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The Watch - An Instrument for Regulating Life
You see many types of watches, some with coloured pictures on the dial made for children; some for ladies, very delicately designed and for men-- pocket as well as wrist watches. Some of these cost a fortune which look very ornamental and are worn as part of the dress.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi acquired a watch for the first time as part of his dress. In the early days of his stay as a student of law in London, he spent a good amount of money to look like an English gentleman who was immaculately dressed. He wore a morning coat, a double-breasted vest, a necktie, dark striped trousers, a silk top hat, patent leather shoes with spats; carried a pair of gloves and a silver mounted cane and to complete the attire, he obtained a double watch-chain of gold from India-courtesy elder brother's generosity.
Later on, when he had taken to earning only a loin cloth, the only thing he retained from the 'gentleman's attire was the watch'.
The little piece of nickel hanging by the left side of his waist, that you see in pictures of him, was a metre regulating his life. He could not think of a better gift than a watch for the two detectives in London attached to him during his stay in 1931. He sent them each a pocket watch with the inscription "With love from M. K. Gandhi.'
Gandhiji utilized every minute of his time purposefully. One morning his twelve-year old son Manilal heard him murmuring standing before the wash basin. The son curiously asked, ,Father what are you doing, mumbling to yourself?" "I'm learning verses from the Gita," replied Gandhi.
In April 1921, Gandhiji was to give a talk at the Gujarat Vidyapith. The car that had to take him there was late. Gandhiji immediately took the bicycle from Prof. Malkani and rode off to be in time for the academic appointment.
Once his grandson Kantilal made a slight error of one minute in telling the time. The young man was scolded, "Don't keep a watch unless you have a sense of time." Even Lokmanya Tilak was not spared. He had reached the Political Conference at Godhra half an hour late. Gandhiji commented, "If we are half an hour late in winning Swaraj then the blame will be on Lokmanyaji's head."
Prof. Nirmal Kumar Bose recalls, "As Gandhiji prepared to go to bed, we had to keep every little thing that he might require in the night or early in the morning in its proper place. The twig had to be thrashed and split from his tooth brush and kept immersed in a wide mouthed bottle in exactly the same height of water; his pocket watch with the alarm set at 4 a.m. had to be kept under pillow." This was done because he did not wish to waste a single moment in hunting for anything.
The only time Gandhiji forgot his watch was a few minutes before he died. Till 4.55 p.m. on Friday, 30 January 1948 Gandhiji was deeply absorbed in an important discussion with Sardar Patel. His prayer meeting was to start at 5 p.m. Abha was hesitant to interrupt but knowing his commitment to punctuality, picked up the nickel plated watch and pointed out that he was getting late. On the way to the prayer ground Abha said, "Bapu, your watch must be feeling very neglected, you did not even look at it today!"
Contributed by Dr (Mrs) Rashmi-Sudha Puri, Director, Gandhi Bhavan Punjab University, Chandigarh