Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service
Most people know that Mahatma Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. The day is celebrated all over India as well as in several parts of the world as Gandhi Jayanti — a day to remember the concepts of truth and non violence that this great soul (Mahatma) practiced all his life. Unfortunately this man of peace and non violence died a violent death on 30 January 1948 when he was shot dead by a man who wrongly felt that Gandhi was partial to Muslims in India.
Few people outside India would know that this day is also the day when another simple and self effacing man Lal Bahadur Shastri was born in 1904. From his simple beginnings Shastri rose to become the second Prime Minister of India when Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964. Unfortunately Shastri had a very short stint in this important office. He had gone to Tashkent in Uzbekistan to negotiate with his Pakistan counterpart. But on January 11, 1966, he suffered a stroke and died in Tashkent itself.
Although there is a generation gap between the two leaders, there are some unusual similarities. I will only illustrate one common element of simplicity and truthfulness. Gandhi was a prolific writer; he used to write with a pencil. One morning when he awoke he found his small pencil missing. On enquiring he was told by his son that since the pencil had been used often and was very small, he had taken it away and replaced it by a new one. Gandhi felt otherwise and felt unhappy; he felt he could write with it some more. Ultimately the small pencil was found and brought before him so that Gandhi could use it for some more time and not waste it.
Shashtri had never gone outside India. He had few clothes and no woolen jacket. When he had to go Europe during the time he was in Nehru’s cabinet he was told that he needed a jacket to ward off the cold weather in his proposed trip. But he did not have a jacket and due to his simple life style he did not wish to buy a new one. Ultimately Nehru came to his rescue and loaned him his jacket so that Shastri could travel abroad without purchasing a new one.
Like Gandhi, Shastri also preferred travelling by train not in a first class cabin but in a third class coach. Why? To remain in touch with ordinary men and women. Such are the attitudes and practices of great souls.