For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment
Devdas Gandhi was youngest son of Mahatma Gandhi. He loved him very much. He taught him everything. He gave him suggestion in every difficulty. He supported in every movement to his father.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 26 March 1932 that I received today permission to write to fellow-prisoners, and hence this letter. I think of you every day. Mahadev has been brought here. All three of us are well. More after I hear from you in reply to this. Give me news about your health, your reading and your companions.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 24 April 1932 that you have proved your opinion of yourself to be wrong. For, your letter just received is, though not too short, not very long either. But it will do.
I used to get news of you, though I did not hear from you directly. It is good that you have got quiet there. It was necessary for you to get used to it. Since you are keeping good health, I do not worry on your account. I certainly wish that you should master Urdu. It is ten minutes to two now.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 11 May 1932 that According to me, this delay is not too long in the case of a prisoner. After all, what is the value of his time? 13/12 rupees per hour, for I think daily expense on account of a prisoner comes to Rs. 13. I think personally that the weakness of my hands is a symptom of old age. Don’t most old people suffer from some weakness or other? We should remember that this we knees was there even when I used to take milk. Had it not been so, I would have perhaps got alarmed and resumed taking milk. Has any of my experiments done me harm in the long run? The only such case which I can remember is that of the last experiment, that is, Gopalrao’s experiment.1 I was hasty in starting it and waited too long before giving it up. I persisted in it even though people were falling ill one after another. From the economic point of view the experiment was a good one and Gopalrao had great faith in it. Excepting this one, my impression about all other experiments is that I had benefited from them physically and spiritually. This time I am wide awake. I don’t attach too much importance to the experiment. After I am released from jail, I think I shall have to take milk and, therefore, here I wish to do without it only if I can do so without harm. There is not the slightest cause for worrying about my health, as I have maintained my weight.
I will certainly go through the Urdu books which you have mentioned, when they come. This time I had intended to take up Urdu at a somewhat later stage since I wished to do some other reading before. But Raihana began writing a few Urdu sentences in her letters to me and I thought that it would be good to reply to her in Urdu. By and by I appointed her to be my Urdu teacher, and asked her to send me the corrections in the Urdu I wrote every week. Of course this cannot satisfy me. Hence I took out from the jail library here Urdu readers and began to study them. As my Urdu handwriting is very bad, I have now procured a copy-book and some tracing paper. I am now trying to see how deep I can go into this study. On the one hand is this Urdu, and on the other the Magan spinning-wheel. I am now giving my whole self to the Magan wheel since I had already decided to please Prabhudas and to test and utilize his abilities, and since to add to this the doctors here insisted on my giving complete rest to the left hand, which was possible only if I drew the yarn with the right hand and rotated the wheel with my foot. I find it difficult to move the wheel with the foot and to draw the yarn with the right hand. But I am confident that I shall succeed. Some time ago I felt that I had acquired the necessary control, but lost it, today again I feel that I have partly regained it, though spinning in this manner takes quite a lot of time.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 16 June 1932 that I did fear some such thing. I had a feeling the day before yesterday that there would be bad news from somewhere. And then I got your wire yesterday. I immediately asked Vallabhbhai what the wire contained, and on opening it he read the news about your illness. It was not likely that you would escape fever in Gorakhpur. But I assume that it will have left you before you get this letter. I think that, according to your nature, you would like to be surrounded by friends and relations at such a time. You would deserve such care because you have looked after many people in their illness. But I myself am a hard-hearted man. I, therefore, would not like to ask anybody from the western part to run up to Gorakhpur. And if I did feel such a wish, I would suppress it. If I don’t practice my philosophy on you, on who else should I? I wish that you should understand this nature of mine and bear it cheerfully. God is your relations and your friends and your parents; all others are so only in name. Themselves helpless creatures, how can they help you? Instead of looking to such cyphers for protection and support, seek the protection of the Universal Power. He will send you such help as He wills. It is my firm faith that, wherever you are, you will draw your neighbours towards you. There is no reason to believe that it will be otherwise in jail.