Post Prayer Speech 1947-10-12


Mahatma Gandhi


Today also quite a few blankets have been received. As for the quilts I may say that they are being made by the mills as well. Those quilts too will be arriving. From the way blankets and quilts are coming, I have started hoping that the people who have been put up here, that is, in Delhi and its neighbourhood, will have no trouble during winter. Arrangements are also being made to reach blankets, quilts and warm clothing to the needy. One thing should be remembered that the blankets that are being received will wear out in the end, but just now they can give protection against rain and dew. But the trouble with the quilts is that it will not be possible to save them from rain. God willing, it may not rain during the winter, but the dew is inevitable. Everybody may not get a blanket. I even doubt if there will be enough tents to accommodate all. I had mentioned one thing while talking to some people, and I want to mention it here too. Those who get the quilts can protect themselves against the dew if they spread newspapers on the quilts. Then the dew will not pass through. Another remarkable thing about the quilts is that the amount of cotton used for making them gives sufficient warmth. When cotton breaks and forms into lumps the quilt can be opened up, the cover washed and the cotton used again after carding. With this the quilt becomes a new piece. It is a very useful thing for those who use it carefully.

A great calamity has befallen us. But those who think of God and work in the name of God find something to learn even from such a calamity. Two things are possible. One thing is that a person gets panicky or becomes enraged in the face of a calamity, and makes himself more miserable. But even in the midst of trouble if he thinks that he is having trouble for no fault of his own and yet he is never going to give up God and is always going to seek His help, he can create for himself happiness even in the midst of misery. Many of the people who have come as refugees here were well-to-do. They had lots of money and other property. They had big mansions, now all lost and gone. I have already said that till the people who have left their homes go back and are able to live in safety they will be a great burden on both the Governments. If we want to survive, if we want to remain free, we shall have to atone for the sin of this exchange of population. Atonement means making amends for our mistakes. Then only would it be true expiation. It cannot be done in any other way. When somebody really rectifies the mistakes he may have committed, he has done sufficient expiation. If we mean to correct our mistakes, then the people who have come here to save their lives must be in a position to go back. This may happen when the time comes, but what will you do in the meantime? I wish to suggest that in the meantime if good doctors are available-among the refugees there are doctors, lawyers and many others—they should give medical service and those under them also do the same, they can render really great service and even from these troubled times we can learn a new lesson.

When I went to visit the refugees I was told that 75 per cent of them were businessmen. It was a shock to me and I wondered how so many traders would be able to do their business here. Millions of traders have arrived here and if all of them start doing business all at once, everything will be in a mess. If they decide to put in some effort, learn to do something new, then it will be somewhat better. Let those traders who were earlier engaged in business forget their past. It is a rule in the world that when we cannot get one particular thing, we must look for something else. Let us not sit idle, or waste time in gambling and drinking. We have got to do some work. Let us work hard. Those who are businessmen but are ablebodied and can use their hands and feet should do some work. There are quite a few jobs that do not require any particular training. Let them concentrate on such things and co-operate with one another. At the same time let them develop an attitude of working together. Then out of this hellish situation which has been created for us, we shall be able to create heaven.

I had decided to tell you about all this and thought that today I would explain everything in detail and through you convey it to everyone. The refugees and also the country would derive great benefit from it. And then, out of the misery that has befallen us, we shall create happiness.

In this connection I want to say what we should do about the quilts we have not yet received but are going to get from various places. What shall we do about them? The cloth used in the quilts can be removed and washed if it has become dirty. The cotton can be kept back. Cotton does not get spoilt at all. It can be dried and cleaned with hand. We do not even need a carding-bow. It is another matter if we want to use that cotton for spinning. That cotton can be easily used for making new mattresses or quilts. I think if we make these things ourselves, they will be made cheaper and quicker. There is enough cloth lying with the mills. I do not wish to discuss the food problem at this stage. There is enough stock of cotton out of which quilts can be made in a short time. If these quilts are given to the people they would have protection in winter. These people must be taught how to prepare these things and given hope in the midst of despair which surrounds them. There is a bhajan which says that hope springs from unending despair. This is true. It is a poetic expression. We desire to have a glimpse of hope concealed in the deepest despair. What should we do to have that glimpse? The people who have been thrown on the streets must first realize that they belong to India, not to the Punjab or the North-West Frontier Province or Sind. All those provinces are in India and so the people from those parts also belong to India. They can become and remain Indians only on the condition that they are not a burden on others. Just as milk becomes sweet when you add sugar to it and then you cannot separate sugar from the milk and the milk remains what it was, they too should mix and mingle with people wherever they go like sugar in milk and not quarrel or nurse hatred towards each other. They must be mutually helpful and co-operative and put in hard work. Then they can reform the province where they go and the people belonging to that province will say that they are willing to accommodate any number of such persons.

It is my hope that those among the refugees who are able to work and whom my voice can reach must persuade others to be good men. They should not be a burden anywhere but should live, as I have said, in amity and mutual adjustment. They should not cheat anyone. We should not waste our time. Let every moment of our time be dedicated to God, work and service. We were born to serve. If we live like this, we will forget that we were once plunged in misery and sorrow. There are millions of people around. Let them engage themselves in service. We were born to render service. Let us resolve to raise our country high, not bring it down. I think it will be a blessed moment when we realize this and then there will be no need to worry about anything. We may make mistakes. To err is human. But it is also human to correct the errors. When we rectify our mistakes, we become truly human.

[From Hindi]
Prarthana Pravachan- I, pp. 411-4


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