Post by Arun Gandhi
Every morning and evening when hundreds and thousands of people who attend my grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi’s prayer services, all of them would seek his autograph. This was a time in his life where he was working on many different things, he was not only fighting the British but he was concerned about all of these problems in society. And so he had programs going on in all these different fields, and all the programs needed to be funded, and in those days the funding was controlled by the British, and they were not willing to fund the programs so he had to find his own means of funding them. So he decided to sell his autograph.
Grandfather put a fee of five rupees, which would translate into five dollars, for each autograph and while I was living with him it was my duty to go out into the audience and to collect the autograph books and the money and bring it to him for his signature.
One day I thought to myself, if everybody could get his autograph, why not me? After all, I’m his grandson and I deserve an autograph too. So I got myself a little autograph book and I didn’t have any money so I slipped it into the pile and I was hoping he wouldn’t notice the absence of money there, but when he came to that book, he said, why is there no money for this autograph? And I said, it’s because it is my book. And he said, well, you should know that I don’t make exceptions, even for grandsons. If you want my autograph, you will have to pay me for it or earn the money and pay me. Do not ask your parents for it.
And, I said no way. I said you’re my grandfather and I am going to make you give me this autograph.
So he laughed and said all right, let’s see who wins?
And from that day, everyday, when he was in high level discussions with the British politicians and Indian politicians, I would barge into the room with my autograph book and thrust it in his face and demand an autograph. My logic was to get rid of me he would sign the book and give it to me. But instead every time I became too boisterous, all he did was put his hands across my mouth, press my head to his chest, and he went on talking politics.
The other politicians on many occasions used to get exasperated and tell Grandfather, why don’t you give him the autograph and be done with it? He disturbs our meetings every day. Grandfather would only laugh and say, it is a private joke between the two of us, you don’t have to get involved in it.
The long and the short of it is, he never did give me the autograph, but I don’t remember his ever telling me to get out of the room or to leave him alone. As we would do with our children or our siblings if they came into the room, we shoo them rudely, tell them I’m busy not just now, we’ll talk about it some other time. He never did that to me, and that’s when I realized that if he was able to control his anger to that extent, if we attempt to achieve 50% of that goal, we would make a tremendous difference in the level of violence that we experience in our lives as well as in the lives of our society and our nations internationally.