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 23 June 1932 that Harilal’s glass is always red. He goes about drunk and begs from people. He holds out threats to Bali and Manu. Even in this, his motive is to force Bali to give him money. To me also he has written letters holding out very insolent threats. He has threatened that he will file a suit against Bali for control of Manu. I don’t feel hurt by all this. I only feel pity for him, and smile too. There are many other people like him. What about them? Shouldn’t I feel for them as much as I do for Harilal? They all obey their nature. What else can they do? If we behave in the right manner towards Harilal, he will come round in the end. I think I am not a little responsible for what he is. When he was conceived, I lived in ignorance. The years when he grew up were a time of self-indulgence. I certainly did not drink, but Harilal has made up for that. I sought my pleasure only with one woman. Harilal seeks his with many. It is only a difference of degree, not of kind. I should therefore, atone for my sinful life, and that means self-purification.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 29 June 1932 that we here have boundless patience, and do not mind if a couple or more years pass before our effort is crowned with success. We will only claim so much more interest. Rajaji seems to be rather prejudiced against American writers. I have read nothing of Hardy or Zola.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 17 July 1932 that Received your letter dated 30th June, written on the back of the Urdu letter of Hamid Ali, yesterday noon, that is, on the 16th July, Nowadays my post has become very irregular. It comes to me after taking a big round. It must be said to be my good fortune that I get it in spite of that what rights a prisoner has? Imprisonment means absence of rights. As I take the meaning of imprisonment to be this I can keep my mind steady. Similar is the case with visits. For the most part you will be able to see Mahadev. But there cannot be prepared a timetable as you think. Either you should take the risk of not being granted an interview or you should give up the desire of visiting him. I would have been glad no doubt to see you and Lakshmi if I could, but the step taken by me certainly seems to be proper. Ba will feel the shock the most. But she is born to endure shocks. All those who form or keep connections with me must pay a heavy price. It can be said that Ba has to pay the heaviest. I have this much satisfaction
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 21 July 1932 that the telegram from Hanumanprasadji today causes anxiety. It seems that there is an attack of fever again. It is stated in the telegram that the attack is a mild one. Hence I believe that by the time you get this letter you must have completely recovered. You must have received the letter I wrote before this. Still there is no certainty about the post dispatched by me. It seems that my letters take many days to get through (the scrutiny). The letters are being nicely scrutinized. You must be certainly careful of your health. Whatever the climate, I believe that it can be kept under control by effecting suitable changes in the diet. Write to me why there was a set-back again.
It seems that I get my post regularly again. We all three are happy. Vallabhbhai is learning Sanskrit like an industrious schoolboy. He devotes many hours to its study. He has finished two parts and is reading the third. There will be no wonder if he finishes all the 24 parts within four or five months at this rate. Yet, it will be considered a wonder and a miracle if he begins to understand the Mahabharata and the Ramayana in original.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 13 September 1932 that the country now knows about my intention to go on an indefinite fast. I assume that the news has not upset you in the slightest degree. One does not get such a unique opportunity by seeking it. It comes rarely, and only to a fortunate man. I believe that such an opportunity has come to me, and anybody who believes that he has got a unique opportunity would welcome it heartily. Hence you need not feel agitated. If you meet Ghanshyamdas in Calcutta, explain this to him. It will not be necessary to explain to Malaviyaji. I believe that he must be shedding tears of joy at the news and that every moment his heart must be blessing me. Tell him this. If other friends feel sad or depressed, you should show courage and persuade them not to give way to such thoughts. It will be the duty of those who appreciate my step to address themselves more earnestly to the task, to awaken the people to the evil of untouchability and to organize public opinion.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 2 February 1933 that I read your speeches in Hindi and English. You have expressed yourself well in both languages. Every speech is short and full of thoughts and most of the suggestions are useful. It is difficult to say to what degree the reform of Hindi is possible. Many languages have irregular genders for inanimate objects and this cannot be changed. There must have been some rule originally behind this phenomenon. The difficulty is felt only by those to whom the language is not their mother tongue, and should be accepted as unavoidable. The reform suggested by you involves a change in the basic structure of the language and seems impossible, at present at any rate. There has been no instance of a language which was simplified by a deliberate effort in such manner. A common script for all the languages would probably save some effort in learning them. But this is a question which concerns the science of the study of languages. I wanted to refer only to the beauty of expression in your speeches.
