for every trip that the cars made.

Naturally all these restrictions caused a certain amount of dissatisfaction. When Gandhiji

came I suggested to Mahadevbhai that they should. obtain their own supply of petrol for

themselves, and disallowed Gandhiji's bills in regard to food and motor car travel. When

this was reported to Gandhiji he was a little puzzled. He sent for me and said: "I am

coming all the way to Patna to help with the relief work. It is my one and only object in

coming to' Patna. That being so I fail to see why you should not debit my expenses to the

Relief Committee." I explained to him my delicate position where I was faced on one

side with checking the expenses of thousands of volunteers. Even an increase of an anna

Page 76: Reminiscences of Gandhi

per day would involve the Relief Committee in lacs of rupees in the course of our work

and, therefore, I suggested that Gandhiji should bear his own expenses so that they would

not stand in contrast to the austere life I was suggesting to the volunteers and would also

check the extravagant use of motor travel. Gandhiji appreciated my point, and told

Mahadevbhai that not a pice was to be charged to the Bihar Relief on his account. He was

willing to subject himself to the discipline that the administration called for, even though

his rights arising out of duty done would have given him the right to claim for the

expenses incurred in the execution of his work. This mode of sub- mission to rules

requires a great deal of humility and wise understanding of the situation, taking into

consideration the difficulties of those who are engaged in the field work.

Similarly, early in 1947, when I was invited by the Congress President to become a

member of his Working Committee, Gandhiji wrote to me, saying that he would be happy

to watch my career in this new. responsibility that had been placed on me, thus in a sense

giving roe his approval to take up the membership of the Working Committee. He had

written this after seeing the reports in the newspapers. I immediately replied and said that

one of the rules of the All India Village Industries Association, of which I was the

Secretary, required us not to take part in politics, and if we wished to do so, we had to

resign from the All India Village Industries Association. I pointed out that my life-work

was connected with the Village Industries Association, and if I had to join the Working

Committee, I should give up my connection with the Association according to our rules.

Gandhiji thanked me for drawing his attention to the rules of the Association and said

that his memory had failed him, though he was the President of the Association, in regard

to this rule and that the rule was a wholesome one and we must respect it at all costs; and,

therefore, he undertook to advise the Congress President not to saddle me with this

additional responsibility's .

Here again we see his greatness. He definitely said that it was an alluring offer; but in

spite of the needs in other fields we must resist the temptation and confine ourselves to

the work before us, if we wish to forge ahead with the development of our country .

Page 77: Reminiscences of Gandhi

5. CO-OPERATION OF SATYAGRAHIS

When the National Planning Committee was formed in 1938 by Netaji Subhash Chandra

Bose, the then President of the Indian National Congress, with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

as Chairman, I was asked to contribute my share as a member of that Committee. Pandit

Nehru invited me to attend its deliberations in Bombay. Looking at the personnel of the

Committee I was doubtful of any good results, as I found in: it all kinds of heterogeneous

elements. It included practical industrialists, academic economists, laboratory scientists,

men of the world, and business magnates. In a group of this nature I felt that all efforts

would result in nothing and, therefore, I declined to go and waste my time in endless

discussions which would bear no fruit. On tills Panditji wired to Gandhiji asking him to

use his influence in sending me to Bombay. Gandhiji called me for an interview to

discuss this subject. I pointed out the reasons why I felt my time would be ill- spent in

merely trying to fence with the other interests. Gandhiji explained that it was inconsistent

with the principles of satyagraha to prejudge our colleagues. He said: "Why do you think

that you will not be able to persuade the whole committee to accept your policy? This

shows a lack of faith in yourself and in your colleagues that they will be open-minded

enough to listen to you!" I replied: "The view may be strictly correct; but though we may

be innocent as doves, we have also got to be wise as serpents, and we' should not attempt

the impossible. Knowing the personnel as I do, I feel that it would be merely dashing

one's head against a wall." To this Gandhiji replied: "This is not the approach of a

satyagrahi. You must give your opponent the fullest chance; and when the time comes

that your position in the committee will not serve any purpose, you can always resign and

come away. Having done your part in good faith you will have done your duty, and it will

then become your duty to resign and not to waste your, time. The time that you spend in

trying to satisfy yourself and your fellow-members will not be' wasted. It will develop

you and widen your range of view; and, therefore, I suggest that you go and attend the

committee meetings until such time when your work would. prove to be futile. Then you.

can with a clean conscience resign. and come away." With this advice I went and worked

with the National Planning Committee, and, remained on the Committee for about three

Page 78: Reminiscences of Gandhi

months. Afterwards, finding that they were driven into all forms of discussions which

would not benefit the country, I got Gandhiji's permission to resign and get away.

This shows that the duty of a Satyagrahi is limitless in regard to extending co-operation

to whosoever calls for it, and it is wrong for one who wishes to lead the life of a

Satyagrahi to prejudge anybody.

6. THE DOCTOR

The kaleidoscopic variety of activities that Gandhiji indulges in cover practically all

professions, and his contributions are by no means mean. He calls himself a quack where

the medical profession is concerned, but it has not yet been decided whether the

professionals are quacks or Gandhiji. He brings to bear on the case before him profound

wisdom and commonsense which often outwit the technical advantages that the

professionals have.

Some years ago when it was discovered that I was suffering from blood pressure, the

reason for the malady was to be ascertained. I was taken to Bombay to be examined by

some of the best doctors. I was thoroughly 'overhauled', and I was at the mercy of the

specialists for three or four days. After this examination all that they could declare was

that they could find nothing wrong organically, and therefore by the process of

elimination they decided that my blood pressure was due to nervous strain.

With this report I came back to Gandhiji. He immediately set about finding the cause of

even that nervous strain. He said: "We have to trace the cause of the strain, able to treat

the disease or prevent its recurring." He thought the cause might be either physical

fatigue or mental tiredness, and therefore he wanted to locate the actual difficulty with

me.

At that time there was a professor from the Kinnaird College, Lahore, who had come to

discuss certain difficulties with Gandhiji. He sent her to discuss some of these with me,

Page 79: Reminiscences of Gandhi

and instructed Dr. Sushila Nayyar to take my blood pressure both before the discussion

and after it. The discussion was limited to a period of fifteen minutes. The result showed

that my blood pressure went up by 15 points.

The next day Gandhiji called the manager of the workshop and asked him to draw a line

on a plank of wood and get me to saw it exactly on that line, and directed that my blood

pressure should be taken before and after. The result again was a rise in blood pressure of

20 points this time.

The third day the physical instructor was asked to run a furlong with me and observe. my

pulse and also have my blood pressure taken before and after the exercise. The result this

time was a fall of 15 points, and the pulse remained more or less normal.

With these three results before Gandhiji he said he was fairly positive that my blood

pressure was due to concentrated work of the brain and not physical fatigue, and the

results also showed the way of cure and prevention. He said to me: "Whenever you get

symptoms of blood pressure you have simply to walk it off. As regards mental strain, to

prevent its accumulation you should relax between your periods of work. You may work

in the morning till 11 or 12 and take a complete relaxation for about a couple of hours

before you begin to work again in the afternoon. Combining this with a regulation of the

diet so that digestion and brain work do not, go together. you should be able to control

your blood pressure more or less completely."

I took Gandhiji's treatment as being scientific both in regard to diagnosis and in regard to

treatment, and have followed his instructions carefully for the last seven years, with the

result that excepting when this regime is upset by unforeseen circumstances the plan has

worked satisfactorily.

In the same way his approach to the various ailments is both simple and efficacious. He

looks upon disease as caused by man's deviation from Nature's ways, and his attempt is to

Page 80: Reminiscences of Gandhi

bring back our life into alignment with the requirements of Nature. This should be the

aim of every physician.

7. THE COMPASSIONATE

A few years ago when he was staying at Maganvadi a young man about 17 or 18 years of

age appeared before him suffering from St. Vitus' dance which is a nervous disorder

(choria) making the sufferer unable to control the shaking of his hands and feet. The

young man said to Gandhiji that he found life heavy on him as he was unable to be of any

use to anybody. So he requested Gandhiji to let him stay with him. Gandhiji told him that

it was impossible for him, as he was situated, to take charge of every disabled person, and

therefore he must seek else- where for shelter. But the young man was adamant, and

would not go away under any circumstances. He sat down on the steps and remained

there from morning till evening. One of Gandhiji's party reported to him in the evening

that the young man was still sitting at the door-step, and suggested that he should be sent

away. Gandhiji turned round and said: "If I turn him away, whom will he go to? Let him

stay, and I shall consider how best to utilize him." The result was, the young man stayed,

and he was put on by Gandhiji to do some work which the shaking of his hands and feet

would not prevent him from doing reasonably satisfactorily. Of course he could not card

or spin. but he was asked to wash vegetables and help in the kitchen work as far as

possible. By will power the boy was able to control his limbs to a certain extent. Even the

washing -of vegetables was a difficult process for him to begin with. Later on he started

cutting the vegetables and handling the knife, and little by little in the course of a few

months he was almost normal. He was then well enough to go to America for technical

studies

With the all-pervading love Gandhiji. elicits the capacity in an individual to the best

advantage. He was able to develop in the young man will power sufficient to over- come

the lack of control of his nerves. This was done by sympathetic understanding of the

individual's case and dealing with him gently.

Page 81: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Gandhiji's decision to let the young man stay, as he would have nowhere else to go,

reminded me of the invitation given by' Jesus: "Come unto me all ye that labour and are

heavy laden and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

8. JUST AS I AM

One of the features that makes Gandhiji great is his ability to accept everyone just as they

come to him, without waiting 10 mould, the person according to his own specifications.

Of course his leaven works slowly and secretly as in a mass of dough. He believes in

letting each person express his personality in the best way suitable t() the individual. This

accounts for the range of variety of men and women who cluster round the Mahatma.

You have Rajen Babus and Sardars, Sarojinis and,Miras, Birlas and Vinobas, Rajajis and

Bhansalis. ,He exploits the good points in each to the fullest on the principle "he that is

not against us is for us." When I was in editorial charge of Y Dung India, some

overzealous person who was anxious to attain non-violence, in a hurry, in his own

fashion, in thought, word and deed; suggested that my language of criticism was very

severe, and that Gandhiji should ask me to tone down. Gandhiji replied with a smile: .

"Kumarappa comes from Madras. You must allow for the chilies in his blood!"

9. THE INDEFATIGABLE EXPERIMENTER

No scientist has a greater thirst for knowledge than Gandhiji. He is ever experimenting

though not in an elaborately equipped laboratory. Changes in his food are often dictated

by the desire to find out something new. At Maganvadi' we have a number of neem trees.

