This incident occurred in Noakhali. After the Hindu-Muslim riots Gandhiji toured the area on foot to reassure and comfort the people. He would set off from a village soon after dawn and arrive at the next village after sunset. On arrival he would first attend to his work then he would take a bath. Gandhiji used a rough stone to clean his feet. Miraben had given this stone to him many years ago and Gandhiji had kept it carefully ever since. He took it with him everywhere. One evening after they had arrived at a village and Manu was getting Gandhiji's bath ready, she noticed that the stone was missing. She looked everywhere but could not find it. She told Gandhiji that the stone was lost and added, "It must have been left behind at the weaver's where we stayed yesterday. What should I do now?" Gandhiji thought for a moment. Then he said, "Go and fetch the stone. If you suffer once, you'll not forget another time." "Can I take someone with me?" Manu asked. "Why?" questioned Gandhiji. Manu was silent. She did not want to admit that she was frightened to go alone. The road to the village lay through forests of betelnut and coconut and it was easy to lose one's way. Besides, Manu was barely sixteen years old and she had never gone anywhere alone. But she could not think of an answer. So Manu took the path they had taken earlier in the day. Carefully following the old footprints she managed to reach the village and find the weaver's house. The old woman who lived there recognised her and welcomed her warmly. Tired and rather irritated Manu told her why she had come. But how was the old woman to have known that that bit of stone was so valuable? She had thrown it away with the rubbish. They both began to search for it. At last much to Manu's joy they found it. Many had left the house at 7.30 in the morning. By the time she returned it was past one in the afternoon. She had walked nearly fifteen miles. Worn out, hungry and irritated she went straight to Gandhiji and put the stone in the lap. Then she burst into tears. "This stone was a real test for you," Gandhiji told her gently. "Do you know that this stone has been with me for the last twenty-five years. It has gone with me everywhere, from jails to mansions. I can easily get another stone like it, but I wanted you to learn that it is bad to be careless." "I've never prayed as hard as I did today," said Manu. "I want to make women brave and fearless", Gandhiji said. "Today not only you but I too learnt a lesson." Manu did not say anything but she must have thought Gandhiji's methods were very unusual.
Children loved visiting Gandhiji. A little boy who was there one day, was greatly distressed to see the way Gandhiji was dressed. Such a great man yet he doesn't even wear a shirt, he wondered. "Why don't you wear a kurta, Gandhiji?" the little boy couldn't help asking finally. "Where's the money, son?" Gandhiji asked gently. "I am very poor. I can't afford a kurta." The boy's heart was filled with pity. "My mother sews well", he said. "She makes all my clothes. I'll ask her to sew a Kurta for you." "How many Kurtas can your mother make?" Gandhiji asked.
"How many do you need?" asked the boy. "One, two, three.... she'll make as many as you want." Gandhiji thought for a moment. Then he said, "But I am not alone, son. It wouldn't be right for me to be the only one to wear a kurta." "How many Kurtas do you need?" the boy persisted. "I'll ask my mother to make as many as you want. Just tell me how many you need." "I have a very large family, son. I have forty crore brothers and sisters," Gandhiji explained. "Till every one of them has a kurta, how can I wear one? Tell me, can your mother make kurtas for all of them? At this question the boy became very thoughtful. Forty crore brothers and sisters! Gandhiji was right. Till every one of them had a kurta to wear how could he wear one himself? After all the whole nation was Gandhiji's family, and he was the head of that family. He was their friend, their companion. What use would one kurta be to him?
. . .
One day Gandhiji and Vallabhbhai Patel were talking in the Yaravada jail when Gandhiji remarked, "At times even a dead snake can be of use." And he related the following story to illustrate his point: Once a snake entered the house of an old woman. The old woman was frightened and cried out for help. Hearing her, the neighbours rushed up and killed the snake. Then they returned to their homes. Instead of throwing the dead snake far away, the old woman flung it onto her roof. Sometime later a kite flying overhead spotted the dead snake. In its beak the kite had a pearl necklace which it had picked up from somewhere. It dropped the necklace and flew away with the dead snake. When the old woman saw a bright, shining object on her roof she pulled it down with a pole. Finding that it was a pearl necklace she danced with joy! When Gandhiji finished his story, Vallabhbhai Patel said he too had a story to tell: One day a bania found a snake in his house. He couldn't find anyone to kill it for him and hadn't the courage to kill it himself. Besides, he hated killing any living creature. So he covered the snake with a pot and left it there. As luck would have it, that night some thieves broke into the bania's house. They entered the kitchen and saw the overturned pot. "Ah," they thought, "the bania has hidden something valuable here." As they lifted the pot, the snake struck. Having come with the object of stealing, they barely left with their lives.
. . .
