1st January, 1948
stress on simplicity
sincerity in the practice of simplicity Bapu emphasised tirelessly. He was
totally against ostentation and what economists term ''conspicuous consumption''.
Flaunting of wealth and position by the fortunate few was something unacceptable
to him in a nation where millions lived and toiled in grinding poverty and
destitution. Gandhiji met Subhadra Gupta and a group of workers striving in
their own way to bring succour to the teeming crowds of refugees. In conversation
with the lady workers, the Mahatma raised some important questions. He said,
"How can the refugees have confidence in you and respect for you when
you go among them as up-to-date eyes decked out in silks? And dressed so,
you tell them to wear self-spun Khadi, and to do their own cleaning tasks!
Only if there is simplicity, sincerity, and purity within and without, will
your work flourish." In his blunt manner, he continued, After doing full
justice to your overloaded breakfast tables in your spacious bungalows, you
alight before the refugees from posh cars, dangling stylish vanity bags, while
those you must servecannot afford even the luxury of a bath for want of fresh
clothes to change into. Social service these days has become a means for getting
on in the world. Many socialites have consequently taken to this profitable
hobby. There are, of course, exceptions, but they are few and far between.
I want all social workers, and women particularly, to set fine examples of
self-help, simplicity, and the dignity of labour."
A group of English admirers
brought along by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur met Bapu in Birla House. Talking with
them, the Mahatma observed, "No human being or religious institution
is perfect in our imperfect world. Religious institutions arise in answer
to the challenge of the age and in the set of circumstances prevailing at
that time. Stoning prophets and erecting churches to their memory afterwards
has been the way of the world through the ages! In the past, they could at
least plead in mitigation that they did not know what they were doing. Now
we can offer no such defence. And, as the Confucian saying goes, To know what
is right, and not to do it, is cowardice." In theory, a perfect religion
is possible, but mankind has not known any so far."
In his speech after evening
prayers on Tuesday, Gandhiji referred to the problems plaguing India-Pakistan
relations and said, "I know if we have a change of heart here in India,
there will be a change of heart in Pakistan too. It will take some effort,
no doubt, but there will be a change. After all, madness seized us only after
it had seized the people of Pakistan. If sanity does not return, we shall
lose both Pakistan and India. There will be a war and the present State cannot
last." But even as the Mahatma wanted India and Pakistan mutually to
come to amicable terms, New Delhi had moved the United Nations over Kashmir!
The first day of the New
Year, 1948, saw Bapu pursuing his habits of old with greater vigour than before.
One of the first letters he wrote before dawn was to his foreigner friend
Karl Struve, living in Wenterf bei Reinbek. The Mahatma explained his sorrow
over the mistake he had made in thinking that India''s freedom movement had
truly been inspired by heart-felt non-violence. He wrote, "Whatever I
have said does not refer in any way to a failure of Ahimsa. I refer rather
to my own failure to recognise, until it was too late, that what I had mistaken
for Ahimsa was not really that, but passive resistance of the weak, which
can never be called non-violence in the remotest sense. The internecine feud
going on today in India is the direct outcome of the energy that was set free
during the 30 years'' action of the weak. Hence, the proper way to view the
present outburst of violence throughout the world is to recognise that the
technique of unconquerable non-violence by the strong has not been discovered
yet. Not an ounce of non-violent strength is ever wasted. I must not, therefore,
flatter myself with the belief, nor allow friends like you to entertain the
view that I have exhibited any heroic and demonstrable non-violence as yet.
All that I can claim is that I am sailing in that direction without a moment''s
stoppage. This confession should strengthen your faith in non-violence, and
spur you and friends like you to further action along that path.