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46. Gandhiji's Minus Fours

Reuter wired that Gandhiji's first appearance at Marseilles in September 1931, on his way to England to attend the Round Table Conference, had dissipated existing prejudice against him. His infectious smile had captured all, and he submitted himself humbly to volleys of questions from French journalists. Reuter added, "Gandhiji confessed that he felt nervous on approaching England after an absence of seventeen years." But nervousness did not appear to have interfered with his ability to make jokes. When asked if he would traverse the streets of London in loin cloth, Gandhiji answered a French journa­list, "You in your country wear plus fours, I prefer minus fours."

Nor did Gandhiji's nervousness prevent him from making a declaration to the customs officer, "I am a poor mendicant. My earthly possessions consist of six spinning wheels,1 prison dishes, a can of goat's milk, six homespun loin cloths and towels, and my reputation which cannot be worth much."

Of course, the customs inspector passed him.


[1]  Evidently Reuter's correspondent at Marseilles erred in reporting that Gandhiji in his declaration to the customs officer had stated that he had in his possession six spinning wheels. As a. matter of fact, Gandhiji had carried only one spinning wheel with him to England.