So he started taking about ten tolas of neem leaves ground down to a paste, to find the

effect it has on health. One day at the midday meal I was seated to Gandhiji's right and

Sardar Vallabhbhai to his left. As Gandhiji was going to gormandize on 'the neem

chutney', he took out a spoonful and placed it for me on my 'thali'. The Sardar was

watching this parental act. Then he winked at me cynically and said: "You' see,

Page 82: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Kumarappa, Bapu started with drinking goat's milk, and now he has come to goat's food!"

Calcutta, 24-12-1947.

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

A Glimpse Of Gandhiji

- Gurdial Mallik

My memory goes back to the year 1921 when Gandhiji visited Karachi in the course of

his lightning tour round the country in connection with his newly- evolved experiment in

welding people together into an humble instrument in the hands of the Power "other than

ourselves", and "that makes for righteousness-an experiment incorrectly characterized as

the non-cooperation movement. In spite of his unusually heavy programme, packed . with

public engagements of all sorts, he had condescended to come for a few minutes to the

Page 83: Reminiscences of Gandhi

night school for labourers with which I was associated as one of the workers. At the

scheduled time we began our evening routine with a couple of songs-one of an unknown

mystic of Sindh, and 'the other of the well-known mystic of Rajputana, Mirabai. .

As the former has since become a great favourite of 'Gandhiji, and is also one which he

has generally asked me to sing to him whenever I have met him afterwards, I would ,like

to translate it here:

O Lord, Thy house (this world) is wonderful, and in

it Thou dwellest everywhere.

The sky is studded with stars, but the moon among

them art Thou.

The market-place is crowded with people, but the

breath animating them all art Thou.

The temples are installed with innumerable images,

but through them all art mirrored forth Thou.

The river is aswaying with waves, but their liege and

lord art Thou.

That boatman sits at the helm, but at the helm of his

life art Thou.

We were so absorbed in the congregational singing that we did not notice when on tiptoe

Gandhiji and his party had walked into the specious compound of the school and stood in

Page 84: Reminiscences of Gandhi

a corner, listening silently to the song. However, no sooner was the song over than,

spotting him, we all rose to our feet to do him reverence. I then requested him to say a

few words to the students. He replied: "What I would have said has been conveyed to you

all through the song." And then he went away to fulfill another important engagement.

Another memory of Gandhiji, rich in re-orientating radiance, haunts me till this day like

the aroma of my own mother's love. It was after the prolonged dark night of fear and

frustration in the Punjab had just begun to be touched with the light of dawn. Gandhiji

had surveyed the whole scene, and was in the midst of writing a report of the horrible

happenings of the recent past. One day I went to see him at the house of his hostess,

Shrimati Sarladevi Chaudharani, at Lahore. It was on an errand of Deenbandhu C. F.

Andxews. I found the door of his apartment shut. So I waited outside in prayerful

patience. At long last, after about three hours, the door was opened. I went in.

"Were you waiting long?" he asked me affectionately.

"Rather," I answered with the individualized indifference, streaked with cynicism, of an

impetuous youth.

"I am sorry," he rejoined with the disarming courtesy of the truly great. "You see, I was

trying to hit upon the right word in a sentence describing what a certain party had done,

in the scorching heat of purblind passion in a particular place during the martial law'

regime."

And yet one more reminiscence of Gandhiji have I in my limited repertory which I

should very much like to relate. It was in Bombay, during 1945. Gandhiji had drafted a

certain statement, which was considered rather long by some of the members of his

entourage. And SO one of them, referring to it, said to him: "All that you have written

could be boiled down to only four lines." Whereupon Gandhiji remarked: "Is that so?

Then please bring the abridged version, and I shall sign it straight- away." The young

critic was at once taken aback. Then Gandhiji reminded all those present of the

observation :made by some wise person in the past that, while criticising something what

Page 85: Reminiscences of Gandhi

another has done, the critic should De ready simultaneously with something constructive

that could take its place.

Bombay, 6-12-1945.

Page 86: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

His Daily Life

- Mirabehn

OF all the incidents in Bapu's long career, to me, the richest and profoundest is the ever-

recurring incident of his daily-life; By this I do not mean the fact that he gets up at 4 or

3.30 in the morning, has prayers twice a day, eats unspiced food, and so on. Others also

do this. It is the way he does everything. Whenever I am with Bapu I love to sit near him

in silence for a while each day. Not when he is meeting people and carrying on

discussions, but when he is alone. I know nothing more exquisitely gentle than the touch

Page 87: Reminiscences of Gandhi

of Bapu's hand, and I am never tired of watching him handling his writing work. Nothing

is ruffled or damaged by. his bands, and nothing is wasted. I watch Bapu is absorbed in

his thoughts. He softly takes a piece of paper to write a letter. Though small, it is yet

bigger than he requires for his concise communications, so he carefully folds it, and then

divides it 41 two. It is now about 3 inches broad and 5 inches long, and on this he

writes .a11 he needs to say. Again he looks for something. There is a little khadi case

with stationery in it. This he gently opens and extracts an envelope, addresses it, slips into

it the written sheet, and puts it into a little basket, kept for outgoing letters. The next

communication" is evidently to !be still shorter, and he takes up a post card. It is not a

fountain pen which he is using; some misfortune happened to his last one, since when he

writes with an ordinary nib" and holder. The ink-pot is one of Bapu's little patents, and

consists of a tiny balm bottle fixed in a wooden stand which also carries pen and pencils.

The little old tin screw top of the balm bottle Bapu most delicately puts off and on every

time he uses his "ink-stand". The post card is now finished and slipped into the basket.

Again he turns to the khadi stationery case. It is evidently an article that he is going to

write, because he extracts a number of odd sheets, with writing on one side, but unused

on the other. These are his "pusti" sheets, carefully I collected from the !blank page$ on

the backs of letters and other communications which come In endless numbers by each

post. Bapu begins to write. The article seems to be of a serious nature, probably on some

burnirig problem of the day, for a concentrated, even stern, look appears on his

countenance. Before the article is finished he begins to feel sleepy. The pen is laid in the

stand, and the tiny tin top is placed on the balm bottle. The "pusti" sheets are carefully put

on one side, and Bapu turns and lies down on his gaddi. He removes his glasses, places

them by the side of his pillow, and in one or two minutes he is fast asleep, and breathing

as peacefully as a little chilld.

I take up a handkerchief and, sitting near his head, keep off the flies.

Such times are for me infinitely precious, infinitely sweet, and filled with a profound

teaching which could never be conveyed in words.

Page 88: Reminiscences of Gandhi

On one such occasion, when I was sitting near Bapu, he could not find his pencil, a little

stump which he had been cherishing. A whisper went round that Bapuji was hunting' for

his pencil. Members of the staff began to search about. It could not be found anywhere,

so some- body brought him a new pencil. "No," said Bapu, "I want my .little stump." So

somebody brought him another stump. "Do you expect me to be satisfied with somebody

else's stump?" he said. "Supposing you had lost your child, would you be satisfied if

somebody brought you another child and said, 'take this one instead'?" After that a

desperate hunt was made, and at last the little stump was found and triumphantly brought

to Bapu, who received it with a beaming smile.

There is only one real Gandhi Ashram. in the whole world, and that is the few square feet

containing Bapu's gaddi and little writing desk.

Pashulok (U.P.), 24-1-1948

Page 89: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Light And Shade

- Sushila Nayyar

MANY people seem to think that a sense of humour is , incompatible with a serious or

religious bent of mind.

Therefore they are sceptical when they hear 'that Gandhiji never misses an opportunity to

crack a joke and have a good laugh. "How can he possibly laugh and joke when he is

carrying such a heavy burden on his shoulders?" ask others. Gandhiji's reply is that he is

able to shoulder the burden because of' his ability to laugh under all circumstances. "If I

had no sense of humour," he said to a friend recently, "the attacks that I have had to face

would have killed me long ago., But I have a living faith in God, and so long as He

guides my footsteps, I do not care what people say about me. I take it lightly and can

laugh even with those who laugh at me. This is what keeps me going."

Page 90: Reminiscences of Gandhi

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS JOKES

I have often been struck by the way Gandhiji is able to adapt his conversation and his

jokes to his company. With children he jokes like a child, with the young people, he is a

young man, with old people he is old, with politicians he laughs and jokes about politics

and with householders about their domestic affairs. But a careful observer can note that in

all his jokes there is an undercurrent of seriousness. Even while joking he never says a

thing that he does not mean, and not a word escapes his lips that may be termed frivolous.

One can always learn something by listening to Gandhiji's talk irrespective of whether it

is light or grave. I well remember how once at the Sabarmati Ashram a girl came for the

evening walk, with half her sari stained with ink. She had broken her ink pot, spilled the

ink on her clothes, and had been too lazy to go and change afterwards. Gandhiji greeted

her with a smile: "Hullo, you have brought Ganga and Jamna together." Everyone

laughed at the remark. The children were curious to know the meaning of what Gandhiji

had said. He explained to them how the waters of Jamna look darker than the waters of

Ganga, how the two come together at the Sangam at Prayag, and still one can discern the

two currents distinct from each other for some distance. The joke became so much the

richer for the instruction it brought them.

At the time of the Rajkot Satyagraha, Shri Kasturba insisted on going to Rajkot to fill the

breach caused by the arrest of Shrimatis Maniben Patel and Mridula Sarabhai She had

been mothering Ramdas Gandhi's little son for some time. The boy had become very

attached to her and would not leave his grandmother's side even for a little while. After

her departure for Rajkot he was disconsolate and cried for 'Motiba' (Grandmother) all the

time. Nobody could manage him, and Gandhiji was too busy. But he had to take up the

matter in the end. He sent for the child and told him that he would soon be with Motiba'.

The little imp was at once all smiles. Gandhiji took out a mala (rosary) and gave it to him.

He told him the story of little Dhruva, and then advised him to sit down in meditation in

imitation of the child saint. When he had done so, Gandhiji told him to tell the beads

repeating 'Motilal' each time. If you do that with absolute concentration and without a

Page 91: Reminiscences of Gandhi

break, Motiba will be with you in person." And so little Kana sat down with eyes closed,

counting the beads in all seriousness, with all the concentration that he was capable of.

The family had a little relief and could attend to their work. From time to time little Kana

would open his eyes and complain: Motilal has not yet come." Gandhiji reprimanded rum

in mock, seriousness: That is because you interrupt your meditation time and again. In

this way she won't come at all." And so the fun went on for two or three days. In the

meantime Gandhiji had made arrangements for the boy to be sent to his mother at

Dehradun!