Gandhiji went from city to city, village to village collecting funds for the Charkha Sangh. During one of his tours he addressed a meeting in Orissa. After his speech a poor old woman got up. She was bent with age, her hair was grey and her clothes were in tatters. The volunteers tried to stop her, but she fought her way to the place where Gandhiji was sitting. "I must see him," she insisted and going up to Gandhiji touched his feet. Then from the folds of her sari she brought out a copper coin and placed it at his feet. Gandhiji picked up the copper coin and put it away carefully. The Charkha Sangh funds were under the charge of Jamnalal Bajaj. He asked Gandhiji for the coin but Gandhiji refused. "I keep cheques worth thousands of rupees for the Charkha Sangh," Jamnalal Bajaj said laughingly "yet you won't trust me with a copper coin." "This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands," Gandhiji said. "If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn't mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a crore of rupees."
In South Africa Gandhiji set up an ashram at Phoenix, where he started a school for children. Gandhiji had his own ideas about how children should be taught. He disliked the examination system. In his school he wanted to teach the boys true knowledge—knowledge that would improve both their minds and their hearts. Gandhiji had his own way of judging students. All the students in the class were asked the same question. But often Gandhiji praised the boy with low marks and scolded the one who had high marks. This puzzled the children. When questioned on this unusual practice, Gandhiji one day explained, "I am not trying to show that Shyam is cleverer than Ram. So I don't give marks on that basis. I want to see how far each boy has progressed, how much he has learnt. If a clever student competes with a stupid one and begins to think no end of himself, he is likely to grow dull. Sure of his own cleverness, he'll stop working. The boy who does his best and works hard will always do well and so I praise him." Gandhiji kept a close watch on the boys who did well. Were they still working hard? What would they learn if their high marks filled them with conceit? Gandhiji continually stressed this to his students. If a boy who was not very clever worked hard and did well, Gandhiji was full of praise for him.
. . .
This incident occurred when Gandhiji was practising law in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. His office was three miles from his house. One day a colleague of his, Mr Polak, asked Gandhiji's thirteen-year old son, Manilal to fetch a book from the office. But Manilal completely forgot till Mr Polak reminded him that evening. Gandhiji heard about it and sent for Manilal. He said, "Son, I know the night is dark and the way is long and lonely. You will have to walk nearly six miles but you gave your word to Mr Polak. You promised to fetch his book. Go and fetch it now." Ba and the family were upset when they heard of Gandhiji's decision. The punishment seemed far too severe. Manilal was only a child, the night was dark and the way lonely. He had only forgotten a book after all. It could be brought the next day. This was what they all felt, but no one had the courage to say anything. They knew that once Gandhiji's mind was made up, nobody could change it. At last Kalyan Bhai plucked up courage. "I'll fetch the book," he offered. Gandhiji was gentle but firm, "But the promise was made by Manilal." "Very well, Manilal will go but let me go with him," Kalyan Bhai pleaded. Gandhiji agreed to this and Manilal set off with Kalyan Bhai to fetch the book. The kind and gentle Gandhiji could be firm as a rock at times. He saw that Manilal kept his word and did as he had promised.
. . .
Soon after Gandhiji's return from South Africa, a meeting of the Congress was held in Bombay. Kaka Saheb Kalelkar went there to help. One day Kaka Saheb found Gandhiji anxiously searching around his desk. "What's the matter? What are you looking for?" Kaka Saheb asked. "I've lost my pencil," Gandhiji answered. "It was only so big."
Kaka Saheb was upset to see Gandhiji wasting time and worrying about a little pencil. He took out his pencil and offered it to him. "No, no, I want my own little pencil," Gandhiji insisted like a stubborn child.
"Well, use it for the time being," said Kaka Saheb. "I'll find your pencil later. Don't waste time looking for it now."
"You don't understand. That little pencil is very precious to me," Gandhiji insisted. "Natesan's little son gave it to me in Madras. He gave it with so much love and affection. I cannot bear to lose it." Kaka Saheb didn't argue any more. He joined Gandhiji in the search. At last they found it-a tiny piece, barely two inches long. But Gandhiji was delighted to get it back. To him it was no ordinary pencil. It was the token of a child's love and to Gandhiji a child's love was very precious.
In reply to this post by Sanmukh
If you’ve assumed that Mahatma Gandhi was one of the brightest students in class or one of the most outstanding student leaders in his youth, then you may be in for a surprise. Not only was he a mediocre student, he was a very quiet and shy teenager too. But did that stop him from becoming India’s “Father of the Nation”?
It’s a great piece of news for us! Because, if you’ve been through a similar situation, all is not lost yet! You’re still able to create your own story of victory… just like Gandhi.
A Family Disappointment
Born into a mid-ranking caste family, Gandhiji had a low self esteem when he was young. Because of that, he seldom stayed back after school to interact with other classmates for fear of being ridiculed at. That was also part of the reason for his early unhappiness in his marriage (when he was 13 years old) as his young bride had difficulty accommodating to his impatient, jealous and demanding outbursts.
He didn’t do well in school either. After struggling to graduate from high school, he moved on to study medicine in a local university only to fail badly and subsequently, forced to quit. At that time, he had only attended that university for only 5 months.
In their desperate bid to help the young man, his family decided to send him to England to study law, a course that they believed he would be able to cope. They pooled all the financial resources that they could get and finally sent the excited Gandhi off to London to embark on a fresh new start.
