14. CLERK AND BEARER
There were yet two days
for the Congress session to begin. I had made up my mind to offer my services
to the Congress office, in order to gain some experience. So as soon as
I had finished the daily ablutions on arrival at Calcutta, I proceeded
to the Congress office.
Babu Bhupendranath Basu and
Sjt. Ghosal were the secretaries. I went to Bhupenbabu and offered my services.
He looked at me, and said: 'I have no work, but possibly Ghosalbabu might
have something to give you. Please go to him.'
So I went to him. He scanned
me and said with a smile: 'I can give you only clerical work. Will you
'Certainly,' said I. 'I am here
to do anything that is not beyond my capacity.'
'That is the right spirit, young
man,' he said. Addressing the volunteers who surrounded him, he added,
'Do you hear what this young man says?'
Then turning to me he proceeded:
'Well then, here is a heap of letters for disposal. Take that chair and
begin. As you see, hundreds of people come to see me. What am I to do?
Am I to meet them, or am I to answer these busybodies inundating me with
letters? I have no clerks to whom I can entrust this work. Most of these
letters have nothing in them, but will you please look them through. Acknowledge
those that are worth it, and refer to me those that need a considered reply.'
I was delighted at the confidence
reposed in me.
Sjt. Ghosal did not know me
when he gave me the work. Only later did he enquire about my credentials.
I found my work very easy--the
disposal of that heap of correspondence. I had done with it in no time,
and Sjt. Ghosal was very glad. He was talkative. He would talk away for
hours together. When he learnt something from me about my history, he felt
rather sorry to have given me clerical work. But I reassured him: 'Please
don't worry. What am I before you? You have grown grey in the service of
the Congress, and are as an elder to me. I am but an inexperienced youth.
You have put me under a debt of obligation by entrusting me with this work.
For I want to do Congress work, and you have given me the rare opportunity
of understanding the details.'
'To tell you the truth,' said
Sjt. Ghosal. 'that is the proper spirit. But young men of today do not
realize it. Of course I have known the Congress since its birth. In fact
I may claim a certain share with Mr. Hume in bringing the Congress into
And thus we became good friends.
He insisted on my having lunch with him.
Sjt. Ghosal used to get his
shirt buttoned by his bearer. I volunteered to do the bearer's duty, and
I loved to do it, as my regard for elders was always great. When he came
to know this, he did not mind my doing little acts of personal service
for him. In fact he was delighted. Asking me to button his shirt, he would
say, 'You see, now, the Congress secretary has no time even to button his
shirt. He has always some work to do.' Sjt. Ghosal's naivete amused me,
but did not create any dislike in me for service of that nature. The benefit
I received from this service is incalculable.
In a few days I came to know
the working of the Congress. I met most of the leaders, I observed the
movements of stalwarts like Ghokhale and Surendranath. I also noticed the
huge waste of time there. I observed too, with sorrow even then, the prominent
place that the English language occupied in our affairs. There was little
regard for economy of energy. More than one did the work of one, and many
an important thing was no one's business at all.
Critical as my mind was in observing
these things, there was enough charity in me, and so I always thought that
it might after all be impossible to do better in the circumstances, and
that saved me from undervaluing any work.