Gandhi Comes Alive

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 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 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 another has done, the critic should De ready simultaneously with something constructive that could take its place.

Bombay, 6-12-1945.