This incident occurred when Gandhiji was practising law in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. His office was three miles from his house. One day a colleague of his, Mr Polak, asked Gandhiji’s thirteen-year old son, Manilal to fetch a book from the office. But Manilal completely forgot till Mr Polak reminded him that evening.
Gandhiji heard about it and sent for Manilal. He said, “Son, I know the night is dark and the way is long and lonely. You will have to walk nearly six miles but you gave your word to Mr Polak. You promised to fetch his book. Go and fetch it now.”
Ba and the family were upset when they heard of Gandhiji’s decision. The punishment seemed far too severe. Manilal was only a child, the night was dark and the way lonely. He had only forgotten a book after all. It could be brought the next day. This was what they all felt, but no one had the courage to say anything. They knew that once Gandhiji’s mind was made up, nobody could change it.
At last Kalyan Bhai plucked up courage. “I’ll fetch the book,” he offered. Gandhiji was gentle but firm, “But the promise was made by Manilal.” “Very well, Manilal will go but let me go with him,” Kalyan Bhai pleaded. Gandhiji agreed to this and Manilal set off with Kalyan Bhai to fetch the book. The kind and gentle Gandhiji could be firm as a rock at times. He saw that Manilal kept his word and did as he had promised.