XVII. 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 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
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 Prof. 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) occurred during my stay
with Gokhale, who observed it regularly. There were with
him then, besides myself, his friends Prof. 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, an
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 so 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?'
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 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.