Gandhi’s Love For Children

(The author, Mr. Tandon, being associated with Gandhi has written this short and enlightening article about Gandhi’s love for children. The anecdotes given in this article were witnessed by the author and hence hold greater importance than that which is written on the basis of hearsay. We realize that Gandhi truly believed that children were “flowers of God’s garden” and accepted them as they were. He was able to get down to their level and play with them whilst at the same time taught them values. Today’s method of ‘learn while you play’ was in fact being practised by Gandhi half a century ago.)

Gandhiji was a poet of patriotism and prophet of humanity. It was said about him that whenever he walked, it was a pilgrimage and wherever he sat it acquired the sanctity of a temple. Children from all over the world wrote to him. It was he who aspired to wipe out every tear from every eye and it was he who had said that “God dare not appear before the starving man except in the shape of bread.’ He was the greatest lover of children in the world. He became a child in the company of children. He was a giant amongst men.

Gandhiji’s love for children was deep and abiding. It was no ordinary love that most of us have for them in more or less degree. It was unique in its depth and astonishing in its hilarity.

Whenever he was with children, he became a child. He doted on them. They boxed his ears, they climbed on his shoulders they called him ‘mad’. They told him that he was ‘brainless’ and they put all sorts of funny questions to him, but he thoroughly enjoyed them and he fully relaxed in their company. During play and laughter too, he taught them many things. He considered them ‘flowers of God’s garden’.

Once he had told King George V that ‘children are my life’. One day in Kingsley hall, London, some British children called him uncle Gandhi. They were extremely happy in his company. As a token of their affection for him, they sent him toys and sweets. Gandhiji was extremely happy when he received these presents, but he had no time to thank them for their love and kindness, because he was in a great hurry to return to India. When he reached his country he was arrested, however the little ones who had played him in London and gave him presents were very much in his thoughts. He did not forget them and longed to write to them and thank them for their lovely gifts. When he got an opportunity to write to them, he wrote the following from jail:-

Dear Little Friends,

I often think of you and the bright answers you gave to my questions when that afternoon we sat together. I never got time whilst I was at Kingsley Hall to send you a note thanking you for the gifts to the Ashram children. But I was never able to reach the Ashram.

My Love to you all.

Yours whom you call Gandhi.”

Those children who had the privilege of playing with Gandhi or had the occasion to see him were really lucky. Men like Gandhiji are seldom born. They come to this world with some message that endures and guides mankind.

Bapu always heartily welcomed children’s company. One day, Smt. Indira Gandhi went to see him with her son Rajiv. The Mahatma was delighted and observed. “It is good that now you are going to take possession of my mind. My head was filled with thorny problems in the company of several people who came to see me and I feel fagged”.

Gandhiji readily admitted his mistakes. Once due to Acharya Kripalani’s persuasion on my behalf, he agreed to write a foreword to my book, ‘Nehru Your Neighbour’. For months I reminded him about it but I neither got the foreword, nor any reply. I told Acharya Kripalani about it and he one day asked Bapu the reason for it. He said that Nehru’s younger sister had advised him not to write the forward. The Acharya said, “You should have first asked me about it and not lent your ears to someone else in this matter!” Bapu realised that Acharya Kriplani was right. Promptly he sent me a nice foreword and a kind personal letter.

He said, “Brother Tandon – I am sorry that I could not send anything for your book earlier. One reason was that I am short of time and the other was my unwillingness to write anything. But how was it possible for me to refuse to write anything on brother Jawaharlal ? Now I only hope that my foreword will not reach you too late.”

Yours

M. K. Gandhi

Once a child called Gandhiji mad, to the great embarrassment of his parents, when he was eating some fruit. Bapu was amused and asked the child to tell him why he (Bapu) was mad. The little boy said that his mother had called him mad once when he ate something and did not share it with others. “You are eating alone, and that is why you are mad,” the child declared. Gandhiji told him that he was right and he offered some fruit to him.

Gandhiji was a unique man of his age. This conviction will continue to grow as long as his writings survive and little stories and anecdotes of his deep love for man are narrated to us.

When Gandhi was assassinated, it was once again realized with a tremendous shock, that ‘it was dangerous to be too good’. Each one of us registered in our hearts the death of a part of ourselves, and the world seemed a vast cremation ground, a wasteland of burning hearts’.

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