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A Car and a Pair of Binoculars

Here's how a close friend of Gandhiji came to give up two of his possessions. This friend, a German named Kallenbach, was an engineer-architect whose earnings had made him rich. Kallenbach shared the beliefs and principles of Gandhiji and worked closely with him in the struggle against the white South African government. This, however, was not always easy.

It was 1908. Gandhiji was being released from jail, having served his sentence for the Satyagraha struggle. At the gate he realised that his friend Kallenbach was so happy at his release that he had actually bought a new car to take him home. Gandhiji refused to enter the car. "It is stupid to spend so much money on a car when other people are suffering. You must return it to the seller before doing anything else."

On another occasion, Kallenbach and Gandhiji were returning to South Africa from England by ship. Kallenbach had a well-crafted and expensive pair of binoculars. This led to a serious discussion. What exactly is essential for a good and simple life? And if non-essentials are not required, shouldn't they be discarded? The binoculars were costly, but not essential. Persuaded by Gandhiji, Kallenbach threw them into the sea. And felt greatly relieved.

K. S. Narayanaswamy


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