Gandhi once said: " I am a bania and there is no limit to my greed." He was a bania by caste. He was groomed to succeed to his father's gadi of dewanship but he never became a dewan and chose to lead the life of a mendicant. But the bania instinct was ingrained in him.
He was economical and had a good eye for things that were durable, cheap yet artistic. He gave up the use of all luxuries and costly things and took to wearing self made khadi cloth, coarse chaddar and strong hand-made chappals. He made his wife and sons wear simple coarse khadi dress. Gandhi did not eat multi course meal. One or two pieces of dry bread, rice, boiled vegetables, raw green leaves, goat's milk' gur, honey and fruits formed his diet. He did not eat more than five varieties of food in one day. when a rich zamindar served him food in gold plates, he was deeply pained.
Gandhi believed that in a country like India, where a poor man earned about one anna every day, it was a crime to allow hoards of money to lie idle in the shape of ornaments and decorative pieces. His wife possessed no ornaments.
He did not send his four sons to a school or college for expensive education that was beyond the reach of the poor millions of India. He became their teacher. they had to help in household work and scavenging. Gandhi did not employ paid servants and himself did all sorts of manual labour. He preferred to live in mud huts. He traveled all over India again and again but that too as a third -class passenger. In train his extra pair of clothes or paper bundles were used as a pillow. Once he tried to do without a mosquito net. He wrapped himself in a sheet and smeared his face with kerosene oil, when he retired at night. He heard poor peasants follow this method to curtail expense on mosquito-nets.
When he went to England for the fourth time to verify whether the British rulers were truly willing to grant independence to India, he travelled as a deck passenger on the ship. He stopped his companions and secretaries from carrying trunk-loads of dress and asked them to wear in England the Indian style of dress a dhoti, kurta and a pair of sandals . During the voyage, a friend presented Gandhi with a fine fine shawl worth Rs. 700. He sold it on the ship for Rs. 7, 000 saying: "That is all that a sole reprehensive of the poor can do." From the number of shawls presented to him by his friends he could have run a shop, he said. He used all such money for Harijan uplift work.
When Gandhi landed in France, the French people were shocked to see him in loin-cloth. He told them with a smile: " You in your country wear plus-fours, but I prefer minus-fours." Some still kept wondering whether he was going to meet the King of England or to move about in a cold country and among well dressed people in his scanty dress. Gandhi assured them with a twinkle in his eyes; " The King Conference, went to the Oxford and Cambridge Universities and to the Buckingham Palace in his loin-cloth, patched up shawl and chappals. In anger Churchill called him " the half naked fakir of India" and Gandhi took pride in it. His daily food expenses in London did not exceed twelve annas.
Wastage in any form annoyed Gandhi. Twenty -Four hours of the day were used by him for various activities. He was very punctual, never late in doing any work, yet never did anything in hate. He believed in economy of words. He made many speeches and wrote many articles but avoided the use of superfluous words. He saved every used letter papers and envelopes which had one side blank. According to their size, he had the bundles ready at hand and used them as letter pads. Some of his important statements, drafts and replies to Viceroys, princes and British Prime Ministers were written on such chits. When a small pencil, a gift from a small boy, and a pumice stone used as soap for years got lost, he knew no rest till he found them out after a long search. After independence, he rebuked teh ministers and councillors for using teh most expensive embossed letter-heads and office
when Gandhi landed in France, the French people were shocked to see him in loin-cloth. He told them with a smile; " You in your country wear plus-fours, but I prefer minus-fours." Some still kept wondering whether he was going to meet the King of England or to move about in a cold country and among well dressed people in his scanty dress. Gandhi assured them with a twinkle in his eyes: " the King has enough for both of us." He sat at Round table Conference, went to the oxford and Cambridge Universities and to the Buckingham Palace in his loin-cloth, patched up shawl and chappals. In anger Churchill called him " the half-naked fakir of India" and Gandhi took pride in it. His daily food expenses in London did not exceed twelve annas.
Wastage in any form annoyed Gandhi. Twenty-four hours of the day were used by him for various activities. He was very punctual, never late in doing any work, yet never did anything in haste. He believed in economy of words. He made many speeches and wrote many articles but avoided the use of superfluous words. He saved every used letter papers and envelopes which had one side blank. According to their size, he had the bundles ready at hand and used them as letter pads. Some of his important statements, drafts and replied to viceroys, princes and British Prime Ministers were written on such chits. when a small pencil, a gift from a small boy, and pumice stone used as soap for ten years got lost, he knew no rest till he found them out after a long search. After independence, he rebuked the ministers and councilors for using the most expensive embossed letter-heads and office stationery for private correspondence. He warned that the copying of the style and habits of the Englishmen would ruin. The Englishmen wanted to create awe in their subject nation. All these expensive habits should be gven up. Hand-made paper with ordinary printed letters-heads in devanagari and Urdu should be used. They should not also receive costly addresses and floral tributes.