Have you studied Tamil and acquired any proficiency in it? We could not talk much and you did not come again. But don’t mind. You have congenial company at present and so I do not worry on your account.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 12 February 1933 that I got your letter. Write to me when you get time and let me know your reasons for thinking that the reforms suggested by you in Hindi are possible. There is Dr. Sharma’s Sun-ray Hospital in Karol Bagh. Amtussalaam has been admitted there. She has great faith in Dr. Sharma. Find some time and get acquainted with him, and learn from him whatever appeals to you. Give me some details about the hospital. See Amtussalaam and inquire after her health. I hope you remember about the small Urdu dictionary. I will remember what you have written about Rajaji. Do not be lazy in writing to me. Send me Rajaji’s and your comments on Harijan.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 22 July 1933 that I got your postcard. The decision to sacrifice the Ashram has been made. I think we did have a discussion whether or not you should come here. You may now do what you think well.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 25 November 1934 that I am not sure when I shall read Malkani’s articles. You should not- entrust such work to me. Maybe, my capacity to work has decreased or the burden of work has increased. Whatever it is, I am writing this after getting up at 2.15 in the morning. I daily get up at this hour and start work. I might be going to sleep at about 9 o’ clock. I do wish to go over there but my going depends upon. The developments in Uttambhai’s case. Soon many people will gather here.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 24 August 1935 that I am not surprised by your wire nor am I worried. I had already seen your irregular way of living when I was there.1 I did not like it at all. At the moment you are alone in the office. Moreover you have to look after Lakshmi and you eat at irregular hours. Ba and Manu are also there and Tara is ill. All this is very much beyond your strength.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 26 August 1935 that I have sent a wire today. I was expecting a telegram from you but none has come. What can you do? And who would think of sending a telegram from there? It is good that I have a detailed letter from Ba. She writes and says that you have become panicky. But why should you be alarmed because of the illness? When we know the ultimate result and are prepared for it, why should you feel frightened? But there is still plenty of time before you take leave. You have to render a lot of service through your body.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 3 October 1936 that I see your pain in Ba’s letter.1 I was already aware of hers. But what is unavoidable you should not worry over2. Besides, no one can say what part, knowingly or unknowingly, I or we both parents might have played in Harilal’s fall, and to what extent. The saying ‘the quality is in the seed’ contains a whole Shastra. There is a similar proverb in Gujarati, “As the banyan so its fruit, as the father so the son.” When such thoughts occur, I don’t feel like finding fault with Harilal. What is the use of being angry with me? I know how lustful I was then. I do not know anything else. But who can understand the inscrutable ways of God? We can only deduce principles from well-known illustrations.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 10 October 1936 that
I am glad to learn that the whole line of thought has been Ba’s own. She certainly has that power, and the letter is indeed a good one. Dr. Mahmud writes a long letter which I am enclosing. Tear it up. Am I to understand from the rather long letter you wrote that you can now write fairly well?
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 12 November 1936 that The enclosed is for Manudi. Send her here if you do not particularly need her there. Read my letter to her. The accompanying letter will tell you if you do not already know of Harilal’s latest exploit1. I do not attach any value to his letter. It seems he is not getting any money from there either. Maybe, too, he is tired of the whole thing. After I had torn up the letter it occurred to me that probably you had not come across it, so I decided to send you the pieces.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 27 August 1938 that I could not spare the time to reply to you. I also have formed the same impression about Khan Sahib that you say you have. However, he is so suspicious that one cannot know when he might do what. But being a man of God, he remains unharmed by mistakes and perhaps he may live his whole life in this way and remain blameless. He suffers from mental lethargy and so does not know what to do in particular circumstances. And, moreover, he is simple-hearted. He would believe everything that a man whom he has come to trust told him, would not believe anything said by anyone against whom he is prejudiced, and get angry with those that did. Even so, he is a saintly person, and so one does not mind his faults.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 30 November 1938 that you did well in sending a copy of the report of Viceroy’s talk with Bharatan. It is difficult to say how this catastrophe will end. Also read and think over what I have written about the States. As Anantrai has intervened, the Rajkot matter will perhaps be settled. But how will that help? That will involve all the States. And that is what should happen.