The little boy was crying. His nurse lifted him in her arms and asked in a soft voice, “What is it dear? Why do you cry?”
“I am scared,” said the little boy even as he held her tight.
“Scared of what?”
The little boy did not answer.
The nurse said, “Say ‘Ram Ram!’ ”
The little boy repeated, “Ram Ram!”
The nurse said to the little boy, “Repeat this whenever you feel afraid or miserable.”
Ram Naam took hold of the little boy and became his second nature with advancing years.
Children! Do you know what became of this little boy? He came to be known as the Mahatma – the great soul. He came to be honored by Indians as ‘the Father of the Indian Nation’. This Ram Naam that had been engraved in his heart shook the very roots of the mighty British Empire as the shackles binding Mother India were cut off by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and she was freed from British rule.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Bapu, was born on 2nd October 1869 at Porbandar, a coastal town in present day Gujarat state. Even from childhood Mohandas had a passion for the truth. The story of King Harishchandra who stuck to the truth always, even in times of peril, had a great impact on Mohandas. Gandhiji later wrote, “It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number.”
A significant incident occurred during his school days. A British School Inspector once visited Mohandas’s school to examine the students. He set a spelling test. Noticing a mistake committed by Mohandas the class teacher signed to him to copy the right spelling from the boy seated next to him. However Mohandas refused to act dishonestly and later he had to face the teacher’s wrath for being ‘stupid’.
His passion for being truthful and open is seen in another incident too. Born in an orthodox, vegetarian family he clandestinely took to eating meat on the recommendation of his brother’s friend, who convinced Mohandas that meat-eating bestowed power and courage. The timid boy who yearned to become brave and powerful began to eat meat but soon gave up, as he had to hide it from his parents and this meant deceit and lies.
Mohandas studied law in London and later went to work in South Africa where he lived for 21 years. In South Africa he was abused by the British when he tried to claim his rights. Thereupon he fearlessly used a method of nonviolent protest called ‘Satyagraha’ to fight the oppressors. He returned to India in 1915 and became the leader of the Indian Nationalist Movement.
In India, too, Gandhiji used the principle of Satyagraha in securing Indian independence. Though Gandhiji was imprisoned several times and troubled in various other ways he never nurtured hatred for the British. Even when others, disturbed by the treatment meted out by the British, desired to use violent ways to fight the oppressors, Gandhiji used fasting to impress upon them the need for ahimsa (non-violence). India was granted independence on August 15, 1947.
As a boy Mohandas was extremely shy and timid. He showed no sign of any amazing faculty that would point to the greatness that he rose to in the later part of his life. He was a regular child just like all of us. The Ram Naam that his nurse had taught him was what made him fearless and strong, and helped him fight British oppression through non-violent resistance If a timid boy could rise to the state of a Mahatma simply by chanting Ram Naam, why can’t you?