Sunday, October 1, 2006
Sketch of Gandhi

The value of reading Harijan, a weekly journal started by Gandhiji in 1933 is that it carries his deepest thoughts and we get to know what he wrote in context. I came across this piece written by him during his visit to Malabar

One of my most treasured possessions is the nineteen volumes set, Harijan – A Journal of Applied Gandhism (Garland Publishing Inc. New York and London, 1973). The value of reading Harijan, a weekly journal started by Gandhiji in 1933 is that it carries his deepest thoughts and we get to know what he wrote in context. I came across this piece written by him during his visit to Malabar, the place I hail from:

It has been my privilege to witness many touching and soul-stirring scenes during a busy life packed with a variety of rich experiences. But at the moment of writing this, I cannot recall a scene more touching than that of the Harijan cause. I had just finished my speech at Badagara. In it I had made a reasoned appeal to the women present for jewellery. I had finished speaking and was selling the presents received when gently walked up to the platform Kaumudi, a girl 16 years old. She took out one bangle and asked me if I would give my autograph. I was preparing to give it, when off came the other bangle. She had only one on each hand. I said, 'You need not give me both. I shall give you the autograph for one bangle only.'

She replied by taking off her necklace. This was no easy performance. It had to be disengaged from her long plait of hair. But the Malabar girl that she is, she had not false modesty about performing the whole process before a wondering public counting several thousands of men and women. 'But have you the permission of your parents?' I asked.

There was no answer. She had not yet completed her renunciation. Her hands automatically went to her ears and out came her jewelled earrings amid the ringing cheers of the public, whose expression of joy was no longer to be suppressed. I asked her again whether she had her parents' consent to the sacrifice. Before I could extract any answer from the shy girl, someone told me that her father was present at the meeting, that he was himself helping me by bidding for the addresses I was auctioning and that he was as generous as his daughter in giving to worthy causes.

I reminded Kaumudi that she was not to have the ornaments replaced. She resolutely assented to the condition. As I handed her the autograph I could not help prefacing it with the remark, 'Your renunciation is a truer ornament than the jewellery you have discarded.' May her renunciation prove to have been an earnest of her being true Harijan Sevika.

M. K. Gandhi, (Harijan, Friday, January, 19, 1934)

Kaumudi

Kaumudi today: Gandhi's transforming touch

These words of Gandhiji made me wonder: Did Kaumudi keep her promise never to wear jewellery and to serve the cause of Harijans and the underprivileged?

My search ended when I discovered how that one encounter with Gandhiji had transformed Kaumudi's life, who by a happy coincidence is an aunt of my daughter-inlaw. Coming from a noble lineage, she devoted her life to teaching and serving the underprivileged children and lives to this day a simple life devoid of all ostentation.

V. C. Viswanathan