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The Man 'Charlie' Wanted to Meet

If you have found it difficult to control your laughter while watching his films then the name 'Charlie Chaplin,' must be very familiar to you. Chaplin had the inimitable quality of putting a smile even on a sad face. People of all ages would lovingly call him 'Charlie'. He would himself write the story of his films apart from directing and acting in them. Charlie had lived a major part of his life in poverty. He had achieved stardom after a tough struggle. Despite his British origin Charlie admired Gandhi a great deal. He supported Gandhi's cause wholeheartedly, and genuinely felt that the 'British' should leave India.

In those days London was abuzz with tension and excitement. It was because of the Round Table Conference organised by the British Government. The conference was attended by leaders of all the important political parties of India which included both minority and majority parties and representatives of various castes and religions. A group of bejeweled Rajas, Maharajas and Nawabs of princely states was present for the conference. Gandhi too was present there. All the important newspapers had sent their correspondents to cover this important event.

Charlie too was in London at that time. He decided to make use of this opportunity to meet Gandhi. He wrote a letter to Bapu expressing a keen desire to see him. Gandhi was a very busy man. It was not humanly possible for him to meet everybody. And the situation was such that everybody wanted a few minutes of his time.

After reading Chaplin's letter he asked one of his companions, "Who is this Charlie Chaplin?" He said, "Bapuji he is a well known film actor." To this, Gandhi laughed and said, "Films are not my cup of tea so what could I have in common with films and film actors? Please write a letter to him explaining my inability to meet him due to lack of time." Bapu's companion then said, "Charlie Chaplin is sympathetical towards our freedom movement. He believes that the British should free India." After hearing this, Gandhi replied, "In that case I would certainly like to meet him."

Bapu was staying in a two storeyed house in one of the localities of the East End of London. A meeting had been arranged for Charlie and Gandhi. This was the moment that Chaplin had been waiting for. Finally, he had got a chance to meet Gandhi and talk to him. His heart was pounding as he climbed the stairs. "But what would I say to him," thought Charlie. He knew that Gandhi would not have watched his films. Therefore it was useless talking to him on that subject. Rehearsing his lines like an actor (which he already was) he entered Gandhi's room. After enquiring about his health Charlie said Gandhi, "I am all for the freedom of your country and its people. But there is one thing that I don't understand. Why do you oppose the use of machines? Don't you think that a lot of work would come to a standstill if machines are not used." Gandhi, then replied, "I am not against machines but I cannot bear it when these very machines take away a man's work from him. Today we your slaves because we cannot overcome our attraction, for your goods. Freedom will surely be ours if we learn to free ourselves from this attraction.

Harish Chandra Pant