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12. Reception with costly garlands
In Devi pur the local workers and the people had arranged a grand reception for Bapu. We came to know later that they had spent about Rs 200 on it. Usually he was wel­comed by the womenfolk of the village with an auspicious mark on his forehead. Sometimes they used also to decorate the village with coconut leaves. He took no objection to such a welcome, because it did not involve any expenditure except labour with their own hands.
In Devipur, however, the decoration was made with flowers. coloured paper, silken, silver and gold threads, bought from Chandipur. They had also small lights of ghee and oil. Bapu saw this and became serious for a while. He then asked me to gather information about the local leaders, the population of the village, etc. Subsequently I informed him that there were 300 Hindus who were mainly Brahmanas, Kayasthas and Shudras, and 150 Muslims. He called the leader and asked him in an angry tone, "From where did you get all this?" The leader answered, "Your visit is a blessed occasion for us and so we Hindus only collected Rs.300 by giving according to our purse, with 8 annas as the minimum subscription, to buy flowers and other decorations." Bapu was all the more enraged and said. "All these decorations and flowers will vanish in an instant. It makes me feel that you are all playing me false. My visit has emboldened you to put up this big show only to add fuel to the fire of communalism. Don't you realize that I am thrown into the fire myself? I would not mind it so much, had these garlands been of yarn as they would have served two purposes - one of decoration and the other, of utility when the yarn is converted into cloth. There seems to be an overabundance of money in this village or else you would not have thought of these decorations in such hard limes. This is not the way to show your love for me if that is your object. If you have real love for me, do what I say. I cannot imagine how you could think of wasting money like this after this terrible holocaust.
"And moreover, you are a Congress worker, a public worker, and you say you have read my books; you are an M.A. and you have been to prison; you wear this short khaddar dhoti, and still you have used all this foreign silk and ribbons. I only want to impress upon you that all this is very painful to me. This makes me think of my fellow workers and wonder whether they who are known today as servants of the people, will also start receiving and giving costly garlands if appointed to honourable posts in future.
"I realize today that even now I cannot say for certain that every one of my workers would ever be simple and that he would not swerve from his ideal even if he owns a number of cars or big bungalows. Well, this incident has made me more vigilant, more awake. I do not find fault with you; merely disclosed your real self. Who can help that? But through this incident God has shown me where I stand. I wonder what more is still in store for me to see."
How could those poor workers have anticipated that Bapu would suffer such unbearable pain through their action? The worker in question went away downcast and removed all the decorations within half an hour. Bapu asked them to make a reel of all the threads used in the garlands. The reel thus made was a big one. It was given away to the people for sewing purposes. The thread was long enough to make about 20 reels of the usual size. But for Bapu all this thread would have gone waste. Thereafter he was welcomed only with hand-spun yarn, and 50 yards of cloth woven out of it was distributed to the poor. Indeed Bapu was a real friend of the poor.