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Gandhiji Anecdotes

Gandhiji Anecdotes

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An article with several anecdotes and stories of Gandhi,many rarely documented in books, culled from several sources---inspirtation, moral---also reveals the colonial times of British rule in India and the South African racist regime at that time, temple entry of harijans or untouchables in India,propmted by Gandhiji,events realting to Viceroys and meetings between Gandhiji and the colonial government, the utter simplicity of gandhiji's lifestyle and his tenderness towards children and the sick and the poor.---also contains selected quotes of Gandhiji
An article with several anecdotes and stories of Gandhi,many rarely documented in books, culled from several sources---inspirtation, moral---also reveals the colonial times of British rule in India and the South African racist regime at that time, temple entry of harijans or untouchables in India,propmted by Gandhiji,events realting to Viceroys and meetings between Gandhiji and the colonial government, the utter simplicity of gandhiji's lifestyle and his tenderness towards children and the sick and the poor.---also contains selected quotes of Gandhiji

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Published by: Dr Srinivasan Nenmeli -K on Aug 28, 2009
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Gandhiji Anecdotes and Quotes Preface Dear Friends, I used to collect anecdotes and stories about Mahatma Gandhi

from everyday resources---books, magazines and newspaper articles—for several years and carefully preserved them. Many of them were written by those who were associated with Gandhiji or journalists at that time. I felt that these articles and notes could be of interest to a wide audience. I am giving them in my own words and not able to mention the various original authors, except in a few cases.. Further I have simplified the language to suit young readers as well. I have written the anecdotes in chronological order from 1907. There are great moral principles illustrated in these anecdotes as well as poignant instances in the life of Gandhiji, I did not want to make a book out of this ;instead offer through www.scribd.com—a free resource. Enjoy reading these and pass it on to others.! Nenmeli K Srinivasan 24th Aug 2009


Years in South Africa Gandhiji wrote: “ I once went to an English hair cutter in Pretoria. He contemptuously refused to cut my hair. I certainly felt hurt, but immediately purchased a pair of clippers and cut my hair before the mirror.” Gandhiji reasoned that this was a punishment for our [Hindus] sins that we do not allow our brethrens to serve our ‘untouchables’ in India.

Gandhiji reached Pretoria station in 1893. He gave the ticket to the ticket collector at the exit and started enquiring about a place to stay. The ticket collector could not give help , but an American blackman ,standing nearby, offered to help. He said that he would take Gandhi to a small hotel owned by an American. It was called ‘Johnston’s Family Hotel’. The American hotel owner agreed that Gandhi could stay in the hotel, but the dinner would be served only in his room. This was because other guests would not accept a colored man dinning with them in the common dining room. Yet, the hotel owner found that the guests did not mind and Gandhi was later served dinner in the common dining room along with others.

[The following is adapted from an article by Raj Mohan Gandhi,Mahatma’s grandson]


It was 1907. Gandhi described his movement as “passive resistance” ,as against ‘armed resistance’ .At the end of 1907, he announced a prize for a new name that would convey the character of the struggle he had launched. His nephew ,Maganlal won the prize of two pounds with his name: “Sadagraha” which was modified by Gandhi himself to “Satyagraha” meaning “truth-force’ or ‘soul-force.’ First demonstration of Gandhiji’s method When Gandhi landed at the port of Durban, a mob of angry whites threw stones and bricks and rotten eggs at him.They tore off his turban and beat him. They kicked him so hard until he fell almost unconscious. At that time,the wife of the Superintendent of police happened to pass by. She ran to his rescue and opened her umbrella to protect him,holding it between him and the mob. She led gandhiji to a safe place. The South African govt wanted to punish the wrong-doers but Gandhi refused to file a complaint. He had forgiven them. This incident had a very good effect on the whites.

