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149. "Stabling Truth"

The following from the pen of Shri Mahadev Desai appeared in the issue of Harijan of 16th January 1937:

During our stay at Faizpur a student secretary of a Conference came to Gandhiji asking for a message. Gandhiji laughed and said: "What new message can I give you at the age of 68 ? And where is the use of my giving you a message, if you pass a resolution there of assassinating me or burning my effigy? Assassinating the body of course does not matter, for out of my ashes a thousand Gandhis will arise. But if .you assassinate or burn the principles I have lived for?"

These words were uttered a day before that great speech on the cult of the Charkha, and those who can see the fire that burns there would surely understand the pain hidden in the laughter when he said the words I have just quoted, or the poignancy underlying the heading at the top.

These two words were uttered in Lady Thakersey's cottage — Parnakuti — at Poona soon after our arrival there. The occasion was a seemingly trivial one. Gandhiji, who usually has a fair supply of slivers with hint, found in the evening of his arrival in Poona that his stock had almost run out, and he asked Pyarelal if he had any more slivers. He had none. He turned to me: "You have usually your supply of slivers. Haven't you got them?" I was ashamed. I said: "I had them at Faizpur." "You thought you would get time there, but not here?" There was no reply, there could be none. I am a lover of spinning, and during my several years in jail I do not remember having missed my spinning on a single day. Outside I find I cannot keep it up regularly, and that is why I had no slivers. "But could not we get slivers in Poona? Dev spins, Premabahen spins, there are others who spin regularly, and tomorrow we are sure to get them." In­quiries were made at all the likely places, but in vain.

"But what about Ghandrashankar ?" inquired Gandhiji. He had none. "That, Mahadev, was a cruel blow indeed," he said, to me soon- after the morning prayer the next day. "Chandrashankar and his wife, I expected, would be spinning. But if he goes into raptures over my speech on the cult of the Charkha and will not spin, what are his raptures worth to me? If salt loseth its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? I tell you it has been a great blow. And no slivers in the city of Poona. But if Ghandrashankar has none why should others have them? Dev said, without a blush, that everything could be had at Saswad, 20 miles from here, but not here. And yet we wonder why we have no Swaraj."

I could see that he was boiling as he said this. I quietly retired and told Shankarlal everything. He said he too *had his share of the whipping. "How am I to help it?" he said. "Because I am the secretary of the Spinners' Association Bapu thinks I must see that slivers are avail­able everywhere. I quite see his grief, but I hope he will see mine. I have been trying to get all the workers in the A. I. S. A. offices in India to spin regularly, but I have yet to succeed. But I must get the slivers at once from Bombay." He rang up a friend there who sent the slivers and all the carding tackle from Navajivan Sangh. In the afternoon some indifferent stuff came from the Poona Khadi Bhandar, and in the evening Shri Haribhau Phatak and Balukaka Kanitkar turned up. Both of these friends are supposed to be believers in the Charkha and so Gandhiji said: "I have not yet recovered from my shock. Balukaka has been a severe disappointment. You who swore by the Charkha, is this your faith in the Charkha?"'

"But did I not tell you," said Balukaka, "that the council programme was sure to kill the constructive programme?"

"That is irrelevant. What has that got to do with your faith in Khadi and spinning which you have repeated times without number? Convictions are there to be lived for and to die for and certainly to be worked for. But this conviction, without anything to do with it, is meaningless. It is stabbing truth."

The words were not misunderstood. Shri Haribhau said: "We deserve the cuts you have given us, and we have decided to turn a new leaf from tomorrow."

"But you do not know," said Gandhiji, "the cuts I have given myself over this tragedy. How can we have Swaraj if we care so little for our convictions? And now you say you are going to mend. It is something. To, err is human, and to mend is also human. But to know that you err and still not to mend it is less than human. For brutes don't err. But 'less than human' is not the word. To err is human, not to err is divine. To try to mend is human, but not to try to mend is devilish. That is the proper word. Well, if you will mend it will be all right. But do nothing without conviction. The conviction should be yours and not borrowed from me."

'Stabbing truth' — these words went like a stab of fire in our hearts. "I do not ask for slivers from those who do not believe in Khadi or Charkha. I never even men­tion the word Charkha to the Rt. Hon. Srinivasa Sastri, though we are bosom friends. For he does not believe in it. I honour those people who do not believe in it and denounce it. But you believe in it, and every day of your lives you live a lie. That is stabbing truth — than which there is no greater sin."