The story of Mahatma Gandhi's death, and Jawaharlal's bursting into tears on the radio, stunned the whole world. It was not a prepared speech. He was just speaking out of his own heart, and if tears came, what could he do? And if there was a pause, it was not his fault but his greatness. No stupid politician could have done it even if he had wanted to, because their secretaries would even have to write in the prepared speech: "Now please start weeping, cry and leave a pause so that everybody believes that it is for real."
Jawaharlal was not reading; in fact, his secretaries were very worried. One of his secretaries, later on, after many years, became a sannyasin. He confessed that, "We had prepared a speech but in fact he threw it exactly in our faces and said, 'You fools! Do you think I am going to read your speech?'"
This man, Jawaharlal, I immediately recognized as one of those very few people in the world at any moment who are so sensitive and yet in a position to be useful, not just to exploit and oppress but to serve.
I told Masto, "I'm not a politician and will never be one, but I respect Jawaharlal, not because he is the prime minister but because he can still recognize me although I am just a potentiality. Perhaps it may happen, or it may not happen at all, who knows? But his emphasis to you, to protect me from the politicians, shows that he knows more than is apparent."
This incident of Masto's disappearance, with this as his last statement, has opened many doors. I will enter at random, that is my way.
The first was Mahatma Gandhi. He was just mentioned by Jawaharlal, who wanted to compare me-and naturally - to the man he respected most. But he hesitated, because he knew a little bit of me too, just a little bit, but enough to make me a presence while he was making the statement.
Hence he hesitated. He felt as if something was not as it should be, but could not immediately find any other name. So he finally blurted out, "One day he can be another Mahatma Gandhi."
Masto protested on my behalf. He knew me far better than Jawaharlal. Hundreds of times we had discussed Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy, and I was always against. Even Masto was a little bit puzzled why I was so insistent against a man I had only seen twice, when I was just a child. I will tell you the story of that second meeting. It was suddenly interrupted, and then one never knows what comes. I never knew that this was going to come in.
I can see the train. Gandhi was traveling, and of course he traveled third class. But his "third class"
was far better than any first class possible. In a sixty-man compartment there was just him and his secretary and his wife. I think these three were the only people. The whole compartment was reserved. And it was not even an ordinary first-class compartment, because I have never seen such a compartment again. It must have been a first-class compartment, and not only first class, but a special first class. Just the name plate had been changed and it became "third class" so Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy was saved.
I was just ten. My mother - again I mean my grandmother - had given me three rupees. She said, "The station is too far and you may not be back in time for lunch, and one never knows with these trains: it may come ten hours, twelve hours late, so please keep these three rupees." In India in those days, three rupees was almost a treasure. One could live comfortably for three months on them.
She had made a really beautiful robe for me. She knew I did not like long pants; at the most I wore pyjama pants and a kurta. A kurta is a long robe which I have always loved, and slowly slowly, the pyjama has disappeared, only the robe remains. Otherwise one has not only divided the upper body and the lower body, but even made different clothes for each. Of course the higher body should have something better, and the lower body is just to be covered, that's all.
She had made a beautiful kurta for me. It was summer and in those parts of central India summer is really difficult because the hot air going into the nostrils feels as if it's on fire. In fact, only in the middle of the night can people find a little rest. It is so hot in central India that you are continuously asking for some cold water, and if some ice is available then it is just paradise. Ice is the costliest thing in those parts. Naturally, because by the time it comes from the factory, a hundred miles away, it is almost gone. It has to be rushed as quickly as possible.
My Nani said I should go to see Mahatma Gandhi if I wanted to and she prepared a very thin muslin robe. Muslin is the most artistic and the most ancient fabric too, as far as clothes are concerned.
She found the best muslin. It was so thin that it was almost transparent. At that time gold rupees had disappeared and silver rupees had taken their place. Those silver rupees were too heavy for the poor muslin pocket. Why am I saying it? - because something I'm going to say would not be possible to understand without it.
The train came as usual, thirteen hours late. Almost everybody was gone except me. You know me, I'm stubborn. Even the station master said, "Boy, you are something. Everybody has gone but you
seem ready to stay the whole night. There is no sign of the train and you have been waiting since early this morning."