Life In London
A stranger in a foreign land, Gandhi had difficulty adjusting to the seasonal weather in London and would often be teased for his inappropriate seasonal attire and his poor command of the English language. To make up for all those, he worked very hard, trying to excel in both his studies and other curricular activities such as French, dancing, violin and elocution. He also tried to improve on his dressing by buying more suits.
Those proved to be short lived as he found himself running out of money gradually.
To cut costs, he gave up his hotel for a small room and walked instead of traveling by buses. He also changed his diet, switching English meals for simple vegetarian fare. Interestingly, those newly adopted lifestyle habits formed the basis of his lessons on health and simple living subsequently.
His Debut in the Court
During those times in London, Gandhi couldn’t wait to return home. The day after he passed his exams and was appointed to the bar, he made his trip back, only to be notified that his beloved mother had passed away while he was still traveling.
He then decided to leave for Bombay where he would not be reminded of his grief, to practice law. Sadly, life struck back again. Due to his inadequate knowledge about the Indian law, he had difficulty getting a case. Even when he finally secured one, he had stage fright at the last moment and abandon the courtroom abruptly, leaving his colleague to conduct the cross examination. It was a disgraceful debut.
His inability to succeed as a lawyer drove Gandhi back home again. With the help of his brother, Gandhi decided to go South Africa and take up a clerical position, at the expense of leaving his wife and 2 sons behind after barely 2 years back home.
But it wasn’t all that smooth sailing in South Africa either. Instead of landing on a clerical position, he realized that he was engaged for a civil suit that required strong accounting knowledge and detailed legal analysis. The realities of the life and the harsh discrimination against Indians in the country cornered Gandhi into making a decision whether he should pack his bags and leave South Africa or stay on to fight the case, until one day something happened.
While riding on the first class carriage on the train to another town, he was ordered to move to the freight compartment. When he refused, he was unceremoniously driven off the carriage. As he waited in the station for the next available coach, thoughts of his present circumstances flooded his mind. It suddenly dawned on him that despite changing his environment each time, he was still unable to avoid the challenging issues ahead. He realized that it was cowardice of him to shun away from his fears instead of helping the people to fight for the rights they deserve!
A Lawyer, A Human Rights Campaigner
Gandhi then started working hard on the case, drilling into the details zestfully. With his diligence and perseverance, he learned a lot about the case and counteracted against the punitive nature of the lawsuit by persuading his client and the other party to settle on an amicable reconciliation out of court.
His apt handling of the suit earned the respect of the Indian community so much so that he was asked to delay his departure back home to help them on another case to fight for the rights of Indian settlers in the country. That catalyzed his involvement into politics.
He would propose political negotiations with British leaders whom he regarded as his equal, work with people from different castes, religions and nationalities to achieve harmony in coexistence, fight for his country’s independence and set the highest standards for his people. All his work for civil rights, India’s Independence and active propagation of love and peace wouldn’t have been possible if not for his firm conviction that all people possess the innate capability to change from within, in the pursuit of what’s right.
Lessons from this story :
The person you see in the mirror everyday while brushing your teeth, combing your hair etc is the person responsible for your life. Yes. That, is none other than yourself.
(1) Your Innate Potential Can Be Unlocked By Yourself
Who would have imagined that the shy and introverted boy who refused to stay back after school to interact with his classmates for fear of being laughed at, to be able to speak with such eloquence and persuasion, winning over the whole nation in his pursuit for India’s independence? Who would have expected the young timid lawyer who scrammed the courtrooms at the slightest tinge of fear to be able to stand up against tyranny and injustice?
It would be after the fact irony to say that someone probably did. That Gandhi had the good fortune to meet a good mentor who was able to see the potential in him that others didn’t. But the truth was, there was no such person in his life at that time.
But Gandhi didn’t wait.
He chose to be the miner and let the bolt of realization at the train station’s waiting area guide him in unearthing and polishing the gem hidden in a tad of dirty mud. Himself.
What about you? Did you choose to wait and see if there’s opportunities for you to develop yourself or actively seek to find such opportunities?
(2) Stop Blaming & Take Accountability
We live in a blame society.
We blame the fast food chains for producing junk food that makes people obese. But we ignored the fact that people willingly subject themselves to eating such food. We blame the Internet for being a source of violence and pornography for the kids but we forget that it’s the responsibility of parents to monitor and teach their children the right values in interpreting such information. We argue that our current predicament is a result of a lack of certain resources, overlooking the fact that those resources are not necessary to improve our situation in the first place!
In the midst of this blaming culture, it’s easy to possess a distorted view of the issue and fail to notice the essence of the problem, isn’t it? The problem never gets resolved. It just gets bigger.
This is where we can learn from Gandhi. Even though he was involved in the blame game in the earlier part of his life, he subsequently took accountability for it. His enlightenment started from the realization that no matter how his environment changed, if his mentality, attitude and internal mettle were still the same, he would never be able to breakthrough the chain.
And when he stopped blaming, the piece of filth clogging his visibility removed itself, allowing him to see the crux of his problem. Himself again.
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