IN SORROW AND SICKNESS TOO

His laughter has at times the quality of tears in it. Many of us can laugh when all is going

well, but Gandhiji's sense of humour does not leave him even in the midst of adversity

and sorrow. No one who saw him laughing and joking with the visitors on the day of

Shrimati Kasturba's cremation, could have imagined what her passing away had meant

for him. It created a void that could not be filled. As Gandhiji himself Said more than

once, after sixty-two years of companionship he just could not adjust himself to life

without her. Yet he would not let his grief be seen. He had been sitting !before the

burning pyre from the early morning without food or water. Towards the evening

someone suggested that he might retire and have some rest and nourishment. But he

laughed and said: ,"If after sixty-two years of companionship I leave her now while the

cremation is unfinished, Ba will never forgive me.'. Who does not remember, how Ba

could sometimes scold, and how like a sport he let her exercise her prerogative to be his

own and everybody's good-humoured laughter? The secret of his ability to smile even

Under the weight of the most crushing sorrow, as he often explained, lay in his abiding

faith in the goodness of God.

"It is easy enough to smile when life flows forth like a song.

But the man worthwhile is the man who can smile

When everything goes dead wrong."

Page 92: Reminiscences of Gandhi

In illness too he keeps a smiling face and can appreciate a good joke. That sometimes

misleads those around him. During his illness at the Aga Khan Palace, the Government.

of Bombay sent their Surgeon-General to report on his condition. Out of his inborn

courtesy Gandhiji greeted him with a friendly smile. He laughed and joked with him, and

the temporary animation of the patient's face deceived the doctor. He went and issued a

reassuring bulletin, which he had to contradict within 48 hours after seeing the

pathologist's reports. These reports disclosed a dangerously low kidney efficiency, and

resulted in the Government deciding to order his release unconditionally.

After his release his irrepressible high spirits some- times created difficulties for his

doctors and attendants. People, when they saw him cheerful and smiling, thought that the

doctors were unnecessarily alarming the public. They took the law in their own hands and

entered into long tiring conversations. The result was that when he went to Juhu after

three days stay in Poona, he was at his lowest; and stricter rules had to be enforced in

order to ensure a more satisfactory convalescence.

HOW GANDHIJI BRINGS DOWN BLOOD PRESSURE

That reminds me of an interesting conversation that Gandhiji had with a homoeopathic

physician who was trying to elicit his symptomatology. The physician first questioned

him about his family history. When and what did his father die of, he asked. "He had had

a fall, developed fistula, and died at the age of 65," replied Gandhiji. That did not help.

The physician proceeded: "What did your mother die of?" Gandhiji: "She became a

widow and died of a broken heart." It was no good. The physician was not getting what

he considered helpful replies. Seeing a bottle of jaggery on Gandhiji's table, he asked:

"Do you like sweet things or pungent?" and add, "I think you like sweets." "I have a

sweet tooth," replied Gandhiji, "but I could gorge myself with bhajias and fritters." "Oh

yes, no one likes only sweets," remarked the physician indulgently. Gandhiji interrupted

him: "Don't say that. I have known Brahmins who will take huge ladus (Sweet balls) by

the dozen with- out any bhajias."

Page 93: Reminiscences of Gandhi

The physician was getting a bit impatient. 'In homoeopathy, they say, the prescription

depends upon the patient's symptom complex. He had been trying to interrogate Gandhiji

as carefully as he could, but he was not meeting with luck. Still he was hot going to give

up easily. "What about your memory?" he asked. "As rotten as you can imagine," replied

Gandhiji. "I have lost the memory for details. I have often envied my friends who could

roll out whole poems after reading them once." "If you can give me that gift, I shall

become your unpaid advertising agent," - he added with a twinkle in his eye. "God alone

can give these gifts, Mahatmaji," replied the physician. "1 cannot do so, however much I

may like your offer." "Then give it to me without my offer," said Gandhiji. "Do you

remember the occasion when years ago you went to visit the Mission Hospital at

Hardwar? I took you round," the physician proceeded especially emphasizing the last part

of the sentence. "Yes, I remember visiting the hospital at Hardwar," replied Gandhiji.

,The physician was very pleased and quickly put in. "Then your memory is quite good."

"No," replied Gandhiji, "I have a very poor memory, and I do not remember you at all."

The physician felt discomfited. He had been jotting down his observations. He now

handed the sheet to Gandhiji for verification. It ran: "Temperament very intelligent, given

to philosophic and religious studies " Gandhiji put a big question mark before the data on

temperament. The physician asked: "Is it all right?" "How should I know?" replied

Gandhiji. The irrepressible Dr. B. C. Roy, who never missed the opportunity of

exchanging good jokes with Gandhiji, was sitting nearby. He put in: "To these you

should add one more; i. e. the habit to question any allegations of virtue." The physician

smiled.' "That is modesty," he remarked. "Modesty has never been my weakness,"

Gandhiji interposed, and there was a roar of laughter.

The physician next inquired whether the homoeopath knew some others whose names

had been given to Gandhiji. He knew them and had great regard for one of them, who, he

said, had been his patient. "How can you have regard for a .physician if he is a patient

himself?" put in Gandhiji. "Well, Mahatmaji, everyone does fall sick sometimes," replied

the physician. "And sickness does not come because of what we do ourselves. It comes as

an inheritance from our parents." "Surely, I have not inherited hookworms from my

Page 94: Reminiscences of Gandhi

parents, nor the germs of dysentery," remarked Gandhiji. The physician felt nonplussed.

In a more serious vein Gandhiji then proceeded: "It was regard for the memory of the late

C. R. Das and Pandit Motilal Nehru which had led me to seek homoeopathic aid. They

had always wanted me to give it a trial. I have no faith in it. My own preference is all for

nature cure. I have sought your aid because I have no faith in allopathic medicines, and

because I am "not strong enough to have faith in God and what the five elements can

provide." In the end the physician said: "Mahatmaji, I do not think you need any

medicines. Regulation of your diet is all you require to get strong." Before he rose to go,

he mentioned to Gandhiji about a pupil of his who was very keen on meeting Gandhiji.

"She is a sweet Gujarati girl, Mahatmaji, and I would like to bring her to you if you

permit me," he said. "All Gujarati girls are sweet," replied Gandhiji. "No, Mahatmaji, say

all girls are sweet," corrected the physician. But Gandhiji was in a playful mood. "No,"

he persisted, "it is claimed as a specialty of Gujarati girls. But mind you do not run away

with her." "How can you say such a thing, Mahatmaji?" said the poor man in holy horror.

"I am sixty, I cannot run away with anyone at this age~." But Gandhiji was bent on

teasing him. "I know of a man who ran away with a French girl after the age of sixty," he

said. Everybody had a good laugh. "This is how I bring down my blood-pressure,"

remarked Gandhiji when the laughter had subsided. And besides some innocent

entertainment, he had gained a friend.

LAUGHING AWAY THE BLUES

As an illustration of how Gandhiji can make people laugh away their blues the following

may be cited. Years ago an esteemed lady friend and co-worker allowed herself

petulantly to make an irresponsible statement about him. On the report being referred to

her for verification she replied: "Ask your own heart to verify it." In reply he wrote the

following post card which I reproduce from memory:

"Dear Mother Superior,

I must address you like this. You are so solemn. I must laugh or I shall burst. How is my

poor heart to tell me what your tongue whispered into somebody's ear?"

Page 95: Reminiscences of Gandhi

HIS READY WIT

He has an unfailing, ready wit. I have never known him to be discomfited in repartee.

During his incarceration in the Yeravda Central Prison in 1930, he once ordered a knife

to be made in the jail workshop. It was done in a hurry and with unskilled labour. The

next day the following little dialogue took place between him and the Superintendent of

the jail:

Gandhiji : "So this is your proud handiwork."

Supdt. : "Well, you insisted on 'Swadeshi'."

Gandhiji : "Yes, but not Yeravda."

On S. S. the Rajputana by which he voyaged to England to attend the Second Round

Table Conference, a number of fellow passengers (mostly Europeans) had formed a club.

It was named "The Billygoats". They also ran a typed news sheet, entitled The Scandal

Times the title being a fair index of the contents. The members one day took it into their

head to "offer their greetings to the Mahatma". Their spokesman, somewhat the worse for

drink, after presenting the latest issue of The Scandal Times with the good wishes of the

members of the club, asked him to "read it carefully" and "give his opinion" as to its

contents. "For, Mr. Gandhi," he continued tipsily, "I must have it before I go down to my

cabin for my next glass of whisky." Gandhiji scanned the sheets, remove~ the paper

fastener with which they were fastened, and quietly returned them with the remark: "I

have extracted the most valuable part from it." The tippler' beat a hasty retreat, well

pleased with the joke.

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 his comrades thus: "Bapuji, you

always tell us about the Gita. In the Gita Arjuna asks just a one-line question and

Page 96: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Bhagavan 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,

Bhagavan 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.

On his release from the Aga Khan's Palace in May last Pandit Malaviyaji sent a wire of

greetings expressing: "Every hope He will let you live hundred years to serve motherland

and mankind." Gandhiji's reply was characteristic. In the course of his A.I.C.C. speech on

the 8th of August, 1942, he had made a humorous allusion to the possibility of his living

for a hundred and twenty-five years. He had often been reminded by friends about that

remark as a "public commitment" to live for a hundred and twenty-five years. His reply

to Malaviyaji ran: "Your wire. At a stroke you have cut off twenty-five years. Add'

twenty-five to yours!"

THAT INFECTIOUS SMILE

His good humour is so catching that it led the late Maulana Mohamed Ali once to make a

grievance of it. "Mahatmaji, you are very unfair to us. We come to you full of grouse, to

quarrel with you. But you make us smile and laugh in spite of ourselves. So our grouse

remains unventilated, and you think that it is, all right~ with us. And he quoted the well-

known couplet of Ghalib to describe his dilemma:

muds nhnkj ls psgjs is tks vk tkrh gS jkSud

os le>rs gSa fd chekj dk gky vPNk gSS

Most people think that when Gandhiji meets to discuss political questions with his

colleagues, the atmosphere must be very tense and solemn. The fact is that these meetings

are often a picnic of wit and humour. Here is an illustration. C. R. and Gandhiji were

discussing a letter which Gandhiji had addressed to Mr. Churchill containing his

celebrated retort courteous to the latter's description of him as "the naked Fakir"!

