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10. Importance of small things
Since the time that he sent away his companions to different villages, Bapu was overburdened with work. It used to be difficult even for six persons to cope with his office work. Now it had to be managed by two, viz. Bapu himself and Nirmalbabu. But Nirmalbabu was unacquainted with the work. Moreover, he could manage only the Bengali and the English correspondence. Gujarati, Hindi and Marathi were foreign to him and Bapu had to look after correspondence in those languages. Then many came to see him. Besides, he had to go through his Hindi and English post-prayer talks for the Press as press-reporters could not interpret him accurately. The most difficult work was that of packing up the luggage daily and seeing that not the smallest thing was left behind. Though it was I who was doing this Bapu always saw that everything was all right. One may wonder what luggage he carried on his pilgrimage on foot, that was difficult for anyone to pack. He always carried his daily requirements with him, as he did not want to be a burden to anyone. And these were not merely pencil and paper. Here is a list of things which we had to take: From needle and thread to the cooker with all its accessories such as pincers, cooking pan, etc. Then there were vegetable knife, earthen bowl, wooden spoon, bucket, tumbler, commode, etc. These were our companions not because they could not be obtained owing to the ravages of fires in Noakhali but because Gandhiji liked to use his own things. So they found their way even to the palaces of Shri Birlaji. In addition, his office requirements were packed separately in a handbag from which the loss of the smallest chit of paper would bring Bapu's work to a standstill. This bag contained sundry important things such as letters from Pandit Jawaharlalji, the Sardar and the Viceroy, a copy of the Gita, Ramayana, Bible, Quran-e-Shareef and his Bhajanavali (book of hymns). It also contained his rough drafts of letters written on the back of those he got by post. I had to look after this valuable bag and if anything was lost from it, the responsibility was mine. Still Bapu would say, "If anything is lost from there you may escape blame, but how can I?" This shows how much he was concerned about the smallest thing in it. Again nothing could be left ill-arranged simply because our stay was to be very short at a particular place. Unawares Bapu may inspect my arrangement.
Here is an excerpt of a letter which shows how much he was worried about his work in Noakhali: "How can I cope with the work here? All around there is conflagration. It is only through God's grace that my work goes on. My truth and non-violence are being weighed against the finest weight - not that which weighs a pearl but by one which is too heavy for weighing even a hundredth part of a hair. All round there is exaggeration and untruth as if truth had entirely deserted us. Violence stalks the land under the guise of non-violence and Adharma in the name of Dharma. But my truth and non-violence can be tested only under such an ordeal. And I am here to go through the test."
Such was Bapu's plight in his great work at Noakhali.
To cope with this tremendous work he used to get up at 2 a.m. and wake me also. To get up so early and that too in such cold was a trying situation for me, but never for him. Half in jest once I said to him, "Bapu, I would light a candle to God as a mark of thanks if either you wake up late or make some mistake in looking at the watch."
He burst into laughter and said, "God is not so susceptible to bribe as you' And really God did not seem to care at all for my votive offering; and lo! no sooner did the hour of 2 a.m. strike than fondly slapping me on the head he woke me up saying, "Get up Manudi, see, God was not tempted by your offer." Then he asked me to light the lamp which he would always have put out on going to bed. I remarked, "Bapu, we sleep at about 10 or 11 p.m. and we get up at 2 a.m., so why not keep the lamp burning dimly?" He replied, "That is true but who will give me so much kerosene? Neither you earn for me nor do I earn myself. It is quite natural for you to think like that, because your father in Mahuva is earning. And moreover, do you realize that I have two purposes served in having the lamp put out? One is that the moment you light the lamp sleep is shaken off, so that you don't doze when I dictate anything to you, and second, so much of kerosene is saved. Thus I can kill two birds with one stone, but do you know the meaning ,of the proverb?" I gave him the generally understood meaning but he gave me a different interpretation. He said, "One stone (one way) and two birds (two jobs). What is that way by following which two jobs are always accomplished? Two did not literally mean only two jobs. But two here may mean two or a hundred. Here in Noakhali thousands have been ruined. This leads me to think that we should not let even one moment go waste. Sleep, food, etc. we should have just enough to keep, us going. We should be restrained in all things."
Here he made a reference to poet Lalit's devotional song beginning with –
‘आजनो ल्हावो लीजीये रे, काल कोणे दीठी छे?’
'Take advantage of today, who knows what will happen tomorrow? That is why I am saying all this to you just now at 2 a.m. If the Lord wants to take away either of us He may do so. It is all in His hands. So this verse needs to be fully understood and assimilated.
"Then what is that golden path by pursuing which we can achieve all purposes? That path is the Path of Service - that is, service of one's neighbour, or service of the Lord. Devotional marks on the forehead or telling the beads of the rosary does not connote the service of the Lord. To put such a mark and then to stab someone - as is happening nowadays - that is sheer hypocrisy. But as saint Narsinha Mehta has said. 'Devotion means absolute self-surrender (lit. offering of one's head).' So remember if you cannot serve with your body, then you must do so with your mind. Your getting up, sitting, eating, drinking, playing, laughing, all should be for the welfare of the world, and with such a mind you should render whatever service falls to your lot. If you understand even this much you have learnt a good deal. See, what deep meaning our sayings have. Even through these little incidents I have taught you a valuable lesson."
And thus this great teacher spoke to me for about 20 minutes in the stillness of the night at two o'clock in a low tone in order not to disturb any one else.