A Story from Gandhiji’s Life-5

This incident occurred in Noakhali. After the Hindu-Muslim riots Gandhiji toured the area on foot to reassure and comfort the people. He would set off from a village soon after dawn and arrive at the next village after sunset. On arrival he would first attend to his work then he would take a bath.

Gandhiji used a rough stone to clean his feet. Miraben had given this stone to him many years ago and Gandhiji had kept it carefully ever since. He took it with him everywhere.

One evening after they had arrived at a village and Manu was getting Gandhiji’s bath ready, she noticed that the stone was missing. She looked everywhere but could not find it.

She told Gandhiji that the stone was lost and added, “It must have been left behind at the weaver’s where we stayed yesterday. What should I do now?” Gandhiji thought for a moment. Then he said, “Go and fetch the stone. If you suffer once, you’ll not forget another time.” “Can I take someone with me?” Manu asked. “Why?” questioned Gandhiji.

Manu was silent. She did not want to admit that she was frightened to go alone. The road to the village lay through forests of betelnut and coconut and it was easy to lose one’s way. Besides, Manu was barely sixteen years old and she had never gone anywhere alone. But she could not think of an answer. So Manu took the path they had taken earlier in the day. Carefully following the old footprints she managed to reach the village and find the weaver’s house.

The old woman who lived there recognised her and welcomed her warmly. Tired and rather irritated Manu told her why she had come. But how was the old woman to have known that that bit of stone was so valuable? She had thrown it away with the rubbish. They both began to search for it. At last much to Manu’s joy they found it.

Many had left the house at 7.30 in the morning. By the time she returned it was past one in the afternoon. She had walked nearly fifteen miles. Worn out, hungry and irritated she went straight to Gandhiji and put the stone in the lap. Then she burst into tears. “This stone was a real test for you,” Gandhiji told her gently. “Do you know that this stone has been with me for the last twenty-five years. It has gone with me everywhere, from jails to mansions. I can easily get another stone like it, but I wanted you to learn that it is bad to be careless.” “I’ve never prayed as hard as I did today,” said Manu. “I want to make women brave and fearless”, Gandhiji said. “Today not only you but I too learnt a lesson.”

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