Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Narayanbhai Mahadevbhai Desai: Worker, Student, and Friend of Gandhi

Last Monday, October 13, we had the privilege of hearing a guest speaker by the name of Narayanbhai Mahadevbhai Desai. He was born in 1924 in Gandhi’s Ashram and grew up with Gandhi as a teacher and friend. His father worked as Gandhi’s secretary for twenty-five years and then he worked in the same position for ten years. Here are some interesting things he had to say about Gandhi:
(Note: If you want to skim, the parts in bold are the ones I liked the best.)

Gandhi as a person:
• His father said working for Gandhi was like “living on the face of a volcano,” because there were two sides to Gandhi. One was that of a friend and one was like a volcano that would erupt if provoked, because he was so passionate and strong in his viewpoints.
• He was also like this to his wife.

Gandhi’s education system:
• Mediums of teaching: teach through craft/ creativity, teach through community action, teach through nature
• Education through experience: love, freedom, self-expression
• He was a “silent teacher.”

Gandhi as a leader:
• He based his leadership on specific strategies.
• He was a part of three big national movements, but the way he got people involved was through satyagrahas.
-These were smaller movements in between the larger movements that had achievable goals.

-This kept people involved because they felt like they were seeing change happen.

Gandhi as a lonely walker:
• In February 1947, Indian independence was announced by Britain, and the Indian National Congress never called upon Gandhi again.
• On January 30, 1948, he was assassinated.
• In a letter late in his life he wrote: “I feel there is fire all around me, above me and below me, but inside I only feel calm,” because he felt like God was taking care of him.
• In his autobiography he wrote, “I don’t remember a single time my prayers weren’t answered by God.”

Question and Answer Time:
Q: What do you think is the most important thing about Gandhi?
A: Gandhi always said, “My life is my message.” And he followed this.

Q: How can people today still hold onto the belief of non-violence, when it doesn’t seem to be working in areas like Tibet for example? A: What is happening in Tibet is important for the whole world because a whole culture is trying to be erased. However, violence is still not the answer, because it will not create a good future. You really have to think about what type of future you want to create. Martin Luther King, Jr. said we only have one alternative to non-violence: non-existence.

Q: How did Gandhi transform the lives of people?
A: He poured himself into the life of the other person.


  1. " then he worked in the same position for ten years " - Who said that?? Whoever said that is totally false .
    - Aflatoon.

  2. Narayan Desai said that when he was giving his speech. I could have misunderstood him though; he is very old.

  3. I think the confusion causing word is "then". It implies subsequently. That was not the case. Mahadev Desai worked with Gandhi from 1917 till his death in prison in 1942. Narayan Desai had joined Gandhi's secretariat probably in 1935 or '36 and worked with his father. After Gandhi's release from prison in 1944, he rejoined the work where he continued till 1946. Thus he did work for ten years but not after Mahadev Desai's death.