To come to the station at four o'clock that morning I had to leave my house in the middle of the night. But I had not yet used those three rupees because everybody had brought so many things with them, and they were all so generous to a little boy who had come so far. They were offering me fruits, sweets, cakes and everything. So there was no question of feeling hungry. When the train finally arrived, I was the only person there, and what a person! Just a ten-year-old boy, standing by the side of the station master.
He introduced me to Mahatma Gandhi and said, "Don't think of him as just a boy. The whole day I have watched him, and I have discussed many things with him, because there was no other work.
And he is the only one who has remained. Many had come but they left long ago. I respect him because I know he would have stayed here till the last day of existence. He would not leave until the train arrived. And if the train had not arrived, I don't think he would ever have left. He would have lived here."
Mahatma Gandhi was an old man; he called me close and looked at me. But rather than looking at me, he looked at my pocket - and that put me off him forever. And he said, "What is that?"
I said, "Three rupees."
He said, "Donate them." He used to have a box with a hole in it, by his side. When you donated, you put the rupees in the hole and they disappeared. Of course he had the key, so they would appear again, but for you they had disappeared.
I said, "If you have the courage, you can take them. The pocket is there, the rupees are there, but may I ask you for what purpose you are collecting these rupees?"
He said, "For poor people."
I said, "Then it is perfectly okay." And I myself dropped those three rupees into his box. But he was the one to be surprised, for when I started leaving, I took the whole box with me.
He said, "For God's sake, what are you doing? That is for the poor!"
I said, "I have heard you already, you need not bother repeating it again. I am taking this box for the poor. There are many in my village. Please give me the key, otherwise I will have to find a thief so that he can open the lock. He is the only expert in that art."
He said, "This is strange...." He looked at his secretary. The secretary was dumb, as secretaries always are, otherwise why should they be secretaries? He looked at Kasturba, his wife, who said, "You have met your equal. You cheat everybody, now he is taking your whole box. Good! It is good, because I am tired of seeing that box always there, just like a wife."
I felt sorry for that man and left the box, saying, "No, you are the poorest man, it seems. Your secretary does not have any intelligence, nor does your wife seem to have any love for you. I cannot
take this box away - you keep it. But remember, I had come to see a mahatma, but I saw only a businessman."
That was his caste. In India, baniya, "businessman," is exactly what you mean by a Jew. India has its own Jews. They are not Jews, they are baniyas. To me, at that age, Mahatma Gandhi appeared to be only a businessman. I have spoken against him thousands of times because I don't agree with anything in his philosophy of life. But the day he was shot dead - I was seventeen - my father caught me weeping.
He said, "You, and weeping for Mahatma Gandhi? You have always been arguing against him." My whole family was Gandhian, they had all gone to jail for following his politics. I was the only black sheep, and they were, of course, all pure white. Naturally he asked, "Why are you weeping?"
I said, "I am not only weeping but I want to participate in the funeral. Don't waste my time because I have to catch the train and this is the last one that will get there on time."
He was even more astonished; he said, "I can't believe it, have you gone mad?"
I said, "We will discuss that later on. Don't be worried, I will be coming back."
And do you know that when I reached Delhi, Masto was on the platform waiting for me. He said, "I thought that however much you are against Gandhi, you still have a certain regard for the man.
That is only my feeling." He then said, "It may or may not be so, but I depended on it. And this is the only train that passes through your village. If you were to come, I knew you would have to be on this train, otherwise you would not be coming. So I came to receive you, and my feeling was right."
I said to him, "If you had spoken before about my feeling for Gandhi, I would not have argued with you, but you were always trying to convince me, and then it is not a question of feeling, it is pure argument. Either you win, or the other fellow wins. If you had mentioned only once that it is a question of feeling, I would not have even touched that subject at all, because then there would have been no argument."
Particularly - just so that it is on the record - I want to say to you that there were many things about Mahatma Gandhi that I loved and liked, but his whole philosophy of life was absolutely disagreeable to me. So many things about him that I would have appreciated remained neglected. Let us put the record right.
