When Mahatma Gandhi obliged a barber with a certificate
LISTENING TO stories about legendary figures, especially those who have impressed millions of people belonging to several generations across the globe, is a pleasant experience for anyone. And, if these stories are narrated first hand, they become much more interesting.india Updated: Jun 04, 2006 10:27 IST
LISTENING TO stories about legendary figures, especially those who have impressed millions of people belonging to several generations across the globe, is a pleasant experience for anyone. And, if these stories are narrated first hand, they become much more interesting.
The HT Allahabad Live chose PD Tandon, former Minister for Higher Education, Cultural Affairs, Scientific Research and Information, for the very first interview for its column 'Reminiscences.' The interview with Tandon focused on his association with Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of liberation, truth and non-violence.
Author of over four-dozen books and a nonagenarian Tandon had played a significant role in freedom movement right since his student life. Originally, a resident of Shahjahanpur, he had moved to Allahabad to obtain higher education at a time when top leaders and revolutionaries used to assemble here to chalk out strategy to free India from the shackles of slavery. A born patriot, Tandon became correspondent of the 'National Herald' from Allahabad when he was doing graduation. The newspaper was founded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Tandon used to visit Anand Bhawan, the residence of Nehru everyday and remain there for hours to cover stories about freedom movement.
When asked about his experiences and association with Mahatma Gandhi, he said: Anand Bhawan was a hub of activities during the 'Jange-Azadi' (freedom struggle) and Mahatma Gandhi often visited Allahabad to guide and advise the leaders and members of the movement. He commanded a great respect and the people were highly influenced by Gandhiji.
I used to meet Gandhiji at Anand Bhawan. He was a humour-loving person and used to pay attention to the people who sought his opinion or guidance. I cannot forget Gandhiji's humility and simplicity. When I wrote a book 'Nehru Your Neighbour' and requested Gandhiji to write a foreword for it, he agreed to oblige.
He went back to Wardha but did not send the foreword despite receiving my several letters in this connection.
Since I failed to understand the reason, I discussed the issue with Acharya JB Kripalani. He assured me that he would talk to Gandhiji during his Wardha visit.
And Gandhiji admitted before Kriplani that he was not sending the foreword because Nehru's sister Krishna Hutheesingh was opposing it. However, when Kripalani insisted, Gandhiji admitted his mistake and not only sent the foreword but also the words of regret for the delay in a separate letter.
Recalling another interesting instance related to Mahatma Gandhi, Tandon said: "Once Gandhiji visited Allahabad and as usual stayed at Anand Bhawan where a room was always reserved for him. The next morning, a barber came to give him a shave. After doing his job, the barber asked Gandhiji whether he was happy with his (barber's) service.
Getting Gandhiji's affirmative reply, he requested for a certificate. Gandhiji told the barber that good work did not require any certificate. However, the barber insisted and Gandhiji gave him a certificate. The barber got the certificate framed and adorned the wall of his shop.
Once I went to the shop of the same barber and saw the certificate. I requested the barber to lend me the certificate for getting its photograph, but he refused to oblige me. Later, the barber agreed to give the certificate for some time when Dr Mitra, a resident of Swaraj Bhawan, persuaded the barber.
And, that story with picture helped me to earn a lot of money since I was not only a regular correspondent of the 'National Herald' but also allowed to contribute to many other newspapers.
Once, Gandhiji was travelling by train and during his stopover at Allahabad station a huge crowd gathered around his compartment. It was quite difficult to reach near him. But, Mridula Sarabhai, who was accompanying Gandhiji, called me in and I found an opportunity to talk to Gandhiji. The most exhilarating thing for me was that Gandhiji asked Mridula, "National Herald wallah Tandon hai naa?" I felt myself lucky that the person, who was adored world-wide, knew me by name.