C. R. I am afraid your letter will be misunderstood. It was a naughty letter.

Page 97: Reminiscences of Gandhi

G. I don't think so. I meant it seriously.

C. R. You have touched him on the raw by rubbing in a past utterance of his, of which he

is probably not very proud.

G. No. I have taken out the sting by appropriating his remark as an unintended

compliment.

C. R. I hope you are right.

G. I am sorry, I can't return the compliment!

NO STING

Even his most devastating retorts have the quality of benevolence. They leave no sting

behind. At the Second Round Table Conference Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, in announcing

the signing of what is known as the "Minorities' Pact", argued that they represented 46

per cent of In9ia's population. Therefore the Congress claim stood repudiated by about

half the population of India. It was a plausible argument, and the House was on the tip toe

of expectation when Gandhiji rose to reply:

"You had a striking demonstration of the inaccuracy of this figure," he remarked,

referring to the speeches of the women delegates. "You have had on behalf of the women

a complete repudiation, of special representation, and as they happen to be one-half of the

population of India, this 46 per cent is somewhat reduced!"

To a host of press correspondents who besieged him when his boat touched the shores of

England on the same occasion, he retorted when a reference was made to his

unconventional attire. ','The fashion here is plus-fours, I prefer minus-fours!"

Page 98: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Only once have I known anyone to get away with the last smile at his expense. It was in

1931, on board S. S. the Rajputana. He was indulging in a little swagger about his

paternity bump, of which he has a grand conceit. He claimed that he could hold the baby

of Shuaib Qureshi (now in Bhopal State Service) better than anyone else, and proceeded

to make good his claim 'with a faked grimace. The baby smiled its sweetest, blandest

smile as quietly it came into his arms. . . . Quickly Gandhiji returned it to its nurse, the

baby still smiling but the grimace gone!

N.B. I am indebted to my brother, Shri Pyarela1, for some of the anecdotes.

New Delhi, June 1946.

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Gandhiji And Women

- Rameshwari Nehru

Page 99: Reminiscences of Gandhi

MY acquaintance with Gandhiji goes back to the year 1927. I heard and read about him

ever since he returned to India from South Africa, and was a regular student of Young

India. His sayings and teachings affected me deeply, and I felt irresistibly drawn towards

him. But I had never met mm. He was much too high a personage out of the reach of an'

insignificant individual like myself. So I felt.

In the years 1927 and 1928 I served as a member of . the Age of Consent Committee

appointed by the Government of India, and went to Ahmedabad in the course of my

travels. He was then living in the Sabarmati Ashram, near Ahmedabad. I felt an urge to

see him and sought an interview with him, wanting to ask his opinion on the '5ubjects of

early marriage and the age of consent which were under the investigation of my

Committee.

An appointment was made, and I was given a few minutes interview. It was sometime in

the forenoon, and he was busy with the inmates of the Ashram all about him. I do not

Page 100: Reminiscences of Gandhi

know what happened to me, but I was overwhelmed with emotion. Uncontrolled tears

began to flow. I felt ashamed and became tongue-tied, not being able to say anything.

Another appointment was made, and I came again to the Sabarmati Ashram; this time to

spend the night so as to be able to attend the morning prayers. I was put in charge of the

late. Mahadevbhai who looked after my needs and before retiring had a preliminary talk

with me. Next morning at dawn prayer's were held on the sandy bank of the Sabarmati

river. Thereafter I had my first walk with, Gandhiji. I explained to him, what we were

doing in the Committee. He heard every,t4ing kindly and graciously. But I could feel a

touch of, uncongeniality about the atmosphere. Without discouraging me, however, or

without expressing his, disapproval of what I did, he made it clear that, although early

marriage was bad and had to be stopped, his way of doing it was not through the agency

of a foreign Government which he considered to be vicious and with which he thought it

necessary to non-cooperate. He told me that, to achieve my object, the better way would

be to go all over the country and preach against the evils of early marriage till people

were, weaned from this evil custom. The serious part of the interview over, accompanied

by a couple of young girls, he wended his way into the kitchen, sat down on a stool with

a small table in front of him, and started peeling vegetables. A light conversation with the

girls interspersed with jokes and laughter ensued. This made me feel at home and at ease.

By the time the peeling of vegetables came to an end my time was over, and I came back

to the labours of my Committee work pondering on all that I had seen and experienced.

How does he find time for such a trivial occupation as the peeling of vegetables in the

midst of his multifarious activities and with the heavy responsibilities of guiding big

movements which shape the destiny of millions resting on his shoulders, and what

common interest can he have with those simple, raw young girls whom I saw around

him? They hardly looked educated. Greater understanding of him and closer association

with him supplied me with answers to both these questions.'

'During my occasional and short visits both at Wardha and at Sevagram, as I watched him

engrossed in his daily occupations, I realized the fact that with him there was no high or

low either in work or in men. All work was service, and all service was dedication, and so

Page 101: Reminiscences of Gandhi

work had no rank with him.. I have seen him spending time in doling out food to the

inmates of his Ashram with his own trembling hands both morning and evening. I have

seen him devotedly attending on the sick. I have seen him giving as much time and

attention to settling trivial disputes amongst his disciples, as one would give to settling

matters concerning the most intricate affairs of politics or the State. He carefully reads

the reports' of the smallest of institutions (and there are many such all over the country)

run under his inspiration and guides them in great detail. He has time to enter into the

domestic affairs of those who come near him and who seek his aid. He gives succour to

the grief-stricken, and hope to the disheartened, by giving them daily attention. At this

advanced age, with growing physical weakness and equally growing pressure of work, he

writes his letters with his own hands. Others may consider all this a waste; and I have

heard many highly placed men and women deploring the fact, asserting that, if Gandhiji

spent his time a little more judiciously, saved it from these trivialities, and spent it on

higher and greater objects which awaited his attention, things would be better managed.

But I know how wrong such notions are, for the deep springs of Gandhiji's unfathomable

love, like Christ's and Buddha's, must be equally shared by. all without any

discrimination. It is the spontaneous natural- ness and the wisdom of these actions which

is the real secret of the hold he has over millions. I can tell. from personal experience

what thrill of joy a few uneven and illegible lines of his own hand-writing have given me

and how I have longed to get them. It is this devotion to small matters which lifts him

above everybody else, and makes the lowly feel that they too have a place in his scheme

of things. In his dealings with human beings he has often struck me as a super-sculptor

busily engaged with. the creation of. fine specimens of men and women out of the human

material available to him. He moulds them, chisels them, and gives them a finish in

accordance with his own conception of things. The fineness of the specimens he produces

is naturally limited by the nature of the material at his command. There is, therefore,

great variety and difference of stature and colour and fineness amongst his numerous

followers on whom the skill of his chisel has been applied. But there is no doubt about

the fact that i all those hundreds of thousands of men and women who I come under his

magic influence are moulded into a better shape. They fall far short of his ideal, for it is

so high; but they all benefit by the contact and evolve into a I better and higher life.

Page 102: Reminiscences of Gandhi

He is out to create a new world-a world which is free from the struggle and strife and

turmoil of the world of today. He wants to bring the Kingdom of God on earth from

which vicious human passions are eliminated and in which the governing force is love

(ahimsa) and co-operation. For the creation of this world women supply the better

material. He has often said that women can make better soldiers of his non-violent army

than men. He therefore has confidence in them, and that is why they are so forcefully

drawn towards him. I have often found him setting tasks to these little sisters of mercy

too complicated and complex to be tackled even by men of great learning and power,

with no other equipment except simplicity, humility, love of truth, and an iron will which

he has instilled into them. These little women. wear themselves out at his bidding in

fulfillment of the duties entrusted to them. Thus many of them are posted in different far-

off corners of India burning the candle of their lives to give light to the poor around them.

They live unknown to the outside world, enriching the little world they live in with the

fragrance of their se1fless existence. The volume of their work may not be great, but its

value lies in its purity which invisibly enlivens the world of their contact.

He values an ounce of practice more than a pound of precept. All rituals and conventions

of society, therefore, have value for him only in so far as they conform to the actual facts

of life and are based on moral principles. Mere assertions of principles, however learned,

are like empty shells if they are not followed by practice. He pushes this love of living the

truth to dimensions beyond the conception of ordinary individuals. The latest instance of

this love for the living truth regardless of consequences was the Indumati Tendulkar

marriage celebrated last year at Sevagram under his instructions.

The procedure he adopted in this marriage gave a practical shape to the whole ritual of

Hindu marriage, disregarding the fact that this ritual of his making was not recognized by

the law of the land. He gave a new shape to the rite of Saptapadi which in its orthodox

symbolic form represents seven steps taken by the couple jointly in the path of life. In

this new ritual the bride and the bridegroom were made to accomplish in company with

each other seven pieces of activities like the reading of the Bhagavadgita, spinning,

Page 103: Reminiscences of Gandhi

tending of the cow, cleaning the well-side and the land for cultivation etc., on the eve of

the marriage. The priest who officiated at the marriage was a Harijan by caste and

belonged to the Christian religion by profession. The whole proceedings were held in

Hindustani. Amongst the list of pledges given and taken, some old unnecessary ones

were omitted and new ones were introduced. In evolving this form of marriage the only

one principle he regarded was strict adherence in life to the moral principles held by him

and professed by the couple. At one stroke and in one action so many reforms which he

advocates were woven into the fabric of life.

Another instance of a similar nature happened when my son's marriage was celebrated in

accordance with his advice. In this case the complication was that the bride belonged to a

nationality and a faith different from those of the bridegroom, and the question of the

ritual of marriage allowing freedom of religion to either party was to be solved. I give

below his written opinion on the matter, which prominently brings into relief his bold

adherence to moral laws I alone in defiance of all false notions of social prestige.

The following is a quotation from what he wrote on the occasion:

"The very word 'Hindu' is modern. The label was given to us. The name of .our religion is

'Manava Dharma', i. e., man's religion. Manusmriti is the code of man's religion. The

fountain of all is the Vedas. But no one possesses all the Vedas~ Man's religion has been

under- going evolution. Before the advent of British rule, society was undergoing change

from time to time. British rule changed all this. What was fit for change became petrified.

If there was a change, it came from either the Privy Council or the British-made

legislatures. Owing to this much harm has been done, and society has become inert like

the superimposed laws. In this state of things, my advice is to perform marriage rites

according to morals prescribed by man's religion. That should be binding. We need not

heed those British rules which are inconsistent with highest morals. We must run risks, if

there be any in so doing."

In the immensity of his work, he covers the whole of human life. No aspect is neglected.

