When Jhaver Patel was a young man he felt called to be near Gandhi and participate in his ashram activities. One summer break from his studies, he decided to act on his desire and go to Sabarmati ashram. The year was 1929, one year before the great Salt March. Patel points out with a bit of humor that Gandhi welcomed him to the ashram, but wanted to test him to find out if he was really serious about participating in the movement or if he was just there to satisfy an intellectual curiosity. His six-week vacation duty at the ashram? Cleaning latrines. Perhaps that’s what he gets, after having written a letter to Gandhi three years prior telling him that he was spinning around 3,500 yards of khadi a day and considered himself, in the footsteps of Gandhiji and others, “a seeker after self-realization.” Nonetheless, a year after latrine cleaning at Sabarmati, he left his studies to join the ashram and study at Gandhiji’s university, Gujarat Vidyapith, instead, receiving his diploma from the Mahatma himself. Ok, ok, and he and his wife were also arrested in the freedom struggle–which is the higher honor according to Gandhi, do you think? Later, he dedicated himself to the uplift of the rural poor in India, working with the well-known economist and Gandhian, J.C. Kumarappa. Patel’s diploma was not based on intellectual achievement alone; it was the ‘muscle memory’ of the bread labour he had experienced, and the humility gained, that made him a complete satyagrahi.
Analyze the constructive and obstructive factors in this little success story. And if you feel up to it, clean the bathroom!
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