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13. The King's Hospitality
Bapuji had been to London for the round table conference in 1931. King George V had arranged a banquet for about hundred citizens. The Secretary of State for Indian (Minister) Sir Samuel Hoare was confused about sending an invitation to Gandhiji. He thought, would the King prefer to meet such a revolutionary? Secondly, even if he did so, would Gandhiji be dressed properly for the function? Samuel thought it proper to consult the King. At first, the King gave way to his ill feelings and said, “Do you think that I should invite that fakir to my place even after his attacks on my officers?” A few minutes later he again expressed disgust about ‘that’ naked, improperly dressed ordinary fellow. Finally it was decided that he would be invited without warning him about the dress code.
The Secretary of State for India took it upon himself to present Gandhiji to the King at an opportune time during the function. He helped them meet. It was impossible for the King to forget Gandhiji’s rebellion. For the past one year, he had been leading the revolution. But they started conversing. It went on smoothly. The King was kind hearted and Gandhiji knew the etiquettes. In the midst of the conversation, the King eyed Gandhiji’s short dhoti (pancha). The minister’s heartbeats grew faster.
The conversation was about to end. George V knew his responsibility. But he warned Gandhiji while leaving, “Remember Mr. Gandhi, I won’t tolerate an onslaught on my empire.” The Minister held his breath! He thought that a debate would flare up but Gandhiji was discreet enough to save the scene. He said,” After enjoying His Highness’s hospitality, I don’t see it fit to ensue a political discussion.” Then they bid a friendly good-bye to each other. The Secretary of State heaved a sigh of relief.