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124. "Uncle Gandhi"
While in London at the time of his visit to England -in 1931 in connection with the Second Round Table Conference Gandhiji stayed with Miss Muriel Lester as "her guest in Kingsley Hall in the East End of the city. Attached to Kingsley Hall was a Children's House between the little inmates of which and Gandhiji bonds of great affection were soon established. He was "Uncle Gandhi" to one and all of them—the name having been first given to him by a tiny tot of three and then caught on. In his account of Gandhiji's visit to England Shri Mahadev Desai gives specimens of essays written by some of the children on Gandhiji's birthday. Here is one by a girl of less than ten years :
"St. Francis of Assisi was called the little poor man of Assisi. He was just like Gandhi in every way.
"They both loved nature, such as the children, birds and flowers. Gandhi wears loin-clothes like St. Francis did, when he was on earth.
"Gandhi and S. Francis were sons of rich merchants. One night while St. Francis was feasting with his followers, he thought of the poor Italians. He ran out and gave up his rich clothes and his money to the poor and dressed himself in old sacks, just like Gandhi.
"St. Francis of Assisi took some of his followers. They made huts of trees. Gandhi the very same thing. He gave up all his rich gay life to the poor Indian people.
"Gandhi's people gave him his loin-clothes to come to London. As he told us children who go to Kingsley Hall that he was not rich enough to them.
"On Monday he has a day's silent for that is their religion. Gandhi for his birthday presents had wooden toys, candles and sweets. He lives on goat's milk, nuts and also fruit."
Here is another by a boy of ten, reproduced as it was written :
"Mr. Gandhi is a Indian who was educated as a law student in London in 1890. He gave up this to help his country get better conditions.
"He has come to England for the Indian Round Table Conference to try and get back the trade for India. He has been trying to get the 'Brahmins' to let the 'Untouchables' come into their temples. They are about 6,000,000 people who do not know what a good meal is. He has given up all his belongings and is trying, to be one of the poorest Indians. That is why he wears loin-cloth.
"His food is goat's milk, fruit, and vegetables. He does not eat meat or fish because he does not believe taken life. Gandhi is a Christian Indian.
"Mr. Gandhi spins his own cotton. He does an hour's spinning every day in England and even when he was in hospital. He has just come back from Lancashire visiting the cotton mills.
"He prays from Sunday 7 p.m. till Monday 7 p.m. and if you speak to him he does not answer you. When he came visiting, he came to my house and my mother Was ironing, but he said, "Don't stop for I have had to do that myself." I have shaken hands with him. The Indian word for 'Hullo' or 'Good-bye' is ‘Nomaska’.
"W.A.I. Saville, 21 Eagling Road, Bow, London, E. 3, 30-9-’31.”