Bapuji used to be very particular about cleanliness. He preferred cleaning a thing himself and cite an example to others rather than asking someone to do that.
The roads in Noakhali were narrower than a
footpath. Some of them were so narrow that Bapu had to walk ahead of me.
When I walked behind him he had to lean on his stick for support.
The dirt scattered here and there would make
him uneasy. He would have to tread upon that dirt barefoot. There used to be
faeces, spitting and filth all over those roads. I was stunned to see him
cleaning it all with tree leaves.
Annoyed, I said to him, “Bapu, why are you
making me ashamed of myself? Why are you cleaning it yourself, when I am
here? Smiling at me Bapu said, “You won’t imagine how much I enjoy doing
such things! Doing things rather than talking about them tires me less.
I said, “Yes, but the villagers are watching!
What about it?” Bapu said, “Just watch, I won’t need to clean these filthy
roads from tomorrow because people will know today that this is not a
I said, “Suppose that tomorrow it would be
cleaned but what if it would appear the same again the next day?” He
immediately said, “Then I would send you to inspect it and if it is filthy
again, I would come and clean it.”
It happened exactly as he had said. When I
went to see it, I found the filth all over it. But I didn’t inform Bapu
about it. Instead I cleaned it myself with a broom. I told him later, “I
cleaned the road. The villagers were with me and they have promised to keep
it clean. They said that I don’t need to go there tomorrow.”
Bapuji said, “You have stripped me of the
merit of that good deed. I should have cleaned the road. Now two things have
been accomplished. One is that, cleanliness will be maintained; and the
other is, if the people keep their promise they would learn to abide by
truth and the road will always be clean.”