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73. Compartment is The Home!
Compartment is The Ashram!
There used to be an inscription on the flag of Maharaja Gaikwad of Baroda—‘Jin Ghar, Jin Takhat’ (The saddle is our home, the saddle is our throne). The Maratha Sardars (knights) felt proud that their saddles were never taken off their horses. Their horses used to be saddled day and night. Likewise Gandhiji’s home and ashram and the third class compartment were the same for him. He continuously traveled to propagate his message from one end of the country to the other. It was very difficult to guess whether he spent more time in Ashram or in the railway compartment.
He would do all his daily chores as if the railway compartment was his home. He would work on his spinning wheel, spin yarn, pray, look after the correspondence, give interviews, etc. there. He always traveled by the third class and experienced the jostling and the plight of the travelers of that class. He was not known as ‘Mahatma’ then. Many a times he would have to travel standing all the way and bear the jostling too.
The leaders of the country used to be a bit reserved and maintained a distance from the poor countrymen. They used to travel by the first class like higher officials. Once Gandhiji came to Calcutta and stayed at Gokhale’s residence. While returning, Gokhale offered to see him off at the station. Gandhii politely tried to dissuade him, but Gokhale did not listen to him. He said, “Were you traveling by the first class like others, I wouldn’t have come to see you off. I will come because you will be going by the third class.” Gandhiji got to know very well the poor countrymen through traveling by third class. No other leader knew the common people, their disposition, their shortcomings, their habits and many other things, as good as Gandhi knew. That is the reason why people revered him so much.