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136. A Walk With Children

One of the greatest joys of my life has been my periodi­cal stay, though every time it has been very short, at Sevagram, where Gandhiji lives. There are several special features of the daily life of the inmates of the Ashram. But if I were to choose two from among these, I would select prayer-time in the morning and in the evening and Gandhi­ji's walk, in which he is always accompanied by some of the; permanent residents of the place, young as well as old, and one or two of the visitors who may happen to be there at the time. I shall describe here, however, what once I saw while I followed Gandhiji in his morning walk.

On this particular occasion, among those who accom­panied Gandhiji there were two children, one in his mother's arms, the other trailing behind her. Suddenly the little one, in the arms, cried and the mother tried to pacify it but she failed. Then Gandhiji, handing over his long staff (which he carries with him on his walk) to me, took the babe in his own arms, touched its cheeks gently and smiled with beaming eyes. And, lo ! the dear wee one became silent, nay responded with an equally radiant smile. The mother wondered at Gandhiji's skill in motherliness.

Then the other child, trailing behind its mother, ran away from her side and catching hold of Gandhiji's right hand led him to a flower, growing by the roadside, and said with the joy of a discoverer, "Bapu, how beautiful is the flower !"

"Very beautiful, indeed," replied Gandhiji smilingly.

Just then a dog passed by. The child pointing to its tail, observed, "Bapu, Bapu, the dog has a tail."

"Is that so?" answered back Gandhiji with the innocence of a child. And then after a moment's pause he asked, "But have you a tail too?”

The child laughed and remarked, "You are so old and big. And yet you do not know that man has no tail. You are indeed, an ignoramus."

And Gandhiji and all of us joined heartily in the loud laughter.

The truth is that when he is among children Gandhiji becomes like one of them. He forgets his seventy and odd years as well as his self-imposed burden of sacrificial work for the welfare of India and the world. And every time I have seen him among them I have pictured to myself the scene in Palestine, which was enacted whenever Christ passed through its streets and the children gathered round his knees and looked into his love-filled eyes.

— M. N. G. in Pushpa