The Great March On 6th Nov, 1913, Gandhiji led a great march of people--2037 men,127 women and 57 children-- from Charlestown in Natal to Transvaal…because Gen. Jan Smuts promulgated that only marriages performed under Christian rites were legal. Gandhi arranged the logistics with consummate skill of a military general ! ---bread, sugar and water made available at various

waypoints .On crossing the border, the government arrested them and brought them back to Natal in three special trains. In Dundee mines, they were interned as temporary prisoners. The mine owners were their jail wardens. The people refused to work in the mines. Some miners were killed in the firings by the police. Following these killings, nearly fifty thousand Indian miners and plantation workers all over Natal struck work. The Indian Viceroy Lord Hardinge strongly deplored the measures adopted by the South African government. Gen Smuts then ordered an enquiry commission. Meanwhile he released Gandhi along with his coworkers, Kallenbach and Pollack. Meanwhile , after certain meetings between Gen Smuts and Gandhiji , a settlement was reached. The SA Govt passed the Indian Relief Act---repealed the three pound tax and recognized the Muslim, Parsi and Hindu marriages. On his part, Gandhiji told that no further indentured labor would migrate to South Africa from India after 1920. While in jail, Gandhi made a pair of sandals for Gen Smuts who wrote that there was no hatred and personal ill feeling towards Gandhi. [ Later Gen Smuts met Gandhi in 1931 when Gandhi visited London for Round-Table Conference and apologized for his harsh actions in South Africa.] Plague epidemic in South Africa The black plague epidemic broke out in the squalid Indian ghetto of Johannesburg; the sick and dying were taken to an abandoned building for quarantine. There a heroic English nurse spent long hours caring for them.

Many years later she narrated that in the evening at the height of the epidemic , a small figure appeared at the door. She shouted: “Get out ! This is plague.” But the man quietly replied ;” It is alright; I have come to help you.” She let him in. He went straight to the sick. Gandhiji attended to the sick men himself and whispered back: “ He is my brother.” And he stayed throughout the night until the relief came. [Adapted from “Gandhi,the man”—Eknath Easwaran.] Farewell to South Africa On July, 18,1914, Gandhiji left South Africa for ever. In a farewell speech before departure, he said that he did not claim any credit for the Indian Relief Act. He added : “ It is rather due to the women and children and young people like Nagappan, Narayanaswamy and Valliamma who had died for the cause and to those who quickened the conscience of South Africans…I go away with no ill will against a single European.” ----------------------------------------------------------------------Gandhiji in India—Early years of Satyagraha. Gandhiji founded the Satyagraha Ashram [commune] on 25th May 1915 in Ahmedabad , Gujarat State. There were nearly 25 men and women…the early coworkers. A common kitchen was set up..The members lived as one family. Gandhiji accepted a harijan [untouchable] family into the Ashram. This caused a social boycott by neighbors. The flow of funds stopped. Gandhiji told that if no funds were forth coming ,the ashram inmates should move to a ‘untouchable’ [harijan] colony.

Gandhiji wrote: “ This was not the first time I had been faced with such a trial. On all such occasions, God had sent help at the last moment.” Soon enough, a Sheth , a wealthy merchant, pulled up at the Ashram and offered to give monetary help. The next day he returned and placed in the hands of Gandhiji a sum of Rs 13000 and drove away. The merchant was quite a stranger ; he had never visited the Ashram before.! [The following is adapted from an article by O.N. Garg, sometime in 1994] Temple entry of harijans The transformation of Gandhiji was complete and sudden. On 21st September ,1921, Mahatma Gandhi got his head shaved, discarded his clothes, settled for a loin cloth like a villager , and assumed the persona of one whom Winston Churchill later described as a ‘half-naked fakir”. Mahatmaji remained one till the end. This image not only became synonymous with Gandhi ,but also identified him with India’s poor. The momentous decision came when Gandhiji was touring Madurai [the temple town in deep south of Tamil Nadu] on the banks of the small river Vaigai. He was visibly moved by the sight of half-naked women who were washing a part of the saree they wore.; he was told that they possessed only one saree to wear. Then Gandhiji resolved that he would wear only the loin cloth like the poor peasants. Earlier Gandhi wore a Khadi [home spun] dress and a white cotton cap ,called ‘Gandhi cap’. He was staying at No: 251, A, West Masi Street, near the famous Goddess Meenakshi temple, occupied by one Kalyanji from Gujarat. After donning the loin cloth, Gandhiji traveled to

Karaikudi on Sep 21st. He started carrying a sling bag to keep sundry things as he had no shirt pocket. The watch used to dangle from his waist. Gandhi told further : “ I adopted this change in dress because I always hesitate to advise anything that I may not myself be prepared to follow.” Although Gandhi visited Madurai thrice, he refused to visit the sacred temple of Meenakshi, because it barred entry to untouchables or harijans. Only on the third visit on 2nd feb ,1946, Gandhiji finally offered prayers inside the temple, since by then the temple was open to the harijans. [ A Gandhi Memorial Museum was opened in Madurai on 15th April, 1959 by the first Prime Minister of India , Jawaharlal Nehru.]

