17. A MONTH WITH GOKHALE—I
From the very first day
of my stay with him, Gokhale made me feel completely at home. He treated
me as though I were his younger brother; he acquainted himself with all
my requirements, and arranged to see that I got all I needed. Fortunately
my wants were few, and as I had cultivated the habit of self-help, I needed
very little personal attendance. He was deeply impressed with my habit
of fending for myself, my personal cleanliness, perseverance, and regularity,
and would often overwhelm me with praise.
He seemed to keep nothing private
from me. He would introduce me to all the important people that called
on him. Of these the one who stands foremost in my memory is Dr. (now Sir)
P. C. Ray. He lived practically next door and was a very frequent visitor.
This is how he introduced Dr.
Ray: 'This is Professor Ray, who having a monthly salary of Rs. 800, keeps
just Rs. 40 for himself and devotes the balance to public purposes. He
is not, and does not want to get, married.'
I see little difference between
Dr. Ray as he is today, and as he used to be then. His dress used to be
nearly as simple as it is, with this difference of course, that whereas
it is Khadi now, it used to be Indian mill-cloth in those days. I felt
I could never hear too much of the talks between Gokhale and Dr. Ray, as
they all pertained to public good or were of educative value. At times
they were painful too, containing, as they did, strictures on public men.
As a result, some of those whom I had regarded as stalwart fighters began
to look quite puny.
To see Gokhale at work was as
much a joy as an education. He never wasted a minute. His private relations
and friendships were all for public good. All his talks had reference only
to the good of the country and were absolutely free from any trace of untruth
or insincerity. India's poverty and subjection were matters of constant
and intense concern to him. Various people sought to interest him in different
things. But he gave every one of them the same reply: 'You do the thing
yourself. Let me do my own work. What I want is freedom for my country.
After that is won, we can think of other things. Today that one thing is
enough to engage all my time and energy.'
His reverence for Ranade could
be seen every moment. Ranade's authority was final in every matter, and
he would cite it at every step. The anniversary of Ranade's death (or birth,
I forget which) occured during my stay with Gokhale, who observed it regularly.
There were with him then, besides myself, his friends Professor Kathavate
and a Sub-Judge. He invited us to take part in the celebration, and in
his speech he gave us his reminiscences of Ranade. He compared incidentally
Ranade, Telang, and Mandlik. He eulogized Telang's charming style and Mandlik's
greatness as a reformer. Citing an instance of Mandlik's solicitude for
his clients, he told us an anecdote as to how once, having missed his usual
train, he engaged a special train so as to be able to attend the court
in the interest of his client. But Ranade, he said, towered above them
all, as a versatile genius. He was not only a great judge, he was an equally
great historian, economist, and reformer. Although he was a judge, he fearlessly
attended the Congress, and everyone had such confidence in his sagacity
that they unquestioningly accepted his decisions. Gokhale's joy knew no
bounds, as he described these qualities of head and heart which were all
combined in his master.
Gokhale used to have a horse-carriage
in those days. I did not know the circumstances that had made a horse-carriage
a necessity for him, and I remonstrated with him: 'Can't you make use of
the tramcar in going about from place to place? Is it derogatory to a leader's
Slightly pained, he said, 'So
you also have failed to understand me! I do not use my Council allowances
for my own personal comforts. I envy your liberty to go about in tramcars,
but I am sorry I cannot do likewise. When you are the victim of as wide
a publicity as I am, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to
go about in a tramcar. There is no reason to suppose that everything that
the leaders do is with a view to personal comfort. I love your simple habits.
I live as simply as I can, but some expense is almost inevitable for a
man like myself.'
He thus satisfactorily disposed
of one of my complaints, but there was another which he could not dispose
of to my satisfaction.
'But you do not even go out
for walks,' said I. 'Is it surprising that you should be always ailing?
Should public work leave no time for physical exercise?'
'When do you ever find me free
to go out for a walk?' he replied.
I had such a great regard for
Gokhale that I never strove with him. Though this reply was far from satisfying
me, I remained silent. I believed then, and I believe even now, that no
matter what amount of work one has, one should always find some time for
exercise, just as one does for one's meals. It is my humble opinion that,
far from taking away from one's capacity for work, it adds to it.