Maniyanur is one among our famine reduction villages. The Harijan a part of it consists fully of half-starved cobblers. Maniyanur is the weekly market place for all of the villagers a long way round, and so the authorities have, as is their rule, mounted up an arrack store and a giant toddy tavern there. Both of them are flourishing.
Our cobbler hamlet too was properly within the clutches of the toddy tavern till the yr our reduction work started. Then, at our insistence, the lads took a pledge of whole abstinence, and so they have on the entire stored their phrase.
Munian got here as much as my hut one Thursday, main a gaggle of his fellow cobbler-villagers. Thursday was their day for taking grain from the Ashram at half value.
“What has occurred?” I requested.
“Nothing. They have drunk toddy and we’ve come so that you can inquire into it.”
I used to be within the midst of writing letters and reminders to organizations.
“If you could have paid cash for toddy,” I mentioned impatiently, “it means you may spare cash for getting your grain on the market and we might now cease our reduction. If you prefer to drink, you could.”
I believed I ought to impress on them that they weren’t obliging anybody however themselves by giving up the consumption of liquor.
“Who are the culprits?” I requested.
“Two males” replied Munian.
“Are they right here?”
“One of them is right here, the opposite has not come to take his grain at this time. His spouse has come.
“Is the offense admitted?” I enquired.
“He got here dwelling drunk final and was quarreling along with his spouse. The complete village is aware of, and so they should admit it,” mentioned Munian.
“What do you say?” I requested the person who was being accused of consuming.
“It is true that I used to be shouting at my spouse final night time. But might not a person quarrel along with his spouse? Don’t such issues occur in married life?”
“Tell me whether or not you drank toddy or whether or not the cost is fake. If even one among you buys toddy we should cease reduction for the entire village,” I mentioned.
“It is fake,” replied the person.
“What do the remaining say?” I questioned.
And all of them mentioned that it was true that the 2 had quarrelled, however they didn’t know in regards to the consuming.
“Then how does Munian carry this accusation towards you?” I inquired in regards to the man charged. “Does he bear any ill-will towards you?”
“Yes, he does,” the person replied, including, “as a result of I disclosed that grain was being taken out on tickets of absent males who have been away for work on the hills.”
“Is that so?” I requested Muniyan.
“Please ask this outdated man to say if his son didn’t drink. He is the accused man’s father and likewise my father’s brother, and he’s father to each of us. Let his phrases determine the query,” Munian replied.
“Well, outdated man,” I requested the referee, “did your son drink?”
“He was making noise final night time. It is true.”
“But did he drink toddy?” I pressed.
“No, he had not taken drink, he was solely quarrelling and making noise.”
“Let him say it on oath,” Munian interrupted.
They all agreed.
I forged about in my thoughts as to the place and the way I ought to administer the oath. I did not have the slightest perception that it might make any distinction. The outdated man had already spoken in assist of his son, and I mentioned to myself, “let me undergo the formality and eliminate the matter.” Eighteen years of endurance on the Bar had left little perception in me about oaths and affirmations.
I used to be inclined on the entire, on the premise of their habits and the tales they informed on both facet, to consider that the cost of consuming in breach of the pledge was false, and that the younger man’s allegation that he was disliked for disclosing the The villagers’ trick of acquiring grain within the identify of absentees, was in all probability true.
While I used to be thus turning the enterprise over in my thoughts, I noticed my sandals mendacity beneath. I referred to as the outdated man up.
“You all stay by engaged on leather-based, do not you?” I requested.
“Yes,” the outdated man replied.
“Here is leather-based that feeds you. Take it up in each your fingers,” I mentioned pointing to my pair of sandals.
He took them up.
“Say after me”, I mentioned, “upon this leather-based that feeds me, and earlier than God.”
“He repeated the phrases.
“Did your son drink?” I requested the person.
“Yes, he did,” confessed the outdated man, taking a look at me with dazed, wide-open eyes.
It took my breath away. Miracles occur typically. This one overwhelmed me.
“Will you are taking your oath too?” I requested the younger offender. I believed he would persist with his denial. He took up the sandals and mentioned, “Yes, I did drink.”
This accomplished an unforgettable expertise.
We fined him 4 annas. This was paid without delay and added to the Relief Fund. I requested all the lads to swear, one after the other, with the identical sandals in hand that they might by no means contact Toddy once more. They took the oath. I dismissed them.
There my worn-out sandals lay which these poor folks had sanctified and left, mutely saying, “No! you’re improper in shedding religion. Truth and reverence aren’t lifeless.”
Country sandals aren’t merely helpful issues for one’s toes. They embody the bread and the religion of poor cobblers. One has to tread evenly and reverently in them.
(This story first appeared in Gandhiji’s “Young India” in 1929. It was later printed in Rajaji’s “Stories for the Innocent” by Bhavan’s Publication.
It is reprinted in Bhavan’s Journal, VOL. XXIII, No 8, November 7, 1976 [PDF below],
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