He has tried to solve all questions confronting individual and collective life. His solutions

Page 104: Reminiscences of Gandhi

are made with a view to evolving a civilization in which there is peace on earth and

goodwill among men.

New Delhi, 4-3-1946.

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

In The South African Days

- Millie Graham Polak

MANY of us who knew Gandhiji in the days. of long ago were aware that he had long

had a deep interest in trying to heal a sick body-not only his' own, though with, that he

was always experimenting, but just that of the many who were near or came to him for

help. , :At one time he might have interested himself in orthodox medical science, though

I cannot. say that he had ever made any real study of it. But orthodoxy was not for him,

for, like all other things in his life, he sought to get back to what was to him the fountain-

Page 105: Reminiscences of Gandhi

head of life and health., So he sought to treat an ailment by what was known as nature-

cure methods.

After reading Just's Return to Nature, in which the 'author had devised a special simple

method of nature-cure, Gandhiji was convinced that here were to be found healing and

absence of ills. It was about this time that an unhappy expense made a profound

impression upon him, and deepened his suspicion of the orthodox medical schop1s'of

thought and practice.

An Indian trader had a dearly loved son, who had become seriously ill. Only an

immediate operation, said the doctor in charge of the case, could cure the boy. The

operation was not considered to be a serious one, but the father was filled with fear and

anxiety. He consented at last. to. the operation, but.. begged Gandhiji to be with him

during the ordeal, and to help the family at. the time of trial Gandhiji consented to do so.

The operation was performed at the boy's home one Sunday morning. When, later that

day, Gandhiji returned to us-my husband and I were then living with the Gandhi family-it

was evident that he was still labouring under a severe emotional strain. We learned, upon

inquiry, that the boy had died under the operation. Gandhiji seemed to feel that the boy

need never have undergone it-and, in any case, that it had been incompetently performed,

and that he might have recovered under other treatment. He worried about this

considerably, and I think that he felt that his agreeing to be present on the occasion was

tantamount to advising, and, therefore, being partially responsible for, the operation and

the unhappiness of the bereaved family.

This experience certainly increased his bias towards 'unorthodox' methods of healing, and

engendered a strong dislike of the surgeon's life. Several of us who were closely

associated with him at the time underwent experiments with earth-poultices, cabinet

steam-baths to be followed by a I plunge into a tub of cold water, colonic irrigation, acid

fruit cures, fasts, many different types of diet, and several other trials. Always these

experiments were first carried out on himself and the members of his own family. Many

cases of illness or discomfort were quite successfully treated in this. manner-a poisoned

Page 106: Reminiscences of Gandhi

finger or a severely suppurating wound having made a remarkably quick recovery when

treated with a clean, fresh earth-poultice. This same type of poultice, however, when

applied to the stomach of my six-weeks old baby (who, like most infants, had a slight

digestive trouble) proved not only a failure, but a real danger to the poor child. The shock

of the cold compress produced a rigor and after my ministration had restored him to

normal, I refused to have the method tested' on him again.

The cure that seemed almost miraculous to those of us who watched it was that for which

he was responsible in respect of Mrs. Gandhi. She was at the Phoenix Settlement, in

Natal, and Gandhiji was at Johannesburg, in the Transvaal After having been ailing for

some time, she became very ill, and the doctor, who lived twelve miles away, had to be

sent for late one night. Upon examination, he found her suffering from a bad attack of

pernicious anemia. He considered her condition so serious that he asked for her husband

to be sent for at once. Upon Gandhiji's arrival, and after being closeted with Ba for some

time, he told us that she had placed herself entirely in his hands for treatment, and that he

was going to 'look after her himself. The doctor, who had been' urging, orthodox dietary

treatment, which involved breach of the customary vegetarianism, was dispensed with,

much to his indignation, and Gandhiji set to work and treat his 'wife. She was given

frequent small quantities of acid fruit 'and practically no other food at first, and, contrary

to the expectations: of those of us who feared the consequences of such drastic treatment

of a weak and desperately sick woman, the trouble was arrested. After a week or two,

simple, non-stimulating food was taken, and Ba commenced to improve. In due course, a

complete cure was effected.

In those days, Gandhiji accepted cow's milk as a valuable food, though already he was

saying that, it was 'not a proper food for adults. Presently, he insisted that it stimulated

the lower passions of man's nature. This line, of argument aroused strong opposition in

me.' "If that be so," I said "then young children,. who are principally fed on milk, would

be nothing but horrible little brutes, and you do not certainly believe that to be the case."

However, he smiled tolerantly. Neither of us believed that the other was right. Shortly

afterwards he took a vow never to drink again the milk of the cow and buffalo.

Page 107: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Since those days, doctors and surgeons played a bigger part ill Gandhiji's life. Even his

fasts had to be carefully watched by his medical advisers, and probably only such

medical care enabled him to retain for so long a hold on his physical body. And, too, he

later learnt to distinguish between the moral consequences of taking cow's milk and goat's

milk! I expect that he must often have thought back to the past and, in a way, felt that

those days, full of hope and belief and strenuous endeavour, were rich in experiences and

the knowledge that grew from them.

Our dietary experiments were many and various. For some time, upon. his advice, Ba and

I cooked without ordinary refined sugar. Cooked fruits, puddings or cakes were

sweetened with raw cane syrup. When this phase passed, we had a saltless table. Salt,

Gandhiji contended, other than that contained in natural foods, was bad not only for

health but for the character. But years later, he conducted the great anti-salt tax campaign

in India, and he and many others endured imprisonment therefore. Tea was not to be

used, nor any other stimulant. Abstention from tea was, I think, a real deprivation for

him, for, until my husband had denounced it to him as a stimulant or a narcotic, he had

much enjoyed his afternoon cup in his office. When in London on one of his missions on

behalf of his countrymen, his tea-parties were a delight to many. He would then be his

most human self, teasing, laughing, and seemingly enjoying the friendly intercourse and

the tea. An imitation coffee, made from roasted and ground cereals or peanuts, was the

usual evening beverage. I personally struck against some of these austerities and refused

to be Bound or worried by them; whereat Gandhiji, with his usual affectionate smile,

would cease to argue with me, though keeping strictly to his own regime, intent on

working out his own dietary theories.

When Mr. G. K. Gokhale paid his historic visit to South Africa, in 1912, to investigate

the Indian grievances there, my husband and I were no longer sharing a home with the

Gandhi family, who were then living at Phoenix. A house had been placed at Mr.

Gokhale's disposal by an Indian merchant. In all the arrangements for the distinguished

visitor's comfort and convenience, Gandhiji entered minutely. When he discovered that

Mr. Gokhale was suffering from diabetes, he and I used to char the bread and potatoes in

Page 108: Reminiscences of Gandhi

hot ashes, so as to extract as much starch as possible. Mr. Gokhale never knew of these

culinary efforts to preserve his health. Nothing was ever too small for Gandhiji, and the

more menial the task, the greater dignity he imparted to it by his own great earnestness

and simplicity. .

In our talks in the South African days, I came to realise that Gandhiji believed very

intensely that man's essential nature was divine, and that if it were to be allowed to

develop naturally from birth, the divine in him would expand as a flower and his natural

wisdom would grow and manifest direct from God. This being his profound belief, it is

understandable that education, in its ordinary sense, namely, the imparting of information

along scholastic lines was of secondary importance to him. Many were the arguments that

I had with him. Yet we did have a little school at the Phoenix Settlement for a short time,

which the children of the settlers attended. The teaching was very rudimentary and

amateurish, for the teachers were 'without much training or skill. Nevertheless, it was

something in the right direction, and Gandhiji was interested in the work.

A question that troubled him. somewhat during this period was ,how to convey the right

Kind of sex-knowledge to the . children under his influence as they were reaching

puberty. He realised that children growing up in a free life close to nature might

misunderstand the right use of the procreative faculties and that experimenting and

abuses might easily take place. At length he procured what at that time were regarded as

standard works on what a boy and a girl should know and how they should be informed.

The then teacher at the school was an unmarried woman, so Gandhiji did not feel that he

could ask her advice on the books 'without embarrassing her. Being the only other

Englishwoman there, and a married woman, he asked me to help him. Soon after, owing

to his rapid immersion in the political struggle, the little school was closed; and nothing

further was done in the matter.

London, 12-3-1948.

Page 109: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

With Gandhiji On Deck

- Edmond Privat

Our first meeting with Gandhiji was at Marseilles, in September 1931, when he arrived in

Europe for the Round Table Conference. We went to the :French harbour on an early

morning with Romain Rolland's sister, and together with Charlie Andrews we spent part

of the day on board the ship with the Mahatma.

"It was a great experience. When we left, my wife wished him good success in London,

and he replied, smiling: "Behaviour is success,"-a remark well summing up all his moral

philosophy. We often quote it.

After the Round Table Conference we went to Paris to bring him to Switzerland, there he

spent a week at Romain Rolland's house near Villeneuve.

We organized his lectures at Lausanne and Geneva, and shall never forget his reply to an

old man who asked him if he was not discouraged repeating the same non- violent advice

Page 110: Reminiscences of Gandhi

given by Christ two thousand years ago "without much success if we judge by history".

"How long did you say?" asked Gandhiji with his usual good humour.

"I said these things have been preached for twenty centuries in vain," insisted the old

workman, who was a communist.

"Well," answered the Mahatma, "do you think two thousand years such a long time to

learn something as difficult as to return good for evil?"

Gandhiji's part in human history will have shown that at least one nation agreed to fight

for its freedom in a peaceful way thanks to his teaching and to the best spiritual tradition

of the country. After such an event the world. will never be the same as before. Even

Norway followed Gandhiji's inspiration in its resistance to the Nazi authorities.

After his Swiss visit Gandhiji and his party went , south to Brindisi to sail back home on

the S. S. Pilsna, and we accompanied them to the Italian frontier at two hours' notice. It

was during that journey in the train that he asked us why we did not visit India. We

replied that the journey was too expensive.

"You probably think in terms of first or second class," he explained laughing, "but we

only pay ten pounds each for our passage on deck and, once there, many Indian friends

would open their houses to you."

We counted how much money we had in our pockets, and decided to seize the

opportunity. We stayed in the train, went to Rome with the party and, there, got the visa

and the tickets. We had no luggage, except a tooth-brush, and an umbrella, but we bought

some bedding at Rome and sent a few telegrams to cancel lectures. Such an adventure is

only offered once in a lifetime.