Gandhi at Round table Conference in England [1931] Gandhiji went to London in 1931 for attending the Round Table Conference with the British government. He was the guest of the king.But he left the grand hotels and preferred t stay in the poorest part of London. He joked an dplayed with children as they followed him in the early morning walks through foggy streets. The children teased his saying ,” hey Gandhi, Where’s your pants?” The children of England loved Gandhiji. They gave him many toys for poor children of India. These toys were the only thing that Gandhiji took with him to India.

English watches


Maulana Abul Kalam Azad recounted the following anecdote of Gandhi: In !931, when Gandhi visited London [for the first Round-Table Conference with the British Government], two body-guards were assigned to him: Sergeant Evans and Sergeant Rogers. The detectives shared Gandhi’s hectic and painstaking schedule throughout the day. They would wake up at 4 AM and followed him on his morning walks in cold and foggy weather.This continued for several days. While leaving England, Gandhiji became fond of them. Back in India, Gandhiji initiated the boycott of all British goods. He , however ,called his secretary and told him:’ Go and get some good English watches for the two detectives.” His secretary searched several shops in Mumbai and at last bought two watches. “ Why English watches? “ ---wondered his secretary. Gandhi replied,” I promised them English watches. I have no animosity against the English people. I do not want to boycott their goods merely because they are English”….Evans and Rogers did receive those watches as presents from Gandhiji. On one occasion during the Round Table Conference, Gandhiji spoke eloquently before the delegates for over two hours on behalf of the people of India. After he had finished, the London reporters clustered excitedly around Gandhi’s secretary, Mahadev Deasi, ” How is it” ,they asked,” that he is able to speak so well for such a long time without any preparation, without any prompting, without any notes?” Desai replied, “ What Gandhi thinks, what he feels, what he says, and what he does are all the same. He does not need notes.”. Then he added ;” You and I, we think one thing, feel another, say a third and do a fourth, so we need notes and files to keep track.”


When the Govt invited Gandhiji to the Royal Palace, he wore his usual dress: loin cloth, bare chest, a shawl over the shoulders,sandals without socks, a pocket watch dangling from the waist. Someone asked him if he was dressed well for such a meeting in the palace. Gandhi replied with a wry humor: “The King had on him enough clothes for both of us.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------Gandhi and the Goat Gandhiji had an important meeting at his Sabarmati Ashram on May 2nd 1946. Sir Stafford Cripps,Lord Pethick Lawrence and Sir A V Alexander were present. Gandhiji left in the middle and reached the backyard to apply soft mud pack over the sprained leg of his goat. The Englishmen followed Gandhi and saw him doing the treatment to his goat. Sir Pethick Lawrence fumed:” It surprises me that for such a trifle Gandhi had to break the decorum of this meeting”..Maulana Azad who was standing nearby remarked: “ Mr Lawrence, it is ,in fact, these trifles that have made Gandhiji a Mahatma” [great soul] . Gandhiji later joined them later saying that for him, the pain suffered by his goat was a more serious matter that the meeting. With a Pinch of Salt When negotiations between Mahatma Gandhi and the British government were going on to end the Salt Satyagraha, Viceroy Lord Irwin felt the need to meet Gandhiji personally. Irwin later described this meeting as “ the most dramatic personal encounter between a Viceroy and an Indian leader.” When Gandhiji was handed a cup of tea during the meeting, he poured a bit of salt

