Brajkishorebabu and Rajendrababu were a matchless pair. Their devotion made it impossible for me to take a single step without their help. Their disciples, or their companions – Shambhaubabu, Anugrahababu, Dharanibabu, Ramnavmibabu and other vakils – were always with us. Vindhyababu and Janakdharibabu also came and helped us now and then. All these were Biharis. Their principal work was to take down the ryots' statements.
Professor Kripalani could not but cast in his lot with us. Though a
Sindhi he was more Bihari than a born Bihari. I have seen only a few
workers capable of merging themselves in the province of their
adoption. Kripalani is one of those few. He made it impossible for
anyone to feel that he belonged to a different province. He was my
gatekeeper in chief. For the time being he made it the end and aim of
his life to save me from darshan - seekers. He warded off people, calling to his aid now his unfailing
humour, now his non-violent threats. At nightfall he would take up
his occupation of a teacher and regale his companions with his
historical studies and observations, and quicken any timid visitor
Maulana Mazharul Haq had registered his name on the standing list of
helpers whom I might count upon whenever necessary, and he made a
point of looking in once or twice a month. The pomp and splendour in
which he then lived was in sharp contrast to his simple life of
today. The way in which he associated with us made us feel that he
was one of us, though his fashionable habit gave a stranger a
As I gained more experience of Bihar, I became convinced that work
of a permanent nature was impossible without proper village
education. The ryots' ignorance was pathetic. They either allowed
their children to roam about, or made them toil on indigo
plantations from morning to night for a couple of coppers a day. In
those days a male labourer's wage did not exceed ten pice, a
female's did not exceed six, and a child's three. He who succeeded
in earning four annas a day was considered most fortunate.
In consultation with my companions I decided to open primary schools
in six villages. One of our conditions with the villagers was that
they should provide the teachers with board and lodging while we
would see to the other expenses. The village folk had hardly any
cash in their hands, but they could well afford to provide
foodstuffs. Indeed they had already expressed their readiness to
contribute grain and other raw materials.
From where to get the teachers was a great problem. It was difficult
to find local teachers who would work for a bare allowance or
without remuneration. My idea was never to entrust children to
commonplace teachers. Their literary qualification was not so
essential as their moral fibre.
So I issued a public appeal for voluntary teachers. It received a
ready response. Sjt. Gangadharrao Deshpande sent Babasaheb Soman and
Pundalik. Shrimati Avantikabai Gokhale came from Bombay and Mrs.
Anandibai Vaishampayan from Poona. I sent to the Ashram for
Chhotalal, Surendranath and my son Devdas. About this time Mahadev
Desai and Narahari Parikh with their wives cast in their lot with
me. Kasturbai was also summoned for the work. This was a fairly
strong contingent. Shrimati Avantikabai and Shrimati Anandibai were
educated enough, but Shrimati Durga Desai and Shrimati Manibehn
Parikh had nothing more than a bare knowledge of Gujarati, and
Kasturbai not even that. How were these ladies to instruct the
children in Hindi?
I explained to them they were expected to teach the children not
grammar and the three R's so much as cleanliness and good manners. I
further explained that even as regards letters there was not so
great a difference between Gujarati, Hindi and Marathi as they
imagined, and in the primary classes, at any rate, the teaching of
the rudiments of the alphabet and numerals was not a difficult
matter. The result was that the classes taken by these ladies were
found to be most successful. The experience inspired them with
confidence and interest in their work. Avantikabai's became a model
school. She threw herself heart and soul into her work. She brought
her exceptional gifts to bear on it. Through these ladies we could,
to some extent, reach the village women.
But I did not want to stop at providing for primary education. The
villages were insanitary, the lanes full of filth, the wells
surrounded by mud and stink and the courtyards unbearably untidy.
The elder people badly needed education in cleanliness. They were
all suffering from various skin diseases. So it was decided to do as
much sanitary work as possible and to penetrate every department of
Doctors were needed for this work. I requested the Servants of India
Society to lend us the services of the late Dr. Dev. We had been
great friends, and he readily offered his services for six months.
The teachers – men and women – had all to work under him.
All of them had express instructions not to concern themselves with
grievances against planters or with politics. People who had any
complaints to make were to be referred to me. No one was to venture
out of his beat. The friends carried out these instructions with
wonderful fidelity. I do not remember a single occasion of