Living with Differences – Some samples from the life of Gandhi
When he was in London, his close friend thought that if Gandhi persisted in his objections to meat-eating, he would remain a duffer, and never felt at home in English society. He was afraid lest that would muddle his head, fritter his life away in experiments, forgetting his own work, and become a crank.
The friend had planned to take him to a restaurant evidently imagining that modesty would forbid any questions. And it was a very big company of diners in the midst of which both sat sharing a table between them. The first course was soup.
Gandhi wondered what it might be made of, but dared not ask the friend about it. He therefore summoned the waiter. The friend saw his gesture and sternly asked what the matter was.
With considerable hesitation Gandhi told him that he wanted to inquire if the soup was a vegetable soup. “You are too clumsy for a decent society,” he passionately exclaimed, “...If you cannot behave yourself, you had better go. Feed in some other restaurant and await me outside.” Gandhi was exactly waiting for such a delight bringing response from his friend. Out he went. There was a vegetarian restaurant close by, but it was closed. So he went without food that night.
He accompanied his friend to the theatre, but he never said a word about the scene he had created. On his part of course there was nothing to say. That was the last friendly tussle they had. It did not affect their relations in the least. Instead he could see and appreciate the love by which the efforts of a friend were actuated, and the respect for him was all the greater in spite of our differences in thought and action.
Gandhi and his wife always were at difference in many small matters. He attributed these differences with his wife to the company of a bad friend, as well. In his school days, his friend has made him a meat-eater for a stint and also aware of his weaknesses such as fear to darkness, haunted feeling of serpents, thieves and ghosts. His friend also once took him to brothel which had led him to be faithless to his wife. He had a much greater fear of disclosing all this to his young wife. Due to the influence of his friend, Gandhi had applied violence on his wife and used to quarrel with her. In his autobiography he writes, “…I was both a devoted and a jealous husband, and this friend fanned the flame of my suspicions about my wife.”
“My relations with my wife were still not as I desired. Even my stay in England had not cured me of jealousy. I continued my squeamishness and suspicious-ness in respect of every little thing, and hence all my cherished desires remained unfulfilled.” He wanted his wife to read and write but the lust of his own harmed her the most. He sent her away to her father’s house and permitted back to live with him only after long tormenting days of separation.
In the later days, Gandhi believed that differences of opinion should never mean hostility. He said "If they did, my wife and I should be sworn enemies of one another. I do not know two persons in the world who had no difference of opinion and as I am a follower of the Gita I have always attempted to regard those who differ from me with the same affection as I have for my nearest and dearest.”
Centuries ago, traveling overseas was considered as in-orthodox and was a violation of casteist feelings. When Gandhi was setting out on a voyage to London for his studies, his caste people was divided in to two groups; one faction wanted to keep him out of caste desperately while the other camp at once agreed to the fact that London education would give him a good future. He was taken by his brother to take a holy dip in the sacred river in Nasik to remove any sins to be attached out of voyage. The dis-proven group was hosted with a grand dinner. In that small age, Gandhi was not inclined to agree with all these acts to pacify the headsmen of the section which reacted furiously. But, he respected the caste regulations offering non-resistance to the souring relations with closest of family members. He remained silent obeying his brother’s arrangements. And, this silence helped him in many ways. His castemen came into help on many occasions when he was in London; later helped him in his work without ever expecting him to do anything for the caste.
Individual differences must be sunk in the face of common danger. Personal ease and personal gain should be surrendered. To all this must be added patience and self-control. If we have no charity, and no tolerance, we shall never settle our differences amicably and must therefore always submit to the arbitration of a third party.
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