Bapu returned from South Africa to India via Europe. I was at Shantiniketan then. Some of the residents of Bapu’s Phoenix Ashram were also staying there as guests. I used to read the newspaper hence I knew the latest news about our people in South Africa.
I knew about Gandhiji’s Phoenix Ashram too and
perhaps its inmates had also heard about me. I got friendly with those
people. We attended the morning and evening prayers together, and the dinner
too. The Ashram inmates would toil there for an hour each morning. The
Shantiniketan people had entrusted a job to them.
There was a pond and a hill nearby. The job
was to dig the hill and to fill up the pond with the soil. We were more than
ten people who did the work quite enthusiastically, everyday. When Bapuji
arrived at Shantiniketan both of us kept talking about things till late in
the night. In the morning we set out to work after the prayer. On return we
found that our breakfast and fruits were laid meticulously in the dishes!!
All of us had been out to work. Then who took the efforts to do all that? I
asked Bapu, “Who did this?” He said, “I did it, why?” Embarrassed by his
answer I said, “Why did you do it? It makes me uneasy that you would do all
this and we would eat it like a sponger.” He simply asked, “Why, what’s
wrong with it?”
I said, “Shouldn’t we deserve to be served by
you like this?”
I was not prepared for Bapu’s answer to this;
it was utterly unexpected. (In those days I used to talk to him in English).
I said, “We must deserve it.” He simply exclaimed, “Which is a fact!”
Amazed, I kept looking at him. He said smiling at me, “You all went to the
work and would return there again after the breakfast. I had some time to
spare, that is why I did it to save your time. Haven’t you earned the
ability to get readymade breakfast after toiling for an hour?”