The journey on the S. S. Pilsna was wonderful. We all kept in row on deck, and Gandhiji

was very jolly, full of wit, and very kindly teaching us about Indian ways, Indian food,

and taking trouble for his friends: comfort with a real mother's heart.

Page 111: Reminiscences of Gandhi

They say that a great man is never great to his servant, and that illusions fall when you

live near him. Well, Gandhiji is an exception to the rule, and he is still greater when you

are his companions day and night. His humour and his kindness are unforgettable. We

spent three weeks in close, intimacy, sharing all the details of daily routine on deck, even

cleaning our common corner when the dogs of the first class passengers invaded it, and

we found the Mahatma great as ever.

He does not impose an overwhelming or crusmI1g personality on you as other great men

often do. He just makes the atmosphere absolutely honest and clear by his presence and

his love. of truth. Who could ever lie to such a guide and friend, a real brother of men?

These three weeks with him on the S. S. Pilsna were a rare privilege, and such an

introduction to India was unique. Gandhiji's love of his people is boundless, but never

blind. Many times he repeated that his mission was to accustom men to use a better

method, than war in their struggle for freedom. Indian self-government was not an end in

itself: the nonviolent fight to achieve it was the occasion for a new experience in human

history and a step towards abolishing war.

When a radiogram announced that a girl student had tried to murder the Governor of

Bengal, he was as deeply ashamed as if she had been his own daughter, and felt himself

responsible. His pain was hard to bear.

His description of Islam and of Muslims to us was the most generous we ever heard. He

wanted us to under- stand the greatness of their religion and their sense of democratic

equality.

A few days after Christmas we landed at Bombay, where huge crowds were waiting to

welcome him back. The political situation was tense and the atmosphere revolutionary.

Jawaharlal Nehru had just been arrested. Lord Willingdon refused to discuss such

measures with Gandhiji. The Congress contemplated a new civil disobedience campaign

as a protest.

Page 112: Reminiscences of Gandhi

At the mass meeting on the Maidan we could compare the Indian leader's tone with the

language of nationalist leaders in Europe and with their brutal appeals to hatred. Gandhiji

was reminding the crowds of their promise of nonviolence, and was asking every man

and woman to be ready to give their life in protecting English officials and their families

against any injury or insult. "We are not fighting them, but the system of government that

employs them".

Staying with the same friends who were his hosts at Bombay, we could watch his

patience and calm in very difficult circumstances. In the early morning there was a

meeting for worship in a public square, where a silent mass of white-clad men and

women squatted around their beloved leader. He only said a few words, mostly against

fear, which is the chief cause of violence. If you are free from any dread, either of losing

your possessions or your life, you can remain calmly brave and love your opponent while

resisting his intrusions.

Early another morning before sunrise, we saw the police arrest him on the roof of his

host's house, and two very tall officers standing on both sides of, the stairs with tears in

their eyes. We shall never forget that scene. Even then he found time to scribble a few

words of general introduction for us, a sort of Indian passport on a precious scrap of

paper. It opened all doors through India and, while he was :in jail, at Poona, in that winter

of 1932, we found his spirit and his inspiration alive everywhere from North to. South.

Travelling third class and wearing khaddar, we made hundreds of friends in the trains. .

Two testimonials impressed us specially. A woman with white hair explained why she

and so many of her sisters had come out of their homes to take part in the Gandhi led

movement, much against old. customs: "We felt that he would never ask us to do

anything against love or truth."

In Calcutta, the great Poet of India, Rabindranath Tagore, told us what he thought was

Gandhiji's greatest achievement: "He taught our people to cast away fear and so to ,free

themselves from hatred and hypocrisy, for both go together."

Page 113: Reminiscences of Gandhi

The world owes a deep debt of gratitude to India for having chosen such a leader and

shown mankind a way out of war in following his prophetic vision.

Neucbatel (Switzerland), 25-3-1946.

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Reminiscences

- Sir Purshotamdas Thakurdas

APART from learning from newspapers about the fame of Gandhiji in connection with

his satyagraha in South Africa, my first knowledge about his firm views was when he

returned from overseas and there was a move on the part of the orthodox members of the

Modh Bania community in' Bombay to put Gandhiji out of the caste. There were many

who did not approve of this. When. mention was made qf this move to Gandhiji: he

simply said: "Why take the trouble of passing a resolution put-' ting me out of the caste?

1 am prepared to go out of the caste myself." This deservedly curt treatment of the

orthodox element in the caste has had its own effect, and those who felt that they would

in the least degrade him by their resolution, if carried, reconciled .themselves t9,doing

nothing. Gandhiji's attitude regarding matters concerning his caste of Modh Banias has

Page 114: Reminiscences of Gandhi

been a consistently cold and indifferent one all through, without bring in any way.

provocative or disrespectful. The net result today is that the Modh Bania community feel

proud of him, and caste restrictions are slowly but most definitely being worn out, if not

effaced.

My first contact with Gandhiji was in 1920, when' he was about to launch the non-

cooperation movement for the first time. 1 then saw him by appointment through the late

Revashankar Jagjivan, who used to be his host in Bombay at Mani Bhavan. I was Wing

to Understand from Gandhiji how the non-cooperation movement could at all succeed

under the circumstances of the country and the people at the time.' Gandhiji's one reply,

after I explained my point of, view to him, was: "I will make this experiment with such as

choose to follow me. There is such dire poverty in the country that I shall get my

following from the masses, even though I may not get it from the classes." As I was

leaving Gandhiji after the interview, Pandit Motilal Nehru came in to see him,' and' that

was the first time I met the Panditji. He enquired of Gandhiji about me, and Gandhiji said

that I was the Sheriff of Bombay. Panditji, half jocularly, remarked: "He will have to give

this up now;" and Gandhiji, without waiting for me to ,say a word, rejoined: "He will do

it more thoroughly than many, but he will only do it when he is convinced of our line of

action being the correct one." As Revashankarbhai said good-bye to me at the threshold

of the staircase of the second floor of his building, he asked if I felt that the interview had

been a useful one. I replied in all earnestness: "It is a serious move and will require to be

watched at every turn!'

My next interview with Gandhiji was in 1921 immediately after the landing of the Prince

of Wales at Bombay when commotion took place in Bombay and Gandhiji went on fast.

It was decided that, when Gandhiji was to break his fast, a few friends should be present.

I was specially invited to this, and there were a few speeches requesting Gandhiji to break

the fast and assuring him of the loyalty of all India to him. At the end of these speeches,

he asked me to say a few words. This took me by surprise, as nothing in that direction

was indicated to me. But on his repeating his request, I referred to what I felt was most

lacking in Indian public life or private, namely discipline. A few friends from the

Page 115: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Congress circle were upset by my few words, but I was given to understand that

Mahatmaji said to them: "Purshotamdas touched the correct thing, and I am glad he said

it on this occasion."

Gandhiji's father had been Dewan of Rajkot; and during the agitation against that State,

which developed just before the Tripuri session of the Congress over which Subhash

Babu presided, Gandhiji decided to follow Kasturba who had gone to Rajkot, having

been brought up at Rajkot though her birth-place was Porbandar. When I heard about

this, I particularly asked friends in Bombay to arrange that I should be able to see

Gandhiji in Bombay on his way to Rajkot. It was a Monday, his silence day, and he was

to be in Bombay only for a few hours. As soon as he learnt that I was anxious to see him,

he very kindly sent a message back saying that he would start his silence an hour or two

later, so that I might go and see him at his host's place in Juhu. I particularly appreciated

this, and had about half-an-hour's talk with him at Juhu. I suggested to him that in my

opinion Rajkot was-too small a problem for him to go personally to solve. Gandhiji's only

reply was: "I know it, but I feel. that, if I can go, I should not avoid it." I reminded him of

the divided loyalty which was bound to worry him, and he said quite seriously: "That is

exactly why I am going. The people are not in the wrong, and the Dewan has a great hold

over the young Thakore. Perhaps I may be able to render a small service to the State

which was served by my father." I left Gandhiji convinced that he would, with his tact

and usual resourcefulness, bring about the best solution permissible under the

circumstances there. And so it did happen. Gandhiji has proved that whenever he wills it

so, he can stretch a thing without making it snap.

The last incident that I may refer to is what took place during my recent illness in 1945.

He had kind enquiries made after my health fairly regularly, and on the very first day

after his arrival in Bombay, after the evening prayers, he told his host, Mr. Birla, that he

was calling on me. When Mr. Birla said that at about 8.30 p.m. I might not be able to see

him, all that Gandhiji said was: "Anyway I will see him, if he cannot see me." He called

at my residence with Dr. Sushila Nayyar and another friend. My daughter and grandson

had left me for the evening just a few minutes before, and the nurse was preparing me for

the night's rest. A servant brought the message that Mahatmaji had arrived. My wife was

Page 116: Reminiscences of Gandhi

wondering what to say to him, but she forthwith went down to meet him. Gandhiji at

once asked: "Is Purshotamdas in?" When my wife said: "I am afraid he cannot come

down, but he is a little better," Gandhiji smilingly said: "Oh, I can go up and, if you like, I

will take you up with me to convince you that I can go up the stairs comfortably."

Without waiting any more, he started going up the stairs, and as soon as he was at the

entrance of my bed-room, he said in his cheerful voice: "Don't move at all. I will come

and sit by you." He was one of the very few who, instead of enquiring of me as to the

why and wherefor of my illness, kept on talking to me merely, as if bracing me to the

course of recovery. He left me after twenty minutes, and the nurse in attendance, who

saw him for the first time, said: "If only I could be, sure that patients would have such

visitors calling on them, they would do more for a patient's recovery than doctors

themselves."

Bombay,

July 1946.

Page 117: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Gandhiji-Romain Rolland Meeting

- Miraben

AN IMPRESSION

(The following, which is taken from The Nation (New York), is a letter written by the

late Romain Rolland to an American friends of his on the visit of Gandhiji to his home. -

MIRABEN}

How I should have liked ,to have you' here during the visit of the Indians! They stayed

five days - from the 5th to 11th December at the Villa Vionette. The little man,

bespectacled and toothless, was wrapped in his white burnoose but his legs, thin as a

heron's stilts, were bare. His shaven head with its few coarse hairs was uncovered and

Page 118: Reminiscences of Gandhi

wet with rain. He came to me with a dry laugh. his mouth open like a good dog panting,

and flinging an arm round me leaned his cheek against my shoulder. I felt his grizzled

head against my cheek. It was, I amuse myself thinking, the kiss of Saint Dominie and

Saint Francis.

