Facets of Gandhiji's life

A man of quick thinking and sensitivity, he was also known for his wit and instant repartee.


THE MAHATMA: High ideals. Photo: The Hindu Photo Library

THE MAHATMA: High ideals. Photo: The Hindu Photo Library  

October 2, is Gandhi Jayanti. Here are some incidents from the life of Mahatma Gandhi that give you a glimpse of what he stood for.

Looking at the problems of Champaran District in Bihar, Gandhiji studied a report, he found that there was no mention of problems relating to women.

"That's not possible," he said and sent his wife Kasturba, and Avantikabai Gokhale to investigate.

The two women found that when they knocked at the very first door the women did not let them in. Kasturba used the ruse that she was thirsty and wanted a glass of water. A hand thrust out a glass of water, and the door shut! On further investigation, she found that three women were sharing a sari in the house and were embarrassed to open the door. Such were the stories that Kasturba took back to her husband. Gandhiji was sensitive to the needs of the women — yes, almost a century before women's liberation was talked about.

Gandhiji's quick thinking and sensitivity to the needs of the poor are legendary. Once he was boarding a train when one of his shoes fell off. He glanced down to see if he could retrieve it. He couldn't and as the train started leaving, he quickly took his other shoe off and aimed it where he thought the first shoe had fallen. Looking at the questioning glances of his fellow travellers, he said calmly, "The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track will have a pair."

Gandhi was also noted for his wit, which came to the fore in this repartee. Gandhi went to London in 1931 to attend the Round Table Conference. He did not feel the need to change from his customary dhoti. An important politician, who became Prime Minister of England in 1940, spoke disparagingly of Gandhi and called him a "half naked fakir".

When Gandhi was invited to meet the king, journalists hounded him, and asked, "don't you feel embarrassed to meet the king, dressed like this?" To this Gandhi replied, unperturbed, " Why should I feel ashamed, the king has enough for both of us!"

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