I loved his truthfulness. He never lied; even though in the very midst of all kinds of lies, he remained rooted in his truth. I may not agree with his truth, but I cannot say that he was not truthful.
Whatsoever was truth to him, he was full of it.
It is a totally different matter that I don't think his truth to be of any worth, but that is my problem, not his. He never lied. I respect his truthfulness, although he knows nothing of the truth - which I am continuously forcing you to take a jump into.
He was not a man who could agree with me: "Jump before you think." No, he was a businessman.
He would think a hundred times before taking a single step out of his door, what to say of a jump.
He couldn't understand meditation, but that was not his fault. He never came across a single Master who could have told him something about no-mind, and there were such people alive at the time.
Even Meher Baba once wrote a letter to Gandhi not exactly that he himself wrote; somebody must have written it for him, because he never spoke, never wrote, just made signs with his hands. Only a few people were able to understand what Meher Baba meant. His letter was laughed at by Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, because Meher Baba had said, "Don't waste your time in chanting 'Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.' That is not going to help at all. If you really want to know, then inform me and I will call you."
They all laughed; they thought it was arrogance. That's how ordinary people think, and naturally it looks like arrogance. But it is not, it is just compassion - in fact, too much compassion. Because it is too much, it looks like arrogance. But Gandhi refused by telegram saying, "Thank you for your offer, but I will follow my own way"... as if he had a way. He had none.
But there are a few things about him that I respect and love - his cleanliness. Now, you will say, "Respect for such small things...?" No, they are not small, particularly in India, where saints, so- called saints, are expected to live in all kinds of filth. Gandhi tried to be clean.
He was the cleanest ignorant man in the world. I love his cleanliness. I also love that he respected all religions. Of course, my reasons and his are different, but at least he respected all religions. Of course for the wrong reasons, because he did not know what truth is, so how could he judge what was right? - whether any religions were right; whether all were right, or whether any ever could be right. There was no way.
Again, he was a businessman, so why irritate anybody? Why annoy them? They are all saying the same thing, the KORAN, the TALMUD, the BIBLE, the GITA, and he was intelligent enough - remember the "enough," don't forget it - to find similarities in them, which is not a difficult thing for any intelligent, clever person. That's why I say "intelligent enough," but not truly intelligent. True intelligence is always rebellious, and he could not rebel against the conventional, the traditional, the Hindu or the Christian or the Buddhist.
You will be surprised to know that there was a time when Gandhi contemplated becoming a Christian because they serve the poor more than any other religion. But he soon became aware that their service is just a facade for the real business to hide behind. The real business is converting people.
Why? - because they bring power. The more people you have, the more power you have.
If you can convert the whole world to be either Christian or Jew or Hindu, then of course, those people will have more power than anybody ever had before. Alexanders will fade out in comparison.
It is a power struggle.
The moment Gandhi saw it - and I say again, he was intelligent enough to see it - he changed his idea of becoming a Christian. In fact, being a Hindu was far more profitable in India than being a Christian. In India, Christians are only one percent, so what political power could he have?
It was good that he remained a Hindu, I mean for his mahatmahood; but he was clever enough to manage and even influence Christians like C.F. Andrews, and Jainas, Buddhists, and Mohammedans like the man who became known as "the frontier Gandhi."
This man, who is still alive, belongs to a special tribe, Pakhtoons, who live in the frontier province of India. Pakhtoons are really beautiful people, dangerous too. They are Mohammedans, and when their leader became a follower of Gandhi, naturally they followed. Mohammedans of India never forgave "frontier Gandhi" because they thought he had betrayed their religion.
I'm not concerned whether he fulfilled or betrayed, what I am saying is that Gandhi himself had first thought of becoming a Jaina. His first guru was a Jaina, Shrimad Rajchandra; Hindus still feel hurt that he touched the feet of a Jaina.
Gandhi's second master - and Hindus will be even more offended - was Ruskin. It was Ruskin's great book, UNTO THIS LAST, that changed Gandhi's life. Books can do miracles. You may not have heard of the book, UNTO THIS LAST. It is a small pamphlet, and Gandhi was going on a journey when a friend gave it to him to read on the way because he had liked it very much. Gandhi kept it, not really thinking to read it, but when there was time enough he thought, "Why not at least look into the book?" And that book transformed him.