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 5 December 1938 that doesn’t hesitate to write whenever necessary. You did well in sending the cutting. I will reply to the argument if I can spare the time. They will not give Ramdas the agency as readily as you think. I like your idea too, though I also like the plan about Dehra Dun. After she has passed the examination for Ratna, she is bound to get more pay.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 16 June 1939 that I had carefully preserved your letter of the 30th. I could reach it only today. I could never be unmindful of Jawaharlal’s feelings. But when it becomes one’s dharma to express a certain view, what else can one do? When saying something becomes absolutely necessary, it would be violation of truth to suppress it for anybody’s sake. I restrain my pen to a great extent for the sake of Jawaharlal. I had long talks with him and even showed him your opinion. One may say that as a result we came to understand each other better. The differences, however, persist. We will bear with each other. You also should do the same. Time will do its work. I understand your views regarding the people around me
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 20 February 1940 that I like your advocacy of the Viceroy’s case. But you have been so carried away that you have lost sense. I would certainly not be discourteous, you may be sure of it. There is no need to elaborate on what he has said.1 I had already said I was ready to stay on till the 14th if that was necessary. As such, I had nothing more to offer. It was futile to prolong my stay. My firmness was about the case. What can I do about it? If I give the reason suggested by you, it would mean giving a wrong explanation for postponing civil disobedience. He liked what I said. I said that we ourselves were not prepared. Moreover, where is the question of a conflict so long as there is hope?
What we have to see is whether my belief that he is a clean man turns out to be true or he is playing a double game. The newspapers and letters I receive raise a doubt. In reply to the remark “Bapu ruined everything in a hurry” you say that it was the situation in Bengal that did it. That is far from the truth and is unfair to me. What kind of a general would I be if I were so weak? During our talk I had in mind neither the Bengal situation nor the Working Committee. It was only my own inclination. If I think of our own weakness, I should ask for less. But is not my case altogether different?
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 20 February 1940 that I have your letter. What you write is correct. Our people are easily influenced. I got your telephone message. I do not intend to write anything immediately. I will write when the time comes. We had heard the news about Ramu. I did not feel unhappy but Ba did that you had not informed us. Ba still has such attachments though they have weakened considerably. Her forbearance, equimindedness, generosity, fortitude and firmness astonish me. Her health is good and she remains cheerful.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 29 December 1940 that I got your letters. It is enough for me that you understand my love. If you are ignorant, you alone are not to blame. I am equally to blame, am I not? Has not the education of all you brothers remained incomplete? I do not regret that.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 10 May 1941 that I got your letter today at 11.40 along with the other letters. You have written Friday in your letter. Today is Saturday. A letter written on Friday cannot reach here on Saturday at 11 o’clock. The date on the envelope is also that of Thursday. It seems I must now stop issuing statements to the Associated Press.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 13 August 1941 that You should have been able to read “shame”. I had dictated “for very shame”. Just now I have a wire saying that Khurshedbehn has been released. What happened we will know by and by. There were two errors in that article. She had not crossed the Frontier. The original order was revised not when she protested against it but when she gave notice that she would disregard it. Such errors are nothing unusual. When we read a thing in haste we can write only on the basis of our general impression.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 20 August 1941 that I think you should not have published a report like that without verifying it. And even if you published it, to have made unfounded comments on it was certainly wrong. I cannot save you. And, moreover, you have given the name of the Chief Justice. I am afraid you will be found guilty. You had better consult a lawyer and publish, before attending the court, an apology saying that your correspondent was unable to prove the truth of his report. I think this would be a graceful step. Or you may apologize in the court without defending yourself. I am suggesting this from the moral and legal point of view. But ultimately do as Sir Tej Bahadur and Munshi advice. I am sending a copy of this letter, together with your letter, to Mahadev. You have signed in full, but I can decipher neither “Devdas” nor “Gandhi”. The civilized rule is that the letters even in a signature should be as neat as pearls.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 24 August 1941 that
