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67. Gandhi, the Coordinator
In 1941, the Congress Working Committee called a meeting. I was then a student at the Khadi Vidyalaya of Sevagram. So I had an opportunity to closely observe the working of the committee. A prominent leader of the Congress, Abdul Kalam Azad, was reclining on the dais smoking a cigarette. Near by, Gandhiji was engrossed in spinning on his wheel. I was shocked to see it. I thought that smoking like this during a meeting was like insulting the common people. At the same time Gandhiji was preaching people to lead a simple, restrained, truthful life, in a non-violent way. Many like me were proud of being Gandhijiís soldiers. That incident hurt me badly but I kept quiet.
During the agitation in 1942, I was sent to jail. There I had an opportunity to read Maulana Azadís book about ĎKuraní. I was deeply impressed by his scholarly deliberations in that book. But I also thought that wouldnít it be better if such an eminent, scholarly person could live a simple life, devoid of addictions.
On the other hand, when I observe hard working people leading a simple life, I wonder how many of them possess Maulana Azadís fearlessness, feeling of equality and dedication to the nation. Would people who are intolerant and lack foresight help realise Gandhijiís dream even though they are simple and forbearing?
Today, I realise that while dealing with these kinds of people, Gandhiji tried hard to coordinate between them. He overlooked Azadís smoking habit, as well as he adapted with forbearing yet conceited people like us who did not tolerate each other. We are still not able to co-ordinate between these two kinds of people. Simple, self-sufficient and chaste life style is always welcome. If the sentiments of fearlessness, openheartedness and willingness to dedicate oneís life for crores of unhappy and illiterate people could be imbibed into life at some point of time, then only we will be able to gain independence in the real sense of the term!