Sunday, 13 August 2017

Gandhi and VOC

"Gandhi replied promptly with a single line on April 20, 1915: "If you kindly call at ... 6 A.M. next Friday, I could give you a few minutes".

Switching over to a more formal "Dear Sir", VOC replied the next day: Underlining the words "a few minutes", he said, "As I am afraid that my conversation with you will take more than the allotted `a few minutes', I need not trouble you with my presence". He excused himself "for having intruded upon your precious time". 

It was now Gandhi's turn to take mild offence: "If you do not want to see me I would like to see you myself. Will you kindly call on Friday or Saturday at 6 A.M. and [sic?] give me a few minutes?" He then went on to explain: "Of course you can call any day between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. when I am open to be seen by anybody. But as you wanted a private interview I suggested Friday morning as I suggest some morning or the other for private interviews". (April 21, 1915)

Here came the first poignant moment in the exchange. VOC agreed to meet Gandhi early in the morning but said, "I cannot reach your place before 6:30 a.m."

Reason: "the tram car, the only vehicle by which I can now afford to go to your place, leaves Mylapore after 5:30 in the morning". A man who had bought up two steamships a few years earlier was now unable to take anything more than a tram! Yet VOC went on to add, "I can spend not `a few minutes' but, the whole of my lifetime with the patriots of my country if they wish me to do so. All my time is intended for the services of my country and of its patriots. Only after these two, God is attended to by me".

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