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Gandhi was willing to subscribe to a bill to make it criminal for anybody to call him a Mahatma or to touch his feet. But he could not avoid a hero's reception in cities or villages. For helping one good cause or other, he moved about from place to place and kept in touch with the masses. everywhere he was greeted with overwhelming love and devotion . He was presented with bouquets and garlands, civic addresses in costly frames or caskets, purses and ornaments. Gandhi appreciated this expression of love but did not like wastage of money on garlands, buntings and addresses in a country where the average income of an individual was three pice a day.
In a vain did he entreat people to stop this wastage. He wanted to turn this waste into wealth. An idea struck him. When people were willing to give money, why not give them a better chance of doing it publicly? He decided to auction all the presents, especially the things that were ephemeral. In public meetings, seated on a dais, he could say: " My beloved sweethearts (small girls) are not here and I know not how to dispose of these garlands. Would anyone buy this garland?" " Do rupiye ek bar, teen rupiye, panch rupiye" two rupees, three ruppes, five rupees he drawled on in a jovial mood. the bid went up for possessing such a trivial articles as a lime fruit or a flower garland. Sometimes a garland fetched Rs. 30, at other times Rs. 300. Villagers did not fall behind in paying handsome prices for auctioned goods. Once Gandhi picked up a casket and said: " Its price is Rs. 250. No, I made a mistake, its price is Rs. 75." When offered Rs. 300, he said: "Rs. 300,Rs. 300. Come along, I want more. I got Rs. 1000 for a casket before." The citizens of Calcutta, on three occasions, presented him with addresses in beautiful costly caskets and he auctioned them all. He said: "don't you think that in auctioning things I am belittling the love with which they are being given. I cannot afford to carry these caskets with me. For I carry no trunk with me, nor I any provision in the ashram to keep them... I have seen nothing wrong about these auctions. they set up a healthy rivalry and are innocent methods of evoking the generous impulse in man or women for a noble cause. And let it be remembered that the people who bid at my auctions do not pay a fancy price just for pleasing me."
There were rare occasions when he failed to persuade the audience to donate generously. he sold a lime-fruit for Rs. 10, a yarn garland fro Rs. 201, a golden takli for Rs. 5, 000 and a casket for Rs. 1,000. After laying the foundation stone of an institution, he sold the pan and trowel to a bidder for Rs. 1,000. Once during an auction , Gandhi stretched out his arms to a small boy wearing a gold locket. the mother lifted the child. Gandhi patted him, removed the locket and auctioned it.
Gandhi once announced: " I have an inexhaustible stock of rings. I propose to sell them." A thrice auctioned ring was finally sold for Rs. 445. The normal price of that ring then was Rs. 30. Among the collection of notes , silver and copper coins, a cowrie was once found . It was a greatly appreciated by Gandhi: " The poor man perhaps had nothing else to give and he seems to have paid his all. Looking at it as a symbol of sacrifice, it is more precious than a gold cowrie of that size. A bidder paid Rs. 111 for it.
Stress and strain of tours with packed programmes or the burden of knotty problems did not dry up the fountain of buoyancy or the bania instinct in him. At the age of 78, weighed down by Hindu-Muslim tension and communal riots, Gandhi visited Bihar, collected funds for the stricken Muslims and auctioned the gift of ornaments.
He had no money or possession of his own. Himself a poor ashramite, he once donated one copper pice to a public fund. The souvenir was bought for Rs. 500 by an admirer.