That book gave him his whole philosophy. I am against his philosophy, but the book is great. Its philosophy is not of any worth, but Gandhi was a junk-collector. He would find junk even in beautiful places. There is a type of person, you know, who even if you take them to a beautiful garden they suddenly come upon a place and show you something that should not be. Their approach is negative. And then there is a type of person who will collect only thorns - junk-collectors; they call themselves collectors of art.
If I had read that book as Gandhi did, I would not have come to the same conclusion. It is not the book that matters, it is the man who reads, chooses and collects. His collection would be totally different although we may have visited the same place. To me, his collection would be just worthless.
I don't know, and nobody knows, what he would think about my collection. As far as I know, he was a very sincere man. That's why I cannot say whether he would say, the way I am saying, "All his collection is junk." Perhaps he may, or perhaps he may not have said it - that's what I love in the man. He could appreciate even that which was alien to him and tried his best to remain open, to absorb.
He was not a man like Morarji Desai, who is completely closed. I sometimes wonder how he breathes, because at least your nose has to be open. But Mahatma Gandhi was not the same type of man as Morarji Desai. I disagree with him, and yet I know he has a few small qualities worth millions.
His simplicity... nobody could write so simply and nobody could make so much effort just to be simple in his writing. He would try for hours to make a sentence more simple, more telegraphic. He would reduce it as much as possible, and whatsoever he thought true, he tried to live it sincerely.
That it was not true is another matter, but about that what could he do? He thought it was true. I pay him respect for his sincerity, and that he lived it whatsoever the consequences. He lost his life just because of that sincerity.
With Mahatma Gandhi, India lost its whole past, because never before was anybody in India shot dead or crucified. That had not been the way of this country. Not that they are very tolerant people, but just so snobbish, they don't think anybody is worth crucifying... they are far higher.
With Mahatma Gandhi India ended a chapter, and also began a chapter. I wept, not because he had been killed - because everybody has to die, there is not much in it. And it is better to die the way he died, rather than dying on a hospital bed - particularly in India. It was a clean and beautiful death in that way. And I am not protecting the murderer, Nathuram Godse. He is a murderer, and about him I cannot say, "Forgive him because he did not know what he was doing." He knew exactly what he was doing. He cannot be forgiven. Not that I am hard on him, just factual.
I had to explain all this to my father later on, after I came back. And it took me many days because it is really a complicated relationship between me and Mahatma Gandhi. Ordinarily, either you appreciate somebody or you don't; it is not so with me - and not only with Mahatma Gandhi.
I'm really a stranger. I feel it every moment. I can like a certain thing about a person, but at the same time, there may be something standing by the side of it which I hate, and I have to decide, because I cannot cut the person in two.
I decided to be against Mahatma Gandhi, not because there was nothing in him that I could have loved - there was much, but much more was there which had far-reaching implications for the whole world. I had to decide to be against a man I may have loved if - and that "if" is almost unbridgeable - if he had not been against progress, against prosperity, against science, against technology. In fact, he was against almost everything for which I stand: more technology and more science, and more richness and affluence.
I am not for poverty, he was. I am not for primitiveness, he was. But still, whenever I see even a small ingredient of beauty, I appreciate it; and there were a few things in that man which are worth understanding.
He had an immense capacity to feel the pulse of millions of people together. No doctor can do it; even to feel the pulse of one person is very difficult, particularly a person like me. You can try feeling my pulse, you will even lose your pulse, or if not the pulse, then at least the purse, which is even better.
Gandhi had the capacity to know the pulse of the people. Of course, I am not interested in those people, but that is another thing. I'm not interested in thousands of things; that does not mean that those who are genuinely working, intelligently reaching to some depth, are not to be appreciated.
Gandhi had that capacity, and I appreciate it. I would have loved to meet him now, because when I was only a ten-year-old lad, all that he could get from me were those three rupees. Now I could have given him the whole paradise, but that was not to happen, at least in this life.