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How I became Mahatma
For Gandhiji, only practice was his speech. When someone in Bengal requested a message from Gandhiji, he wrote for them in Bengali that, ‘Amar jivani amar vani’- My life is my message.
After he returned to India from South Africa, when Gandhiji went to the jail for the first time, he used to get up at four o’clock in the morning and worked throughout the day like a farmer of our country. He used to do physical labour daily for six hours, which included four hours of spinning and two hours of carding. This was in order to identify himself with the masses who earn their living with the sweat of the brow.
When Shri Shankarlal Banker, a close colleague of Gandhiji, was jailed with him, Gandhiji immediately set a time-table for his routine in the jail and Shankerlal also used to spin for two hours.
Now, it was the time for Banker to get released. In a way, Bapu had given a totally new life to Banker with his own company in the jail. So, Banker was talking to Gandhiji regarding the change in his life due to Gandhiji’s motherly love and care.
Listening to him Gandhiji told him, “If you feel that you have been benefited in your life with my company in the jail, do talk to the people about the life here in the jail when you go out.”
Banker replied, “Certainly, I will definitely tell this to everybody, and I am sure that they will also definitely gain out of it.”
Gandhiji instantly questioned, “Do you know what people will tell on listening to that talk?”
Banker replied, “I have not thought of it.”
Gandhiji had very good understanding of human nature and its weaknesses. He knew that our people are indeed expert in putting great people on the shelf, instead of actually following them.
Bapu said, “See, I tell you. They will just say that, Gandhiji is the Mahatma. Only he can live such a life. How can we follow him?”
Banker was now convinced. He said, “That is correct. People do think that way and they will exactly say like this.”
Bapu said: “Then, what will you tell them about it?”
Shankarlalbhai said, “I have not given any thought to it, so what can I say?”
Bapu told him, “If someone tells you like that, then please tell them that I was not born Mahatma. There were many deficiencies in me and I had been endeavouring constantly and carefully to remove them. Even as a Bania becomes rich, collecting even half and half paisa, similarly, I kept cultivating good virtues and today the situation is, people call me a Mahatma, although, I am still far away from that position. So, it’s a highway for everybody and everyone can progress, if one thinks and tries in this direction with faith and firmness.”