that was “tax-free” into it out of a small paper bag hidden in his shawl and remarked smilingly “ This is to remind us of the famous Boston tea party “ [when settlers in USA dumped tea packages into the sea in protest against British taxation during the colonial rule in the US. Gandhi, the Maharajas and his maiden speech Gandhi gave a lecture to a select gathering of Maharajas, exhorting them to give up their money and possessions and embrace a life of poverty and simplicity. One by one his distinguished audience slid out until there was nobody left;later Gandhi told: ‘”except god, the Chairman and myself.”After another few minutes, the chairman himself melted away.” Poor fellow,” Gandhi observed,” he must have been very uncomfortable in that strange company! “ In the year 1916, Gandhiji participated in the foundation ceremony of Benaras Hindu University .The university came into existence due tireless efforts of Madan Mohan Malaviya. A number of Maharajas , adorning costly jewels ,were present.The Viceroy had also come from Delhi. Gandhiji spoke fearlessly: “You speak about poverty of India, and make an exhibition of jewelry.There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your countrymen. He continued: “ If we are afraid of God, we won’t ever fear the princes, the Maharajas, the Viceroy or King geroge himself.” His speech that day changed the political direction of the whole country towards freedom. Gandhi’s Secret of Life


One American journalist who has been following Gandhi’s work for years with growing admiration finally asked him with the terseness of a newsman: ‘ Gandhiji, Can you tell me the secret of your life in three words?.” “ Yes,”—chuckled Gandhi…”Renounce and Enjoy” . Gandhi was quoting from Isa-vasya Upanishad, one of the ancient scriptural piece..a part of Vedanta . Further, for Gandhi , the whole of the Bhagavad Gita [which contains 700 verses in 18 chapters] was only a commentary on these three simple words.

Gandhiji’s simplicity Trains in India had three classes. The first class compartments were meant for the ruling classes—the British. The second class was used by the richer people of India. The third class--crowded,dirty wooden benches ---were left for the vast majority of poor Indians. Gandhi always preferred to travel third class .When someone asked him why he traveled in third class, he quipped immediately ,” because there is no fourth!.”---He taught always by personal example. One foreign correspondent asked him: “ What would you do if you were made a dictator of India for one day?.” Gandhi replied : “ I would not accept in the first place; but if I did , I would spend the day in cleaning the hovels of the harijans in Delhi.”

Gandhiji at Naokhali


[adapted from the article: Horace Alexander---Gandhi thorugh western eyes,1969] India won its independence from the British rule on August ,15th ,1947. Where was Mahatma Gandhi on that day? He was not seen on the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi addressing the masses. He was not with the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten in a farewell dinner. He was not anywhere near Delhi at all. He was in distant Calcutta [Kolkata] ,bringing peace among riotous mobs. East Bengal [later a part of Pakistan and now Bangladesh] was burning with communal strife between Hindus and muslims. In late 1946 in Naokhali district, members of the Muslim majority had attacked their Hindu neighbors and burnt their houses. Gandhiji went there to bring the two communities together. Soon the muslim minority in the neighboring state of Bihar were even more brutally attacked by the Hindus. Gandhiji again went to Bihar to give solace to the muslims and to plead for a change of heart among the Hindus. Following these, Gandhiji left on August 11th ,1947 to the troubled area of Naokhali district. On the way to Naokhali, Gandhiji and his team arrived in the city of Kolkata….Leaders of muslim community met him and urged him not to proceed to East Bengal. He , however ,wanted assurance from them that the Hindus would not be harmed in Naokhali district of East Bengal when it became part of Pakistan on the day of Independence. While staying in Kolkata , he made a plan. He invited Shaheed Suhrawardy, former chief minister of Bengal state and a virulent

