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Uncle Gandhi
The title is certainly likely to surprise readers Well' it was the children living in Bow in the 'East-End', of London who chose to address Gandhiji as 'Uncle'. When in September 1931, Gandhiji went to England to attend the Second Round Table Conference many friends offered their luxurious homes to him. But he preferred to stay in Kingsley Hall because the poor of London lived in this area.
The children of the locality were quite curious to know more about the 'man from India' living in their neighbourhood. For example, a child would ask his mother, "who is this man whom so many people visit the whole day long?" and the mother would answer, "He is the leader of Indian National Movement, and his name is Mahatma Gandhi." Some children would ask, "What does Gandhi eat?" Another asked, "Now, tell me mummy, why does Gandhi not wear shoes?" and so on and so forth. One day a mother told her three-year old son, "Now look here, you mustn't say 'Gandhi' but 'Mr. Gandhi.' You know Mr. Gandhi is a very good man and a very great man." "I am sorry mummy" said the tiny tot making amends, "I will call him Uncle Gandhi……." So 'Uncle Gandhi' caught on.
Children loved talking to Gandhi. Joking with him. So did Gandhi. During his walks he would look forward to meeting his friends. On his birthday, these little friends sent him a packet addressed to 'Dear Uncle Gandhi', containing two woolly toy goods, sweets and candles. Gandhiji cherished and valued these gifts very much.
On 5 December, he left London. As he got into the train, he turned anxiously to his hostess Muriel Lester, "Are the toys alright?" Gandhi was enquiring about the woolly animals, coloured candles and chalk drawings that the children of Bow had presented him. "They are the only things I am taking back to India," he said, "except what I came with." He had given away all the other costly gifts that the English people showered on him.
Soon after returning home Gandhiji was arrested. It was from the Yervada Prison he wrote later, on 20 January 1932, to these kids, thanking them, "Isn't it funny," he wrote, "that they should receive a letter from a prison?" and added, "I am not aware of having done anything wrong." Conveying his love to all, he signed the letter, "Yours, whom you call Uncle Gandhi".