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129. An Interview with Gandhiji

The following report of an interview which a Mr. S. W. Clemens, of Meerut, had with Mahatma Gandhi early in 1920, appeared in the Indian Witness, a Christian journal published in Lucknow :

"As I talked with Mr. Gandhi, I marvelled at the simplicity of his dress. He wore coarse white cloth, with a Kambal thrown over his body to protect him from the cold. A little white cap was his only head-covering. As he sat on the floor facing me, I asked myself, how can this little man, with his thin face and large protruding ears, and quiet brown eyes, be the great Gandhi about whom I have heard so much. All doubts were set aside when he began to talk. I do not agree with all the methods that Mr. Gandhi employs to bring about the desired end; but I do want to bear this personal testimony of the man himself. Mr. Gandhi is a spiritual man. He is a thinker. In my short interview, I had the same heart-to-heart fellowship with him as I had scores of times with God's saints. I took knowledge that this man had been to the Source of Christian strength and had learned from the great Christ.

"Mr. Gandhi, what can nations of the West do in furthering the all-round development of the East, and particularly of India?" Mr. Gandhi answered the question indirectly, "India is just now in the state of unlearning. She has learnt a lot that is useless and unprofitable. From my observation of the West, and particularly your own country, I have learnt two outstanding facts : First, clean­liness, second, energy. I am fully convinced that my people cannot advance spiritually, until they clean up. Your people are wonderfully energetic. To a large extent, it has been energy after things material. If Indian people could have that same amount of energy rightly directed, they would receive great blessings."

"Mr. Gandhi, will you kindly tell how Christianity can best help India, in view of the spirit of nationalism that is abroad?" He replied, "What we need most of all is sympathy. When I was down in Africa, I found this illus­tration. I had to dig some artesian wells. In order to search the pure flowing streams, I had to dig deep. Many of the people who come out here to study my people only scratch the surface. If they would dig deep by means of sympathy they would find a stream of life there pure and clean."

"And you will kindly tell me, Mr. Gandhi, what book or person has influenced you the most?" Of course, I Was prepared to hear him say something of the Vedas and several other Indian books with which Christian people should be conversant; but I was not prepared to hear from the lips of the man the mention of three English books that had shaped his life and thought. He frankly confessed that he was not an omnivorous reader, but rather a careful selector of the very best. The order in which he spoke of the books was as follows : The Bible, Ruskin, Tolstoy. Speaking of the Bible he said, "There have been many times when I did not know which way to turn. But I have gone to the Bible and particularly the New Testament, and have drawn strength from its message."

I was anxious to know how our Meerut Graduates' Association, composed of the finest of educated men in the city, could further the city's welfare. In reply to the question, he gave me this one word : Scavenger. He said, "I employ that word in all its meaning.) If the members would get out and lend a helping hand to clean up the city, literally and morally, they would be doing a great work."