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19. Don't Say Mahatma!
A meeting was arranged at the Excelsior Theatre of Bombay. The meeting was called to find out a solution to the Malabar problems. Gandhiji attended the meeting. After Barrister Jaikar’s speech Gandhiji came to know that the meeting was called to solve the Malabar problem as well as to honour him. People belonging to various national parties came one by one and delivered speeches in his honour. Then it was Jamnadas Dwarkadas’ turn to speak.
It was obvious from his speech that it was an effort to prove him better than others in felicitating Gandhiji. Suddenly, someone from the crowd cried, “Not Gandhiji, say Mahatmaji!” Jamnadasji tried to appease him by saying, “Gandhiji himself doesn’t like to be called ‘Mahatma’, he told me so himself. I don’t want to hurt him.” He continued his speech. Again someone shouted from the crowd. Jamnadasji again explained politely. There were other speeches too. At last it was Gandhiji’s turn to address. Expressing his hurt he said, “A few of our friends have insulted Bhai Jamnadas and this assembly too. I had instructed Jamnadas not to say ‘Mahatma’. Many a useless things have been done in the name ‘Mahatma’. For me the word stinks. If someone insists on calling me ‘Mahatma’, it writhes me with pain. No matter how desperately I try to avoid it, it keeps sticking to me. Saying only ‘no’ to it doesn’t work. This is a forbidden word in the Ashram. Bhai Jamnadas said many nice things about me. Had he said, ‘There was no other miserable man like Gandhi’, no one among us would have the right to stop him.” While Gandhiji was speaking, someone in the front balcony got up and greeted the assembly politely by putting his hands together for Namaskar. Gandhiji said, “That is enough, but there are two more persons! They too should asked to be pardonded.” Those two persons also got up and asked to be pardoned. Gandhiji was satisfied. He said, “I was hurt when you insulted Jamnadasji, but your polite request for forgiveness has transformed the sorrow into happiness. God will bless not only those who asked to be forgiven but those too who have witnessed this incident.”