Chapter 12: To Be an Individual Takes Courage
For example his ideology was so important that he was ready to sacrifice everything. He was a high-caste Hindu. His wife was uneducated, and one thing was impossible for her: to clean the Indian toilet. The modern Western toilet is one thing, anybody can clean it; but the Indian toilet was really a punishment. And for an uneducated girl who had always heard that it was done by the untouchables only.
Hindus have made a class of untouchables, sudras - because of their dirty work they have become dirty, so dirty that even their shadows are untouchable. If a sudra passes by your side and his shadow touches you, the scriptures prescribe an immediate bath. The shadow is nonexistential - but that poor Kasturba, Gandhi’s wife, carried the same conditioning. And Gandhi was forcing everybody; they had to clean the toilet in turn.
Kasturba was nine months pregnant, and one evening she refused. Gandhi was so furious that he threw her out of the house, closed the house, and told her that unless she was ready to clean the toilet she should not come to his house.
The ideology, a stupid ideology. He himself could have cleaned it if the wife was not willing. If he had loved the wife, the simple thing would have been to say, “Don’t worry, I will clean it.” No, he would not clean it; the wife had to clean it. And without thinking about the fact that she was just going to give birth to a child, in the middle of the night he threw her out. It was in Johannesburg, in South Africa. She did not understand English, she did not understand any language other than Gujarati. She could not even talk to anybody, ask anybody. In such a helpless condition.and he would open the door only if she first cleaned the toilet. In the middle of the night she had to clean the toilet; then she was allowed in. His ideology came first.
His eldest son Haridas wanted to study. Gandhi was against schools, colleges, universities, any kind of contemporary thing - so he was against it. His history stopped with the spinning wheel; after the spinning wheel, whatsoever had happened in the world was wrong, was done by evil.
Haridas was really a very intelligent man. I came to know him personally. He said, “I argued with my father, that ‘All that you are capable of is because of this education you have got. Without this education you would not have been able to fight the British Empire. And trust me, I am your son. The education is not going to corrupt me.’ But he said, ‘I have said it, and that is final. None of my children are going to be educated by this corrupted educational system.’” And none of his children were educated.
Haridas escaped the house and lived with one of his uncles, just to get an education. And because he did not obey Gandhi. And love knows nothing of such ugly things as obedience, because obedience means forcing somebody into slavery. Love gives freedom.
And the cause for which Haridas escaped - nobody can say that he was wrong; he simply wanted to be educated. But Gandhi told Kasturba and all his other sons, “This house, for Haridas, is closed. If he comes to this house close the door; he is dead for me.”