Then came Mira (Miss Slade), proud of figure and with the stately bearing of a Demeter,

and finally three Indians, one a young son of Gandhi, Devadas, with a round and happy

face. He is gentle, and but little aware of the grandeur of his name. The others were

secretaries - disciples -two young men of rare qualities of heart and mind Mahadev Desai

and Pyarelal.

As I had contrived shortly beforehand to get a severe cold on my chest, it was to my

house and to. the chamber on the second floor where I sleep at Villa Olga - you) will

remember it- that Gandhi came each morning for long conversations. My sister

interpreted, with the assistance of Mira, and I had also a Russian friend and secretary,

Miss Kondacheff, who took notes on our discussions. Some good photographs by

Schlemmer, our neighbor from Montreux recorded the aspect of our interviews.

"Evenings, at seven o'clock, prayers were held in the first-floor salon. With lights

lowered, the Indian seated on the carpet, and the little assembly of the faithful grouped

about, there was a suite of three beautiful chants - the first an extract from the Gita, the

second an ancient 'hymn on the Sanskrit texts which Gandhi has translated, and the third

a canticle of Rama and Sid intoned by the warm, grave voice of Mira.

"Gandhi held other prayers at three o'clock in the morning, for which, in London, he used

to wake his harassed staff, although he had not retired until one. This little man, so frail in

appearance, is tireless, and fatigue is a word which does not exist in his vocabulary. He

could calmly answer for hours the heckling of a crowd, as he did at Lausanne and

Geneva, without a muscle of his face twitching. Seated on a table, motionless, his voice

always clear and calm, he replied to his adversaries open or masked -and they were not

lacking at Geneva - giving them rude truths which left them silenced and suffocated.

Page 119: Reminiscences of Gandhi

The Roman bourgeoisie, and nationalist, who had at first received him with crafty looks,

quivered with rage when he left. I believe that if his stay had lasted any longer, the public

meetings would have been forbidden. He pronounced himself as unequivocally as

possible on the double questions of national armaments and the conflict between capital

and labour. I was largely responsible for steering him on this latter course.

His mind proceeds through successive experiment's into action and he follows a straight

line, but he never stops, and one would risk error in attempting to judge him by what he

said ten years ago, because his thought is in constant revolution. I will give you a little

example of it that is characteristic.

GOD IS TRUTH

"He was asked at Lausanne to define what he understood by God. He explained how,

among the noblest' attributes which the Hindu scriptures ascribed to God, he had in his

youth chosen the word" truth" as most truly defining the essential element. He had then

said, 'God is Truth.' "But," he added, .. two years ago I advanced another step, now say,

Truth is God. For; even the atheists do not doubt the necessity for the power of truth. In

their passion for discovering the truth, the atheists have not hesitated to deny the

existence of God, and, from their point of view, they are right." You will understand from

this; single trait the boldness and independence of this religious spirit from the Orient. I

noted in him traits similar to Vivekanand.

And yet not a single political ruse catches him unprepared. And his own politics are to

say everything that he thinks to everybody, not concealing a thing.

On the last evening, after the prayers, Gandhi asked me to play him a little of Beethoven.

He does not know Beethoven, but he knows that Beethoven has been the intermediary

between Mira and me, and consequently between Mira and himself, and that, in the final

count, it is to Beethoven that the gratitude of us all must go, I played him the Andante of

the Fifth Symphony. To that I added, "Les Champs Elysees" of Gluck- the page for the

orchestra and the air for the flute.

Page 120: Reminiscences of Gandhi

He is very sensitive to the religious chants of his country, which somewhat resemble the

most beautiful of our Gregorian melodies, and he has worked to assemble them. We also

exchanged our ideas on art, from which he does not separate his conception of truth, nor

from his conception of truth that of joy, which he thinks truth should bring. But it follows

of itself that for this heroic nature joy does not come without effort, not even life itself

without hardship. The seeker after truth hath a heart tender as the lotus, and hard as

granite.

"Here, my dear friend: are a few hints of those days of ours together on which I have

taken much more detailed notes. What I do not dwell on to you is the hurricane of

intruders, loiterers, and half-wits which this visit loosed on our two villas. No, the

telephone never ceased ringing; photographers in ambuscades let fly their fusillades from

behind every bush. The milkmen's syndicate at Leman informed me that during all the

time of this sojourn with me of the King of India they intended to assume complete

responsibility for his victualling". We received letters from 'Sons of God'. Some Italians

wrote to the Mahatma beseeching him to indicate for them the ten lucky numbers for the

next drawing of his weekly national lottery!

"My sister, having survived, has gone to take ten day's rest at a cure in Zurich. She

returns shortly. For my part I have entirely lost the gift of sleep. If you find it, send it to

me by registered mail !

Harijan, Vol.11, p.403

Page 121: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Some Reminiscences of the visit of Mahatma Gandhi

to Romain Rolland in 1931

- Madeliene Rolland

ONE of the most precious memories of my life is that of the visit which Gandhi paid to

my brother, on his way back from the Round Table Conference at London, in 1931. We

were then residing in Switzerland, near Villeneuve, at the eastern end of Lake Leman.

We had long looked forward to this meeting, and more than once we had been

disappointed. What was, therefore, our joy when we received a wire announcing that the

Mahatma would arrive on the 6th of December!

We were tenants of two small villas at ten minutes' distance from Villeneuve, enclosed

within a large park and separated from each other only by their own small gardens. It was

in one of these villas, the further of the two from the road, that we arranged to offer

Gandhiji and his party our modest hospitality with, however, the advantage of complete

independence.

Page 122: Reminiscences of Gandhi

On Sunday, the 6th of December, as night was Coming on, Gandhi arrived by train from

Paris. It was com; it was raining. My brother, still suffering from an attack of bronchitis,

was unable to go to the station to welcome his revered friend. But he was waiting for him

at the threshold of the Villa Lionnette when Gandhi, enveloped in his big white shawl and

followed by friends, some Indian and some European, appeared. My brother moves

forward, his hands held out; Gandhi, pressing his cheek on his shoulder, puts his arm

around him in a moving brotherly embrace. A few words of welcome are exchanged, and

we take on: guest. to the upper floor where a room almost unfurnished is reserved for

him, with one window overlooking the Lake I and two others the beautiful Alps of

Savoy, the wide valley I of the Rhone against the background of the glaciers of the Dent

du Midi.

It is there that he will stay during his all too short visit, I from that Sunday evening of

December 6th to the following from Friday, the 11th; there, too, that the morning and

evening prayers will usually be held; there that, seated at his spinning wheel, he will

receive the many visitors of all races and all strata who will stream in ceaselessly. Hi!'

son Devadas, his disciples and secretaries, Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal, and the devoted

Mira supervising everything, will share the other rooms.

Henceforth, letters, telegrams, messages, telephone calls (the latter, fortunately, received

only at the Villa Olga) will keep up uninterruptedly. Now it is Lausanne reminding the

Mahatma of his promise to address several meetings; then, Geneva, notified of his visit

later, feeling desperate at having to take second place and claiming the immediate

presence of Gandhi at a large public meeting; then there are all the press correspondents,

most of them ignorant enough of the real life and teaching of the master; and above all

come ail the fervent admirers of non-violence (amidst whom, of course, there are a few

prompted by curiosity) requesting interviews and vying with each other in offering the

greatest service. Two reverend fathers place ,their car at the disposal of Gandhi during the

entire period of his, stay; a young musician, every morning at dawn, plays the violin

under his windows; a Japanese artist comes hurrying from Paris to make sketches; school

children bring him flowers; and on the eve of his departure the choir of Villeneuve will

Page 123: Reminiscences of Gandhi

sing popular songs in the garden, including the celebrated Ranz des Vaches (Calling the

Herd), that song which even more than the national anthem touches the heart of every

Swiss away from his motherland, arousing patriotic love coupled with a feeling of home

sickness. And let me not forget to mention the Syndicate of the Milkmen of Leman who,

even before Gandhi's arrival, had phoned to express their desire to supply milk to the

"King of India"!

Amidst that seeming confusion, Gandhiji remains calm and smiling,! punctual at every

one of the engagements he makes, and yet managing, somehow, at dawn or during any

moment of leisure in the course of the day, to slip out of the house and to stride briskly

along through the neighbouring country, accompanied by. the faithful Mira, but watched

by photographers hidden behind trees and followed (we blushed to witness this!) by

British and Swiss policemen, entrusted, so they pretend, with "protecting" him! On

Wednesday afternoon, he asks to be driven by car to a ,mountain village where he calls

on an old peasant woman whom Mira had known when she was still Madeleine Slade and

used to come to us at Villeneuve; that old woman spins and weaves her own garments;

and so Gandhi is happy to shake hands with her, to sit at her loom and to fraternize 'with

her before proceeding along the steep road up to Leysin where he says a few words to the

tubercular students of the University Sanatorium.

But before all else, he gives preference to his daily interviews with Romain Rolland for

which he sets aside jealously two to three hours. Is not that the sole reason .for his having

come? And so, sometimes in the morning and sometimes at the end of the afternoon, he

will go across "the little garden of the Villa Lionnette and enter through the gate that of

the Villa Olga to go up to my brother, since he does not wish the latter, in his indifferent

state of health, to be exposed to the cold and dampness of a specially' rainy season. Then,

Romain Rolland at his desk and Gandhiji -facing him cross-legged on a settee, talk to

each other as if alone, for the rest of us are silent listeners-Mira, Mahadev, Pyarelal, my

future sister-in-law and myself. We .are there only to take notes or to be called upon as

interpreters. They discuss the grave problems which they have at heart. My brother

describes for Gandhi the tragic situation of Europe: the sufferings of the people oppressed

by dictators; the drama of the proletariat who in their desperate effort to break the

Page 124: Reminiscences of Gandhi

shackles of an anonymous and . ruthless capitalism and pushed forward by their

legitimate aspiration for justice and freedom, see only one way out, that of rebellion and

violence. For man in the West is by education, by tradition and by temperament

unprepared for the religion of ahimsa...... Gandhi listens, reflects..... When he answers, he

reaffirms his unshakable faith in the full power of nonviolence. Yet he understands that to

convince sceptical Europe the concrete example of a successful experiment in non-

violence would be necessary. Will India furnish it? He hopes so many are the burning

topics that are touched upon during these intimate talks, in the course of which the two

speakers open their hearts without any reservation.

At times their conclusions vary; yet always they commune with each other through their

common love for humanity, their identical desire to alleviate its misery, their fervent

search for Truth, in its multiplicity of aspects.

