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Wednesday, 7th January, 1948

No grief at slings of criticism

Concern for Harijans leading to step after consistent step, and programme after constructive programme to uplift them was an enduring facet of the Mahatma''s work to reform Hindu society and make a vital force of the new Indian nation. In an article he wrote for the Harijan, Bapu wanted all students and young men''s and women''s hostels thrown open to Hari''s own children. He commended for emulative action, the pattern of a law the Provincial Government of Bombay had enacted ensuring open right of admission for Harijans to temples, public wells, dharamshalas, schools, hostels and other public institutions. The Mahatma noted the complaint of a correspondent that school and college authorities (in Kathiawad) have not adapted themselves to the spirit of the times, whereas the students themselves want common hostels. Strongly endorsing the suggestion that all hostels be made open to Harijans, Gandhiji said, If the students are sincere, they are sure to succeed. In the present age, the autocratic will of managing committees cannot prevail, particularly when, as in the present case, the committee is in the wrong and the students are in the right. Be that as it may, Harijan students should unquestionably be admitted to all hostels with honour.

Like the sun seeking to regain his reign from the usurpation of winter, Gandhiji''s habitual cheer surfaced brightly in gleams that were seen now and anon, though his heart and mind were weighted with leaden woe and grey anxiety relentlessly gnawed at him over the state of affairs in Punjab, in Kashmir, and in Delhi itself. The sun gleamed when sallies of humour appeared so in two letters he wrote on Tuesday, mischief shining through his glasses as he made the words composing the missives. To Ila Gandhi, Bapu said, I suppose you are too busy to spare the time to write to me. Do you still talk a lot? How nice it would be if you took a vow of silence! - Blessings, from Bapu.

To Sita Gandhi, who had mentioned to him the arrival of a new- born child, he joked regarding the naming of the little mite,Nowadays they look for names from novels or from Samskrit plays. I would know nothing about this matter. What is in a name? It seldom happens that a person comes to have the qualities worthy of his name. As the poet says, Fondly was the infant given the name of Hari, but in infancy did it die.

Writing a rather more profound letter to Anand T. Hingorani, Gandhiji set out an example and message that underlay his own philosophy of welcoming the slings of ununderstanding criticism and wearing the crown of thorns of rejection that greeted many of his earnest appeals. In what was, by his standards, a fairly long epistle, Mahatmaji said,

Losing money means being freed of a curse. As the poet sings in a Bhajan, He who has, by good fortune, found Rama is blessed with three things: Firstly, he loses kine, kin, wife, his wrap and shawls, his elephants and his horses, and he is made destitute of all resources. Second, he is humiliated by the world, and loses all respect from others; he counts for nothing among his own kinsmen and has not a friend left. Third, he suffers bodily affliction. Day and night he is sickly. His eyes cannot glimpse happiness. His life is spent in pain. In three ways thus he is made a pauper. But he thinks only of Him, and is ever alight with the knowledge that all things are yoked to the Nameless God.

He who does not know these three things, has really attained nothing. It is only after suffering many a birth and old age, that Tukdo (the mystic saint) has attained to that state. Why do you grieve that you cannot bear? The advantages of deafness are clear! You have seen my three preceptors - the three monkey dolls that I keep before me. One of them has his hands over his ears. What more shall I say? Blessings from Bapu.

As his beloved India and its people stood, reeling still from Partition, and staggering under the blows of internecine strife, as a house divided against itself casting doubts about its viability, so did the sage of truth and non-violence march in his own manner in travail to Golgotha. He wept not for himself, but for his beloved children of India, and even then he sought to comfort them and give them their own strength and substance.

Rowdyism was manifesting itself in many places in Delhi, with Hindus and Sikhs marching by force to take over Muslim homes. Social unrest was threatening in Bombay. Referring to such incidents, Gandhiji said after evening prayer, Our present misfortune is people indulging in such violence. Their mentality seems to be that now that we are a free country, we can simply do what we like. A report from Bombay says that dock-workers have gone on a strike. Such unthinking actions are going to be our undoing.

On the 7th, Bapu referred to grievous news that had come from Sind in Pakistan. On the previous day, a group of Sikh refugees going to a Gurudwara in Karachi had been stoned. A mob attack then followed upon the shrine at Ratan Talao. Trouble spread throughout the city like fire. Looting and killing left over 2000 shops and houses in a terrible shamble. Gandhiji said, Of course, I want to go to Sind. But with what face can I go? To try to quench flames elsewhere, when one''s own house is burning? The better course would be to extinguish first the fire in one''s own home.