Updated: October 3, 2019 7:17:35 am
Interesting Facts About Mahatma Gandhi: On Gandhi Jayanti, here are some interesting facts about the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi as we celebrate his 150th birth anniversary.
By Mamta Nainy and Arthy Muthanna Singh
The football lover
Believe it or not, Gandhiji was a huge football buff! Although he never played the game professionally, he was a great football aficionado. During his stay in South Africa, Gandhiji formed two football clubs-one in Johannesburg and the other in Pretoria. They were both named the Passive Resisters-inspired by the political philosophy in the writings of Henry Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy.
Defeating a Satyagrahi
On one occasion, Gokhale (Congress leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Gandhi’s mentor) was unwell, so Gandhiji put him on a strict diet. Gokhale protested against this, but Gandhiji was not to be budged. He continued serving his friend light food such as fruits and boiled vegetables. Gandhiji was so strict that when they were invited over by some friends for dinner, Gandhiji declared that Gokhale could not eat anything there. On the night of the dinner, Gokhale stubbornly refused to leave the house until Gandhiji gave him the permission to eat what he wanted. Gandhiji had to give in. Gokhale laughed and said that he’d defeated a Satyagrahi by going on Satyagraha!
An impression forever
It’s said that when people met Gandhiji once, they remembered him forever! Vallabhbhai Patel was a successful lawyer. He was once playing bridge at the Ahmedabad Club when a man, wearing a weather-worn dhoti and looking like a farmer, came to his table and invited him and his friends to come and listen to his speech. Patel was not at all interested and went back to his cards. But something about this dhoti-clad man made him curious. So he went to listen to him. When he heard Gandhiji speaking, he was immediately converted to the cause of Satyagraha. He gave up his law practice, stopped wearing western clothes and worked with Gandhiji for the rest of his life. Many years later, when Gandhiji and Vallabhbhai Patel were both in the Yerwada Jail for participating in the Satyagraha movement, Patel even taught Gandhiji how to play bridge.
A poet’s present
The poet Rabindranath Tagore gave the title Mahatma to Gandhiji. Here, Tagore explains why: ‘He (Gandhi) stopped at the thresholds of the huts of the thousands of dispossessed, dressed like one of their own. He spoke to them in their own language. Here was living truth at last, and not only quotations from books. For this reason the “Mahatma”, the name given to him by the people of India, is his real name. Who else has felt like him that all Indians are his own flesh and blood? At Gandhi’s call, India blossomed forth to new greatness . . . ‘
A kurta for Gandhiji
Once, in a gathering, a little boy approached Gandhiji. He was distressed to see the way Gandhiji was dressed. Such a great man, yet he didn’t even wear a shirt, the boy wondered. ‘Why don’t you wear a kurta?’ he questioned Gandhiji. ‘Where’s the money, child?’ Gandhiji asked him gently. ‘I’m very poor and I can’t afford a kurta,’ he went on to add. The boy’s heart was filled with pity. ‘My mother makes all my clothes. I will ask her to sew a kurta for you,’ he said. ‘How many kurtas can your mother make?’ Gandhiji asked. ‘As many as you need,’ came the reply. ‘One, two, three . . .’ Gandhiji muttered for a moment and said, ‘But I’m not alone, child. I have a large family. And it wouldn’t be right for me to be the only one to wear a kurta.’ ‘Just how many kurtas do you need?’ insisted the child. ‘I have forty crore brothers and sisters,’ Gandhiji explained. ‘Till every one of them has a kurta, how can I wear one? Tell me, can your mother make kurtas for all of them?’ The boy became thoughtful at this question. But Gandhiji was right. The whole nation was his family and he was their father.
In 1921, Gandhiji was attending the All India Congress Committee session in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. After the session, there was a meeting for which people gathered in huge numbers. A dais was erected on a raised mound and the wooden pillars on the dais held up the canopy. Gandhiji was on the dais and he started the meeting. Suddenly, a cow got into the crowd. There was a stampede and people began to rush towards the dais. It was impossible to control the crowd. With people trying to climb on to the mound, it looked as though the wooden pillars would collapse and Gandhiji would get crushed under the canopy. All of a sudden, Gandhiji jumped on a chair and eyed the crowds that were thronging the dais from all sides. He jumped from chair to chair, got down where he could see the crowd was the thinnest and jostled his way to safety. He then stopped a passing vehicle and got to the place where he was staying. When his associates came back, they were surprised to see Gandhiji in his room, calmly answering the letters that were awaiting a response.
A diet plan for Netaji
Gandhiji was known for his experiments with food. He also wrote books on food and health like Diet and Diet Reform, The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism and Key to Health. Apart from his followers, Gandhiji often advised others on what to eat. In 1936, Gandhiji made a diet chart for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, one of his fiercest political opponents. In this chart, Gandhiji wrote: ‘Leafy vegetables must be taken, better if taken as salads. Potatoes and starchy tubers should be taken sparingly. Garlic and onion in a raw state are strongly recommended in the West. I take raw garlic regularly for blood pressure. It is the best antitoxin for internal use. Dates are fine food for a healthy stomach, but raisins are more digestible. Tea and coffee I do not consider essential to health’.
Every minute counts
This happened when Gandhiji was travelling in the toy train in Darjeeling. As the train was moving up the hill, suddenly, the engine got detached from the coaches. So, the engine went ahead while the coaches slid backwards. There was a huge panic and the people inside the train were terrified. While all this was going on, Gandhiji was calmly dictating letters to his secretary. After a while, the secretary said, ‘Bapu, do you know what’s happening? We are hanging between life and death! We don’t even know whether we will be alive the next moment or not!’ Do you know what Mahatma Gandhi said in reply? He said, ‘If we die, we die. But if we are saved, we’d have wasted so much time! So, please take the dictation.’ With trembling hands, Gandhiji’s secretary took the dictation. And, well, they did get saved after all!
(Excerpted with permission from Gandhi in 150 Anecdotes by Mamta Nainy and Arthy Muthanna Singh, published by Puffin Books.)
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