critic of Gandhiji, to join him to bring peace to Kolkata. They would go to a deserted house in the muslim part of the city and persuade the local Hindus to invite the muslims to return to their homes. They found such a place in Balia Ghata .On August 12th, a crowd of boys gathered outside the house shouting slogans against Gandhiji. They pelted stones at the windows of the house. After sometime they entered the house to talk to Gandhiji. The talks revealed that many young men had planned to slaughter muslims after the Independence day and to drive them to East Bengal or Pakistan [eastern sector]. Gandhiji reasoned with them---this is not the way to start the life of a new nation. The angry young men left the place but returned the next day to tell Gandhiji that they would support his peace efforts so long as he remained in Kolkata. On 14th August, at the regular prayer meeting, young men with hatred towards Suhrawardy wanted him to be present. He was there in that house , but closeted with Horace Alexander, a long time associate of Gandhiji. The angry mob wanted to lynch Suhrawardy. Gandhiji shouted that Suhrawardy had joined the peace efforts and should be protected. Gandhiji , with a keen sense of conviction, brought Surhrawardy before the mob and stood with one hand over his shoulder. A young man shouted at Suhrawardy: “Do you accept the blame for the great killing of Calcutta last year?” “yes’ –replied Suhrawardy;” I accept that responsibility. I am ashamed of it”—he added. Later Gandhiji said ‘” in that moment ,he won them over.” Soon peace descended on the scene and both muslims and Hindus joined in hoisting the Indian National Flag and celebrating the event .

On 15th August, a small gathering joined Gandhiji in prayer and fasting .” On this first day of our freedaom”, Gandhiji said ,” We must not forget the poor and hungry.” Some school girls came to greet the Mahatma with songs of freedom composed by Rabindranath Tagore. The miracle had happened. It was ,as if , after a year of darkness, the sun was shining again in its full glory. The whole city of Kolkata rejoiced in celebrating the Independence day on 15th August ,1947. [Here is another account of that momentous period narrated by a freedom fighter, Mir Mushtaq Ahmed ,from an article that appeared in Al-Jamiat , an Urdu daily dated 16th ,July 1954.] While walking through Babu Bazar, a muslim stifled Gandhiji’s throat. While Gandhiji collapsed to the ground, he recited the verses of the Holy Koran from Suran-e-Fatiha. The words touched the heart of the muslim whose name was Allahdad Khan. His eyes welled up in tears; he apologized and promised Gandhiji to work for him for the rest of his life. Gandhiji advised the Muslims and the Hindus to be tight –lipped about this incident lest the communal hatred spread further. The truth is that by doing so , Gandhiji had averted a major riot in that area. [Source; The Hindu, Oct 1st, 1995]

Gandhiji as a student in England


Towards the end of his second year in England, Gandhiji read the translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Edwin Arnold, called “ the Song Celestial” along with some friends. Through these friends, he also read “the Light of Asia” –the life of Gautama, the Buddha. At about the same time, he also read the Bible, the New testament. He wrote later: ”Especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart” ---I compared it with the Gita”.

Gandhiji Quotes

The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of the conscience.

2 I will give you a talisman—whenever you are in doubt recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to him. 3 The highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline and humility. 4 The test of orderliness in a country is not the millionaires it owns, but the absence of starvation among its masses.

A nation or a group which has made non-violence its final policy cannot be subjected to slavery , even by the atom bomb. The more you act openly, the greater are your chances of remaining truthful. There is no hatred, there is no place for fear or despair in the dictionary of the man who bases his


life on truth and non-violence. –[speech in Paris, 5th dec,1931]

Satyagraha is the vindication of truth , not by infliction of suffering on the opponent ,but on one’s self.

8 If we are to reach real peace in this world, we will have to begin with children. 9 Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellowmen. 10 The sum total of all that lives is God. 11 An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. 12 Woman is the companion of man and has equal right of freedom and liberty with him. 13 My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God; nonviolence is the means of realizing Him.
14 When Truth ,that is God, is with us, what matters if the

world is with us or not; whether we live or die.

15 Religion is entirely a personal matter; each one can

approach his creator as he likes.

16 Our temple is in our hearts. A temple constructed of a few stones has no meaning.


17 India to me is the dearest country in the world, not

because it is my country ,but because I have discovered the greatest goodness in it.

18 In true democracy, every man and woman is taught to think

for himself or herself.

19 Self-sacrifice of one innocent man is a million times

more potent than the sacrifice of a million men who die in the act of killing others.

20Gandhiji was once asked what he thought was the greatest challenge faced by India: poverty, unemployment, or backwardness. He said that these problems could be solved, but he accepted defeat when it came to the apathy of the Indian intelligentsia. ------------------------ The End -------------------------------


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