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44. Why Did Vishwamitra Behave Like That?
Gandhiji had made up his mind to fully utilise whatever spare time he would get in the jail. He always had a heap of public interest things to do, when he was out of jail; so he wouldn’t get time to do anything else. In jail he used to get ample time to do certain things, but he would have to plan for them meticulously. Gandhiji always held ‘Charkha’ as the most important thing yet reading and writing were equally favourite ones. He would allot four hours for it everyday. He had already decided what books he would like to read; accordingly he started reading regularly. He read Guajarati translations of Ramayan, Mahabharat, Tilak’s Gita, Dnyaneshwari etc. he kept reading as well as writing. He wrote ‘The History of South African Satyagrah’ and ‘Balpothi’ in jail only.
Gandhiji read the Guajarati translation of Dnyaneshwari and loved it. He said, “I would ask you to read this book ...” but I wasn’t prepared for the philosophical readings at the time. I said, “If you insist I would read it. But it’s not my cup of tea.” He knew me well. He never forced me to do so again. But after a considerable lapse of time I had the opportunity to read it and I repented not reading it earlier in the jail. You are inspired to read such books by God’s grace only.
While reading Lokmanya’s ‘Gita’, Gandhiji said to me once, “I am very much upset since last three days.” I asked him the reason. He said, “I am reading Lokmanya Tilak’s ‘Gita’. There appears a citation regarding a person’s behaviour during a catastrophe (Apaddharma) with an example of Vishwamitra. Once there was a severe drought in his times and nothing was available to eat. Vishwamitra was very hungry. Finding no alternative he went to a ‘Chandal’ and started eating a dead dog’s meat. The Chandal said, “You are a Brahmin and I am a Chandal, and this is a dead dog’s meat. Why are you eating it? Vishwamitra replied, “Don’t say anything now. These are the implications of the catastrophe. I have no other alternative if I want to survive. So keep quiet.” Telling this Gandhiji said hesitantly, “How can Hinduism be like that? Vishwamitra should have sacrificed his life! But why would he do so? I am unable to comprehend it and so it hurts.” He kept brooding over it for a few days. I didn’t know what did he think, but I feel that we should let the bygones be bygones. Why should we cry over the spilt milk?