A piece of pencil

We met Dr.Arun Manilal Gandhi – the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi on a Peacebuilding programme in Northern Ireland. Watching him walk with agile steps while possessing such a sharp mind and gentle manner, I could not believe that he was in his late 80s. He recalled his childhood and shared with us the story of his life with his grandfather when he was 14 years old.

One day, little Gandhi was coming back from school. In his hand, he was clutching a small pencil stub and decided he deserved a new one after months of hard work. He thought his grandfather, M.Gandhi, would definitely agree to this. Without a thought, he threw the useless pencil down on the side of the street.

Later that night, he hesitantly asked M.Gandhi for a new one. However, to his surprise, his grandfather started asking him unexpected questions. In the end, the old man told him to go back to the street and find that little piece of pencil. After two hours of scrabbling in the darkness, he finally found it and held on to the pencil for a little longer. He was puzzled, but he soon realised the lesson his grandfather was trying to teach him. As the saying goes, “Many a little makes a mickle”.

It was about having a particular attitude towards saving.

Later, as a socio-political activist, following in the steps of his grandfather, Arun Gandhi initiated many money-saving campaigns in rural India. He asked the villagers to bring him one rupee per day. As the sum grew bigger, he gave to those in most need. The money was saved, rotated, and grew bigger over time. Many Indians were living frugally from day to day, surviving on low earnings from their labour work. Unless they knew how to save money, they could not cope with unexpected urgencies such as disasters, or sickness. Furthermore, they could never establish their own business. Thanks to his work, the microfinance programme in India has helped eliminated poverty for millions of people in India.

Well, that was the lesson that little A.Gandhi learnt from his grandfather. I wonder if there are any childhood stories from your grandparents that you can still remember and would like to share? 🙂

Northern Ireland, UK, 26 June 2016