Today is 2nd October the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation or Bapu as he was lovingly called in India. This day is the third and the last national holiday in India (the 26th January – the Republic day and 15th August- the Independence day are the other two).
A debate on the relevancy of Gandhi in today’s time has become a routine affair on every 2nd October. For some people Gandhi is still relevant today whereas some think that India (& the world at large) has changed so drastically that there is no role of Gandhi in it.
No matter what exactly the truth is, the biggest truth of all is that if you go to any corner of earth and ask any stranger to name two Indians he has heard of in his lifetime; the answer in all likelihood will be (1) Gautam Buddha and (2) Mahatma Gandhi.
Among all Indians born during the span of last 2600 years, these two mans are the most popular, most loved and worshiped by millions. There is some kind of charisma in them which simply fails to fade.
I reserve my thoughts on Buddha for one of my future posts. Today, on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, I would like to share some little known facts about him which most of us don’t know.
(1) He had a set of false teeth, which he carried in a fold of his loin cloth. He put them in his mouth only when he wanted to eat. After his meal, he took them out, washed them and put them back in his loin cloth again.
(2) Mahatma Gandhi spoke English with an Irish accent, for one of his first teachers was an Irishman.
(3) During the freedom struggle, he wore nothing but a loin cloth , but for years he lived in London and used to wear a silk hat and spats and carried a cane.
(4) He was educated at London University and became an attorney. But the first time he attempted to make a speech in court, his knees trembled, and he was so frightened that he had to sit down in confusion and defeat.
(5) As a lawyer in London, he got nowhere at all. He was practically a failure there. Years before, when he first came to England, his Irish teacher made him copy the Sermon on the Mount, over and over again, purely as an exercise in English. Hour after hour, Gandhi wrote “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God,” and these words made a profound impression on him.
(6) Later, he was sent to South Africa to collect some huge debts; and he tried to apply there the philosophy of the Sermon on the Mount. And it worked. Clients flocked to Gandhi because he settled their claims peacefully out of court and saved them time and expense.
(7) His income during those days in South Africa touched fifteen thousand dollars a year! Something still a dream for most Indians !
(8) However, despite this worldly success he was not happy. On seeing the untold misery of millions of his fellow countrymen; on seeing thousand of them dying of starvation; the worldly success seemed cheap and unimportant to him. He gave up all his money and ‘took the vow of poverty, and since that time, he consecrated his life to helping the poor and the downtrodden.
(9) On seeing the hopeless condition of one tenth of India which was living in a hungry and half-starved state, Mahatma Gandhi pleaded with them to cease bringing children into a world filled with so much misery and want.
(10) Mahatma Gandhi experimented with diets to see how cheaply he could live and remain healthy. He started living principally on fruit and goats’ milk and olive oil.
(11) Mahatma Gandhi got inspiration of Civil Disobedience by reading a book of an American ! He had been greatly influenced by the teachings of an American by the name of David Thoreau. Thoreau was graduated from Harvard University ninety years ago, and then spent twenty-eight dollars building a cabin for himself on the lonely shores of Walden Pond, in Massachusetts. He lived there like a hermit, and refused to pay taxes; so he was thrown into jail. He then wrote a book on Civil Disobedience, saying that no one ought to pay taxes. People didn’t pay the slightest attention to his book then; but, seventy-five years later, Gandhi read that book, away out in India, and decided to use Thoreau’s tactics. He felt that England had not kept her promise to give India self-government; so, in order to punish England, Gandhi urged the people of India to go to jail rather than pay taxes, and he also urged his followers to boycott English goods. When the British placed a tax on salt, Gandhi led his follower to the sea and they made their own salt.
(12) Mahatma Gandhi never visited the US, but he had many American fans and followers. One of his more unusual admirers was Henry Ford. Gandhi sent him an autographed charkha (spinning wheel) through a journalist emissary. During the darkest days of the Second World War, Ford, who was struck by the charkha’s “mechanical simplicity and high moral purpose,” would often spin on “the symbol of economic independence that Gandhi had sent.
(12) Mahatma Gandhi inspired millions of people world over to take the path of non-violence and civil disobedience. 5 world leaders who got Noble Peace prize viz. Martin Luther King Jr. (USA), Dalai Lama (Tibet), Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar), Nelson Mandela (S. Africa) and Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Argentina) have acknowledged the fact that they were influenced by the philosophy of Gandhi. Yet, Mahatma Gandhi; the man who inspired these Nobel Peace Prize winners, never got a Noble Prize !
I think it is a loss for the Noble – the prize; not for Gandhi – the man who is above all prizes.
(13) The great Scientist Albert Einstein once said about Gandhi :
“Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this (Gandhi) walked the earth in flesh and blood.”
He also once said,
” I believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil.”
The more I read about Gandhi, the more I become humble to the greatness of this man who was seeking nothing for himself but was willing to die in order that others may live.
Sources of my article : Little known facts about well known people; by Dale Carnegie, The Times of India, some article on Internet and some books from my collection.