I got your letter. You have argued well. Yes, one must take risks. But the point is that even in doing so one must exercise discretion and restraint. Even the additional information you have given does not justify your involving the Chief Justice. You were free to agitate the matter strongly without doing that. You could have taken that magistrate to task for describing it as “voluntary”. And you could have written at length about what the man from the Punjab did. I would endorse you’re going to the utmost length in taking risks. But here I find your case weak. However, if the lawyers permit you, you may follow their advice. I certainly do not wish to dampen your enthusiasm.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 17 September 1941 that I have your wire. Your case is going well. I have been following the proceedings. Shivji also keeps me informed. The judges also are behaving strangely. But if you can produce the evidence which you have, everything will be well. Only our people are so weak that you never know when they will let you down. However, since your case is perfectly just I am sure that God will protect you. Ba is worrying. I have explained to her that going to jail is nothing unusual for us. Jail, therefore, should hold no terrors for us. Looking at the matter from another point of view, I believe you will get some rest in jail. But now there seems to be no possibility of your getting imprisonment. Yes, it might be a different matter if your witnesses turn out to be men of straw.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 29 September 1941 that I daily read about you. The Chief Justice has given you good publicity. Sir Tej has deservedly praised you. Some of your replies are wonderfully effective. Shivnathbhai keeps me informed about you. You have cast a spell on him. Ba hears everything about you.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 14 December 1941 that you will be released soon now. I shall expect a detailed letter from you. You must have got in jail all the rest you needed. Did you eat jail food or did you get any from outside? Who were your companions, how did you spend the month, how much weight did you lose or gain? What was the result of the appeal?
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 15 February 1942 that I have your letter, together the matter enclosed. I have gone through everything. I liked your reply. Others also gave you good help. You could have taken up a stronger attitude. This is not a time for gentleness.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 28 February 1942 that I have your letter. Did I seem to have written to you to criticize you?1 I had no such intention. I did try to warn you, of course. But I entirely agree that you can act only within the limits of your capacity and according to your lights. I concede that the existence of your Association has enabled the newspapers to do something, but that is very little. The newspapers have no real freedom. But I do admit that whatever little they have is not to be sacrificed.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 1 January 1945 that does not at all worry on my account. I am paying for my sins. I had too much of Ayurveda and I suffered. And now I am slowly throwing off the poison. I have therefore grown very weak but I am watching the developments. Hook-worm and amoeba, my old enemies, won’t leave me.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Devdas on dated 14 January 1948 that I have been through your letter early in the morning after the prayer.1 I also understand the little talk we had yesterday. My statement was not issued in haste in your sense of the word. In one sense it was, because I took less time in drafting it than I normally would. The reason for it was the four days of reflection and prayer that preceded it. That statement was the result of reflection and prayer, and so it cannot be called a hasty one either in my language or in the language of anyone who knows.
The statement certainly needed some polishing for improving the expression and making the language more refined and I made the changes the moment you suggested them. I did not want to hear either from you or from anyone about the propriety of my fast. That I have listened to you so far is a sign of my modesty and patience. You got the notice the moment I thought about it. Your main anxiety and your reasoning are meaningless. It is true you are my friend. It is true that you have risen high. But you can never cease to be a son and so your concern is only natural. However, your reasoning displays shallowness of thought and impatience. I consider this act of mine as the extreme limit to my patience. Is patience that kills its very object patience or stupidity? I can’t claim credit for what has been achieved since my arrival in Delhi. It would be sheer conceit on my part to do so. That one or more lives were saved through my efforts has no value for the world. Only the All-knowing God can see its value. It is nothing but ignorance to say that “one who had been patient from the beginning of September has ceased to be so all of a sudden.” It was only when in terms of human effort I had exhausted all resources and realized my utter helplessness that I laid my head on God’s lap. That is the meaning of the fast. Read and think over Gajendramoksha which is considered the greatest epic. Perhaps then you will be able to value my action. The last sentence of your letter is a beautiful expression of your love.
The origin of that love is ignorance or attachment. That this attachment is universal does not make it enlightenment. So long as we are unable to leave aside the question of life and death it is an illusion to think that we can do a particular thing only if we are alive. Strive as long as you are alive is a beautiful thing to say but bear in mind that striving has to be in a spirit of detachment. Now perhaps you will understand why I cannot comply with your request. Rama who has prompted me to go on fast will bid me give it up if He wants me to do so. In the mean time you, I and all of us should realize and have faith that it is equally well whether Rama preserves my life or ends it.