Gandhi was keen on saving every pie of his collection for the poor. He tried to save commission fee on money orders, drafts and cheque he received for public funds. Volunteers and organisers were chastised when they were careless with public funds. In 1896, when Gandhi visited India, he was given on thousands rupees by the Indian community. he submitted a detailed account of all his expenses. Some such interesting entries were made: Tram 1 annas, water 6 pies, trickman 6pies, magician 8 annas, theatre 4 rupees.
He often said: " Extravagance has no room in our campaigns. What else can be the result if the local workers fetch for me the choices oranges or grapes, or if they bring120, when they want 12? We must become real trustees of the dump millions." His advice was : Do not ride if you can walk." He himself practised this in his younger days. In South Africa, he walked 42 miles from the ashram in one day for making purchases from the nearest store and that too for saving a few rupees. He used to walk to and from his office and court every day.
Once admission to his lectures: " Is race hatred essential for nationalism" was arranged by tickets. Proceeds of the collection were donated to Deshbnadhu memorial Fund. Gandhi for the first time recorded a talk " God is Truth" by giving audition to a gramophone company. In half an hour, he made Rs. 65,000 and donated it to Harijan Fund. Gandhi was no less good at making money than at saving it. When the Government banned his booked, he openly hawked them and sold some copies of Hind Swaraj at rupees annas. During the Dandi March, the half tola of natural salt picked up by him was brought by an admirer for Rs. 525. The price of half a tola of gold at that time was Rs. 40. Nowhere in the world had any bania sold salt at such a fantastic price.
He knew people were eager to collect his autograph. He demanded five rupees for his autograph. Donors giving thousands were not exempted from paying this fee when they took his autograph. To push up the sale of khadi, Gandhi once acted as a salesman. With yard-stick on the right and khadi heap on the left , he went on signing vouchers and made a very brisk sale. In 50 minutes he told 500 rupees' worth of khadi. On another occasion, during a journey, he sold khadi ay wayside railway station. At a khadi exhibition opened by him 4,000 rupees ' worth of khadi was sold in a week. Ordinarily the yearly sale of khadi was sold in a week. Ordinarily the yearly sale of khadi there did not exceed Rs. 6,000. Due to his appeal, a khadi bhandar could raise its sale to Rs. 65,312 from Rs. 48 per year. He asked all the visitors to the handicrafts exhibition at the Congress session to become voluntary advertising agents of the hand-made goods exhibited.
His preaching of boycott of foreign goods caused 50% decrease in the annual sale of foreign cloth in Bengal. Other provinces followed suit and almost paralysed the foreign trade. He felt that with India's growing wants, she must also grow he imports and the hurtful to India. Gandhi knew it was not enough to wear khadi and surround oneself with videshi articles. Big merchants and industrialists, in partnership with the British, allowed their country to be robbed. He wanted to make the whole of India khadi-clad and to revive the dying cottage industries.
He got no subsidy or grant from the hostile Government, the apathy of the people was disheartening yet he was determined to teach people self-help, to rely upon their own labour and skill for the production of articles of food, clothing and other basic needs. All India Village Industries Association and All India spinning Association were established and several branches of them were open4eed all over India. Magan Museum at Wardha was turned into a hive of such activities as spinning, weaving, paper-making, bee-keeping, carpentry and smithy. Gandhi emphasized that no cloth could be cheaper than that spun and woven in one's home, as no bread could be cheaper than the home-baked one made from grain grown in one's home. to him life was more than ,money and people's lethargy induced by continuous unemployment was most depressing. Judging from this point of view of national well-being, Gandhi tried to revise our notion of economics. He pleaded : " Do you know that in spite of plenty of foodstuffs we produce we import wheat from outside? We will eat rice polished of its substance and eat less nutrition's sugar. We will pay for less nutritious mill-ground things and purchase ill-health in bargain. We have suffered the village oil-man to be driven to extinction. The villager today is not half so intelligent or resourceful as the villager of 50 years ago. He constantly gives and gets little in return. Under my scheme, nothing will be allowed to be produced by the villagers." He asked the people to husk their own rice, to grind their own wheat , to use fresh gur instead of sugar and to spin and wave. He used to sample out rich brown gur to foreign visitors.
Gandhi told his countrymen to forget that khadi has to compete with mill-cloth: " The mill owner will always concentrate on cheapening it, but we must concentrate on justice and a fair wage, a living wage. Otherwise it is an unconscious exploitation." A paper manufacturer was paying the labourers at six pice per day and hoped to make hand made paper still cheaper. Gandhi told him he would not buy it at a cheaper rate.
He wanted to eliminate the middleman who sponged upon the farmers and village artisans. He knew the tiller of the soil did not get the full value of their produce. Only a fraction of the price paid by the consumers reached them. The trouble with them was not the low prices but the middlemen. Gandhi was against control of food and cloth and condemned black-marketing and excessive profit-making by the banias. He accused the traders for amassing wealth by deception and for deceiving themselves in thinking that their sins would be washed by spending their ill-gotten gains the banias saying: " Big merchants and capitalists its will and profit through it through the profit may amount to 5% against the Government's 95% . I understand the swadeshi movement had collapsed largely because Indian merchants had palmed of foreign goods as swadeshi articles. I am sure India was lost through the merchants and I am equally sure that we shall recover it through them".