The Father of the Nation needs no introduction. Perhaps one of the few individuals on this planet, whose life has been discussed and dissected in great detail, Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence echoed throughout the world. Acclaimed worldwide, the Mahatma won India freedom almost single-handedly and continues to be the father figure for all Indians and world citizens alike. Though his life and its principles were subjected to great scrutiny and deliberation, there are a few interesting facts about him, which have largely gone unnoticed. Let us explore some of them.
#10- Dietary Experiments
Vegetarian food and goat’s milk were the Mahatma’s favourite. Interestingly, his secretary Mahadev Desai used to select goats as per Gandhiji’s preference (no one knew on which basis that was done) and they were personally milked by Mr. Desai before the milk was served to Gandhiji. Mahatma Gandhi experimented with diets to see how cheaply he could live and remain healthy. He started living principally on fruit and goats’ milk and olive oil. His frugal, but meticulous eating habits were taken care of assiduously by the Sabarmati ashram inmates and his hosts, when he used to travel.
#9- No Snaps Please!
The Mahatma was one of the most photographed persons in the world in his generation. But the fact remains that, he hated to be photographed. When a lensman would ask him to pose for a picture, he would be hesitant and only after much persuasion did he use to pose for it. Out of many of Gandhiji’s photographs, only a few of them have him singularly posing for a photograph. The rest had been taken on various occasions. Those priceless snaps have captured the essence of the great man- his childlike smile used to adorn most of them!
#8- Irish Accent
Being an attorney, and a barrister at that, Mahatma Gandhi had absolute command over the English language. His orations have been lauded the world over. But, he used to speak with a slight Irish Accent. That was because, one of his first teachers was an Irishman!
Diligence in his work was also reflected in his strict adherence to punctuality. He did not own a wrist watch. He did possess a dollar watch, which had a chain attached to it. He used to tuck this priceless watch of his, in his waist and regularly referred to it and struck to his time. Just before he was assassinated, on January 30, 1948, Gandhi was upset because he was ten minutes late getting to a regular prayer meeting.
#6- Brisk Walker
Despite his ripe old age, at the peak of the Independence Movement, Mahatma Gandhi used to stick to his daily routine of walking. Perhaps, that is the reason why he was physically fit, throughout his lifetime. He used to walk so fast, holding his walking stick, that his followers had to literally trot behind him to keep up pace with the Mahatma. As a law student in London, he saved money by walking as many as eight to ten miles a day. It was primarily those long walks, he said, that “kept me practically free from illness throughout my stay in England and gave me a fairly strong body”. During his Dandi March to break the Salt Law, he at the age of 60, and 78 of his followers walked for days and reached Dandi, which was 241 miles away from Sabarmati. Voracious Walker Indeed!
#5- False Teeth
Gandhiji had lost all of his front teeth out of ageing. But, he had not lost his spirit, or the inclination to flash his engaging, toothless grin! He had a set of false teeth, which he carried in a fold of the loin cloth which he wore all the time. Each time he had his meal, he would insert the false teeth in his mouth. After he used to finish his meal, he used to take out the false teeth from his mouth and keep them back in his loincloth.
#4- The Stammer!
As a lawyer, Gandhiji used to stammer while speaking in the courtroom. He was educated at London University and became an attorney. But the first time he attempted to make a speech in court, his knees trembled, and he was so frightened that he had to sit down in confusion and defeat. This is one of the prime reasons why he was not much of a success in his initial legal profession. But, he proved his credentials to the world by bouncing back spectacularly, and now we have him as the Father of the Nation!
#3- He had his own font!
The one thing which Gandhiji ceaselessly worried about, was his handwriting! As much as he tried, he could never improve upon his bad handwriting, which he himself admitted on several occasions. His distinctive handwriting is reflected in his written correspondence with other people. This handwriting, which was a childhood habit, was one of the only things, which the Mahatma couldn’t conquer!
#2- Stitch your own clothes!
Though he wore only a simple loincloth, the Father of the Nation was quite meticulous about his clothes. He always used to dress neatly and made it a point to stitch his own clothes. His simple attire and hand charkha were treated as his identities. Through his own habits, he used to set an example in self-dependence for others to follow and that is what made him a great man.
#1- 15th August, 1947
When the nation got independence due to his dedicated efforts, he did not utilise the occasion to hog all the limelight standing on some podium and making a speech. His blood and sweat had all gone into achieving such a hard fought goal for the country and yet, he was nowhere in the scene, at New Delhi where the National Flag was unfurled by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 15th August, 1947. He was fasting at Calcutta, to make a fervent appeal to Hindus and Muslims to stop fighting among each other and for the cessation of the ugly communal riots which had broken out. His impeccable selflessness and morality stood him in high stead, throughout his celebrated life. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”