Monday, February 19, 2018

Gandhi on exemplars of simplicity

{original post here}

In Harijan of July 17, 1937, Mahatma Gandhi wrote about what he hoped for from the Congress ministries that were assuming office in the various provincial governments.  Excerpt {highlights added}

Then the personal behaviour of Ministers. How will Congress Ministers discharge themselves? Their Chief, the Presidentt of the Congress, travels third class. Will they travel first? The President is satisfied with a coarse khadi dhoti, Kurta and waistcoat. Will the Ministers require the Western style and expenditure on Western scale? Congressmen have for the past seventeen years disciplined themselves in rigorous simplicity. The nation will expect the Ministers to introduce simplicity in the administration of their Provinces. They will not be ashamed of it, they will be proud of it. We are the poorest nation on earth, many millions living in semi-starvation. Its representatives dare not live in a style and manner out of all correspondence with their electors. The Englishmen coming as conquerors and rulers set up a standard of living which took no account whatsoever of the helpless conquered. If the Ministers will simply refrain from copying the Governors and the secured Civil Service, they will have shown the marked contrast that exists between the Congress mentality and theirs. Truly there can be no partnership between them and us even as there can be none between a giant and a dwarf.

Lest Congressmen should think that they have a monopoly of simplicity and that they erred in 1920 in doing away with the trousers and the chair, let me cite the examples of Aboobaker and Omar. Rama and Krishna are prehistoric names. I may not use these names as examples. History tells us of Pratap and Shivaji living in uttermost simplicity. But opinion may be divided as to what they did when they had power. There is no division of opinion about the Prophet, Aboobaker and Omar. They had the riches of the world at their feet. It will be difficult to find a historical parallel to match their rigorous life. Omar would not brook the idea of his lieutenants in distant provinces using anything but coarse cloth and coarse flour. The Congress Ministers, if they will retain the simplicity and economy they have inherited since 1920, will save thousands of rupees, will give hope to the poor and probably change the tone of the Services. It is hardly necessary for me to point out that simplicity does not mean shoddiness. There is a beauty and an art in simplicity which he who runs may see. It does not require money to be neat, clean and dignified. Pomp and pageantry are often synonymous with vulgarity.

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