A Gandhian advises his son to preserve Bapu’s letter like a treasure

While Indians are waiting with bated breath for the return of Gandhi’s auctioned belongings to the country,87-year-old Vitthal Ahiya...

Written by Hiral Dave | Rajkot | Published:March 14, 2009 3:47 am

While Indians are waiting with bated breath for the return of Gandhi’s auctioned belongings to the country,87-year-old Vitthal Ahiya,an administrator and trustee of the Rashtriya Shala in Rajkot,has a word of advice for his son Viral.

Ahiya,a staunch Gandhian,who devoted his life for the Khadi Gram institution,has preserved a letter that the Mahatma had written to him in Gujarati in 1936 as a token of appreciation for his work as a khadi weaver.

Ahiya now wants his middle-class family to preserve this handwritten letter of Bapu with the same respect and devotion. Saddened by the fact that the three personal belongings of Bapu — a pocket watch,a bowl and a plate —in the possession of their neighbour Geeta Mehta,the adopted daughter of Abha Gandhi — went under hammer in the US,Ahiya now wants to make sure that the letter does not fall in the wrong hands.

“I will preserve it till my last breath,” says Ahiya,who has got the letter framed to save it from the vagaries of weather and pests. Ahiya’s 35-year-old son Viral runs a small business. The Ahiyas have always led a simple lifestyle. Ahiya says: “For us,Gandhi’s letter is no less than any treasure.”

He says he wants Viral to preserve the letter carefully. “I have requested my family to donate the letter to some Gandhian trust when they are unable to preserve it further,” says Ahiya.

The November 9,1936,letter addressed to Ahiya,states that Bapu deeply appreciates his devotion to promote khadi,and wishes that Ahiya becomes a true friend of the poor. The letter ends with the date and signature of Gandhi.

Ahiya recollects that in 1936,he and his friends had vowed to weave 2 lakh taars (strings) of khadi. Ahiya weaved around 2.5 lakh taars in a record number of 67 days. When Gandhi came to know about the devotion of these young boys,he wrote the letter to Ahiya from Sevagram in Maharashtra.

Ahiya was seven years old when he first met Gandhi in 1929 at the Sabarmati Ashram as a student of the Rashtriya Shala in Rajkot.

“I greeted him by sitting on my knees,to which Bapu objected and asked me to stand straight,” recollects Ahiya. Since then Ahiya has worked only for Gandhian values.

He says he was one of those volunteers who personally saw Gandhi carry out satyagrah activities at the Rashtriya Shala against the erstwhile Rajkot state. He says Bapu kept a fast which lasted for five days.

“Everything that Bapu did and said became a source of inspiration for all of us,” says Ahiya.

PM’s promise on Dandi route

Seventy-nine years ago,Gandhi shook the foundation of the British Empire by breaking a salt tax law at Dandi. Four years ago,it was decided to develop the route of the march undertaken by Gandhi and his followers from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi as a heritage route under a Centre-funded scheme. Besides,a statue of Gandhi picking up salt was to also to be erected as part of the scheme. But,nothing has happened in the last four years.

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to the nation that the entire route will be developed as a heritage route,but nothing has been done so far,” said Tushar. “I am ashamed of myself as I am one of the members of the committee. The committee meets every six months and nothing has come out of these meetings so far. If the PM promises something to the people,he should keep his word,” he said.

— ENS

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