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Why little things matter

india Updated: Oct 12, 2006 20:37 IST
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There IS a story about Gandhiji which, knowing him as we do, might well be true. It seems that he was standing in the open compartment door of a speeding train, immersed in his thoughts, when one of his chappals slipped from his foot and fell on the receding ground below.

The moment he realized it was gone, he dropped the other one, too. When someone asked him why, he replied: "One chappal is of no use to me, nor to him who finds the dropped one. So, he might as well have the full pair. Then at least one of us will be able to wear it."

Even when preoccupied with the nation’s problems or battling with the world’s mightiest empire, Gandhiji did not forget the small things. He would still worry about the unshod man, or take leave from deliberations of national importance because a goat had to be fed or bathed. His greatness lies in the fact that no gesture or deed, however small, was too insignificant for him as long as someone could benefit from it. In this troublesome cosmic scheme of things, goodness survives in the human heart because of ordinary men and women doing such little good deeds.

A corporate desk calendar I once received had a little parable on it. It was about someone walking along a beach in Mexico who saw another man repeatedly picking up things and hurling them into the sea.

Going closer, he saw him picking up starfish that had been washed ashore and throwing them into the water. Puzzled, he asked the man why. Said the fellow: "I am throwing these starfish back into the ocean because they came in with the high tide and now the tide has receded, they will die here, stranded."

"I understand," the curious man said, "but there must be thousands of starfish on every beach. You can’t possibly make a difference."

The other smiled, lifted yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, said, "Made a difference to that one!"

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