31. The Compartment is Home,
The Gaikwad King of Baroda had it inscribed on their flag - 'The saddle is our home, the saddle is our throne!' The Maratha Sardars used to be very proud that their horses were always ready with the saddles on.
In the same way the third class compartment of train had become the home and Ashram for Gandhiji. He used to travel along the country to spread his message. He used to travel so much that it was hard to say where did he spend most of his time, in the Ashram or in the railway compartment. So, what is wrong in calling the railway compartment his home and ashram?
Gandhiji used the compartment just like his home. He performed all his tasks there. There he would spin the yarn, pray in the morning and evening, look after his correspondence and meet people.
Gandhiji always traveled in third class compartment. Sometimes he had to travel in the upper class due to ill health but he would be very sorry to do so. He would think, "The people I want to serve travel in third class and tolerate a lot of discomfort. Then why should I enjoy the luxury of a higher class?" Such thoughts made him uneasy.
The miserable state of third class compartment in our country is well known but he would be content to experience the misery with other people. He had a lot of such opportunities to taste the miseries when he was not known as Mahatma. Many a times he had to travel standing all the way and bear the jostling too. How could there be any possibility of sleeping or working?
In those days the leaders used to maintain a distance from the poor, untidy countrymen. They felt ashamed of them. They traveled in the upper class just like higher officers. A barrister who had come from South Africa traveling in the third class astonished people.
Once Gandhiji had stayed at Gokhale's house in Calcutta (Kolkata). While returning Gokhaleji went to see him off. Gandhiji requested him not to go through all that trouble but he did not listen to him. He said, "If you were traveling in the upper class just like others I wouldn't have come. But since you are going in the third class, I must see you off."
People like Gokhale who appreciated Gandhiji so much, were very rare in those days. Generally, people would laugh at it.
Gandhiji got an opportunity to know his poor countrymen while going through the suffering of the third class. Due to this only he could know their nature, their habits and so many other things about them. No other leader in the country knew the countrymen so well as Gandhiji did. That is how he became the saviour of the country and the people followed him with faith. The people were devoted to him.