On Tuesday the 8th and on Thursday the 10th, the Swiss Pacifists (headed by Edmond

Privat and Pierre Ceresole organized public meetings in Lausanne and Geneva,

respectively. Gandhi, refusing the motor car which is offered him, takes the train to

Lausanne, traveling in third class, as his custom is. There a large crowd awaits him, eager

to hear him speak, and receiving enthusiastically the answers that Gandhi gives to the

various questions put to him at the public meeting, answers which are remarkable for

their precision, their clearness, for the presence of mind they show, as also for their biting

frankness. But the two private gatherings at Lausanne are more moving still. Of these one

is set apart for his personal friends; at which Pierre Ceresole, founder of the Civil

International Service; states to- Gandhi his point of view on' the practice of non..; Gandhi

gives to the various questions put to him at the public meeting, answers which are

remarkable for their precision, their clearness , for the presence of mind, they show, as

also for their biting frankness. But the two private gatherings at Lausanne are more

moving still. Of these one is set apart for his personal friends, at which Peirre Ceresole,

founder of the Civil International Service, states to Gandhi his point of view on the

practice of non violence. Ceresole (that noble personage who has just passed from the

scene) believes that he can reconcile with his duties as a loyal citizen his passionate fight

against war and militarism. He thinks that, if a conscientious' objector refuses to comply

Page 125: Reminiscences of Gandhi

with the obligation of compulsory military service, because to him it represents a

maleficent and destructive force, he owes the State voluntary service; beneficent and

constructive, in exchange for the protection it gives him, and hence should pledge himself

to assist the victims of national and international calamities. On this basis was created the

Civil International Service. Gandhi, on the other hand, explains that for him there is only

one logical attitude possible towards a militaristic Government, and that is total non-

cooperation. A painful and perplexing inner conflict for a sincere soul who in all loyalty,

as in all humility, cannot and does not wish to resolve it on the spot.

The other private gathering, held in a church, is for the representatives of the Pacifist

groups in Switzerland. It is permeated by a religious atmosphere which becomes more

striking still as Gandhi speaks of his experiences and explains - how he passed from his

first definition of God, "God is Love," to "God is Truth," and finally to "Truth is God."

Meanwhile the public meeting at Lausanne, which had been broadcast, was having its

repercussions. Gandhi's voice. had aroused echoes throughout Switzerland as well as

abroad. Some of his statements had awakened fear in the minds of the narrowly

conservative. Furthermore, Gandhi !:lad dared to protest openly against the way in which

his words and even his motives had been misrepresented by two of the leading

newspapers of Switzerland. These did not forgive him. Overnight the press, until then

rather favourable changed its tone. As a result the public meeting at Geneva took place in

an atmosphere altogether different from that which had prevailed in Lausanne. On

Thursday the ,10th of December, the large amphitheatre of Victoria Hall was filled with a

dense crowd among whom one could sense conflicting tendencies. The upper bourgeoisie

were there, capitalistic and militaristic, and hence hostile to Gandhi; some Socialists,

sceptical and curious, wanting to hear him speak of social problems; and some Pacifists,

his followers; Most of the questions raised were but. traps behind their insidious

simplicity. One of them brought up the. case of a neutral country, such as Switzerland-

what should it do faced with foreign invasion? Must it not defend itself, and therefore did

it not need an army? In a tranf1uil' yet firm voice Gandhi answers: "An army is useless: It

would be enough to have all citizens, men, women and children, making of their bodies a

Page 126: Reminiscences of Gandhi

wall against the enemy;' And if the latter should be barbarous enough to butcher them,

their death at least would bear good fruit."

The other question refers to the class struggle. And Gandhi answers: "Labour does not

know its own power. Did it know it, it would only have to rise to have capitalism crumble

away. For Labour is the only power in the world." Such statements fill the bourgeoisie

with silent fury while most of the audience applaud.

One can understand, however, that such declarations by Gandhi were looked upon as

dangerous by the authorities and commented upon with indignation by the press. It is

very likely that, if the departure of the Mahatma had ,not already been fixed for the next

day, his expulsion as an undesirable, might have been considered.

That same day, Gandhi, indefatigable and having taken only a few minutes' sleep on the

hard, benches of the third class compartment, was back in Villeneuve to have one more

talk with my brother, in the short free interval before the evening prayers. !These were

held on this day, in the ground floor of the Villa Olga, so as to allow Romain Rolland to

be present. Afterwards, in the silence which followed the last hymn, my brother,

accompanied only by Gandhiji, Mira and myself, went up to his little music room. There,

at the request of the Mahatma, he played on the piano an andante movement of a

symphony of Beethoven, an invocation without words to the Deity, by the religious soul

of the great composer. For Gandhi knew that it was through Beethoven that Mira had

known Romain Rolland, and, that it was to Beethoven therefore that he owed his faithful

disciple......

The following day, Friday the 11th of December; the sun, which on the previous days had

hidden itself, flooded the country, revealing to our guests for the first time the mountains

and glaciers clear of mists, and the sparkling lake. That morning there took place the last

interview, even more intimate and more affectionate than the preceding ones. Then the

preparations for the departure. The good weather fortunately permitted my brother to go

Page 127: Reminiscences of Gandhi

to the station. On the square, a sympathetic and curious crowd had gathered, as also

friends who had come to greet Gandhiji who was to cross through Italy, halting at Rome,

before embarking at Brindisi. My brother had warned him against the tricks of the

Fascists who might try to get hold of him and thereby compromise him. To protect him

my brother had succeeded in having Gandhiji invited to stay at Rome with a friend whose

integrity was beyond doubt and whose. hospitality was therefore above any possibility of

suspicion.

We stand beside those who are about to leave us, reflecting sadly on the fact that most

likely in this world we shall not see each other again, yet deeply grateful that Providence

should have granted us the privilege of living a few days near Gandhi, to feel the radiance

of his presence, as also to be richer through the affection of new spiritual brothers, for it

was thus that we looked upon Mahadev, Pyarelal, Devdas......

Then, Gandhi, coming towards my brother, gives him a farewell embrace and gets into

his compartment. We stay a long time looking at Mira who waves a last good- bye. The

train starts, carrying our friend towards his destiny of earthly trials and spiritual victories.

(Translated, from the original French, by Shrjmati Sophia Wadia.)

Paris, 14-2-1946.

Page 128: Reminiscences of Gandhi

Reminiscences Of Gandhi

Gandhiji And Medicine

- G. R. Talwalkar

IT was in about the middle of 1918 that I first came in personal contact with Mahatma

Gandhi. He was then in a bad condition of health due to acute dysentery. Dr. B. N.

Kanuga of Ahmedabad was treating him, and was feeling very puzzled as to how to

persuade him to take a few injections of emetine which alone was the right remedy for

Gandhiji's trouble. But Mahatmaji was firm that he would not ,allow his body to be

injected with the medicine, and he asked for some nature cure method of treatment. We,

doctors, have not, I must admit, paid sufficient attention to nature cure methods according

to Mahatmaji's conception, but I must say that for acute amoebic .dysentery there is no

treatment so sure as a few injections of emetine hydrochloride. We were almost at our

wit's end how to give Mahatmaji emetine. Suddenly it struck me that, if we proposed to

him an enema, he would gladly allow us that procedure. So we proposed to him that we

would only give him an enema. He at once agreed, and we added to the enema water a

full dose of emetine and morphia. This little procedure had such marvellous effect on our

patient within the next twenty-four hours that he voluntarily asked for a repetition of the

same enema procedure for five successive days, with the result that his dysentery was

cured and he was able to travel from Nadiad to Ahmedabad in a week's time and; placed

Page 129: Reminiscences of Gandhi

himself completely under my care without questioning my authority. Soon, however, I

discovered that he was taking no food and even no milk. He was under the impression

that a dozen or two of oranges were enough for maintaining his nutrition; and when I said

that it could not support his body and strength for more than a few days, he challenged

me to convince him about the -fallacy of his fancy. So I showed to him from a well-

known authority on dietetics that, if a man wished to live entirely on oranges, he would

require about 50 to 75 oranges a day to give him enough nourishment, but that would

more certainly produce diarrhoea. Mahatmaji was at once convinced, and from that day

he began to take rice and chapati as his daily diet, but he would not take a single drop of

milk. We, doctors, believe that, for pure vegetarians as we Hindus are, milk is the most

precious and indispensable animal protein diet. I tried my best to persuade Gandhiji to

take milk, but he would not agree on this point. A few months later when he was in

Bombay the late Surgeon A. K. Dalal, with the help of Kasturba, ) was able to persuade

Gandhiji to take goat's milk. The story is narrated by Gandhiji in his autobiography.

For some time after Gandhiji resumed to take rice and chapatis, in spite of good feeding,

he did not pick up energy satisfactorily, and I was getting anxious about his future. At

this juncture came into the field one Dr. Kelkar who had for some time studied the use of

naturotherapy in the form of rubbing the back with ice as a valuable and rapid method of

bringing vigour to the body. At first this good and sincere man was a butt of ridicule by

some inmates of the Ashram, and Gandhiji would not let himself be experimented upon

by this faithful apostle of naturopathy. Gandhiji asked my opinion about this novel

treatment. When I whole-heartedly endorsed the views of Dr. Kelkar the ice treatment

began, and within a fortnight Gandhiji so much improved in health and, vigour that I

willingly offered half the credit of having cured him at that time to Dr. Kelkar.

In 1935 Gandhiji had high blood pressure, and his condition at times caused much

concern to many of his doctors. At this juncture somebody (I do not know who it was)

suggested the use of garlic as a remedy against high blood pressure. It was then that I sent

to Harijan some . of my views on the medicinal virtues of garlic, as I had long since

known that in the south of Italy garlic was much used by the poor as a remedy against

Page 130: Reminiscences of Gandhi

tuberculosis,and one Dr. Minchin in Ireland highly praised the local application of garlic

poultice to tuberculous glands and sinuses as an effective remedy.

The late Shri Mahadevbhai got intensely interested in the use of garlic, and Wrote to me a

letter asking for my experiences with it. I had been using a concentrated extract of garlic

in cases of lung tuberculosis with very gratifying results, but I could not convince my

medical brothers about this. However, I found that Gandhiji at once took to the daily use

of garlic; and I yet believe that his continued good health for years after his high blood

pressure had frightened doctors out of their wits, may be attributed to the regular use of

garlic. Gandhiji always had an open mind; and though inconveniently inquisitive at the

beginning, he was the most enthusiastic follower of a principle once he was convinced

about its soundness. Here is the key of a great mind.

Bombay, 5-6-1948.

Jai Hind………..


Recommended