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146. All Over Beef Tea and Salt
"What I could not accomplish in years, he did in a few days," observed Dr. Rabindranah Tagore, the illustrious Bard of Santiniketan, in the course of a talk with Shri S. K. Roy, an Indian long resident in the United States of America, who had asked the poet when he visited America in 1920 as to what Mahatma Gandhi actually did during his stay at Bolpur that impressed the latter so much. Continuing Dr. Tagore is reported to have said:
"I always held that the boys of my school should themselves clean their rooms, make their own beds, cook their meals and wash their dishes. But our boys came from such high caste families that I could not make them do these things. The trouble was that I did not clean my own room, nor make my own bed, nor cook my own meals, nor wash my own dishes. Consequently the boys did not care to take me seriously. I simply lectured; so the boys just listened.
"But when Gandhiji came he at once won the hearts of our boys. He mixed with them as one of them. He told them that it was improper to have servants do the work they themselves should be doing. And he himself cleaned his own room, made his own bed, washed his own dishes and he even washed his own clothes.
"The boys were ashamed of themselves; and they at once began doing all these tasks most joyously. I at once knew how Gandhi won the hearts of the students.
"In the meantime Gandhi asked the scavengers not to do any work for a few days. The high caste boys could never think of doing the work of untouchable scavengers. Life in the school became almost impossible with the odour of night soil.
"Then Gandhi himself carried the pots on his own head to distant fields and buried their contents under­ground. This superman act was contageous. Soon the boys of the highest castes and rich families were vying with one another to have the honour of doing the work of the outcaste scavengers.
"And I was speechless with wonder and admiration for this great man from Bombay. I bowed to him in humility and with the utmost reverence my heart and mind could command. And I saw in this almost unknown man the making of a truly great man of major importance. I am most happy that all India now calls him Mahatma (Great-Souled-One). If anyone ever deserved this title, he does. And it should be known that this title is the spontaneous gift to Gandhi from the hearts of our people."
Shri Roy, who has recorded this conversation in an issue of the journal Psychology, addressing the Poet said, "It is certainly refreshing to hear such words regarding Gandhi fall from your lips! Mahatma Gandhi today wields tremendous power over the teeming millions of India. Will you kindly tell me what is really the secret of his success?"
"The secret of Gandhi's success," said Dr. Tagore, "lies in his dynamic spiritual strength and incessant self- sacrifice. Many public men make sacrifices for selfish reasons. It is a sort of investment that yields handsome dividends. Gandhi is altogether different. He is unique in his nobility, his very life is another name for sacrifice. He has sacrificed himself. He covets no power, no position, no wealth, no name and no fame. Offer him the throne of all India, he will refuse to sit on it, but will sell the jewels and distribute the money among the needy.
"Give him all the money America possesses, and he will certainly refuse to accept it, unless to be given away for a worthy cause for the uplift of humanity.
"His soul is perpetually anxious to give and he expects absolutely nothing in return — not even thanks. This is not exaggeration, for I know him well.
He came to our school at Bolapur and lived there for some time.. His power of sacrifice becomes all the more irresistible, because it is wedded with him with paramount fearlessness.
"Emperors and Maharajas, guns and bayonets, imprisonments and tortures, insults and injuries, even death itself, can never daunt the spirit of Gandhi.
"He is a 'Jivanmukta', in other words, his is a liberated soul. If anyone strangles me', I shall be crying for help; but if Gandhi were strangled, I am sure he would not cry. He may laugh at his strangler; and if at all he has to die, he will die smiling.
"His simplicity of life is childlike; his adherence to truth is unflinching, his life for mankind is positive and aggressive. He has what is known as the Christ spirit. The longer I know him, the better I like him. It is need­less for me to say that this great man is destined to play a prominent part in moulding the future of the world."
"Such a great man deserves to be better known in the world. Why don't you make him known, you are a world figure," asked Shri Roy. Dr. Tagore replied:
"How can I make him known? I am nothing com­pared to his illumined soul. And no truly great man has to be made great. They are great in their glory, and when the world is ready, they become famous by the dint of their own greatness. When the time comes, Gandhi will be known, for the world needs him and his message of love, liberty and brotherhood.
"The soul of the East has found a worthy symbol in Gandhi; for he is most eloquently proving that man is essentially a spiritual being, that he flourishes the best in the realm of the moral and the spiritual, and most positively perishes both body and soul in the atmosphere of hatred and gunpowder smoke."
When the Poet visited America for the last time in later years he is reported to have remarked to Shri Roy as follows:
"Mahatma Gandhi is a superman. He is putting into practice on a gigantic scale the spiritual theories as preached by Prophets like Buddha, Jesus and Bahaullah. It is not necessary to agree with all that Mahatma Gandhi says and does to appreciate the tremendous spiritual force he has let loose throughout the world. He is the greatest man in the world today. He has most precious inner treasures."