Vinoba's Lesson

Vinoba’s Lesson

“Reading Diwali special numbers?” Lulu, my parrot asked. Diwali magazines are special Marathi publications; some of those are annuals, and they bring thought-provoking articles to readers. I was reading a story of Vinoba Bhave. 

“Yes, Dr Abhay Bang tells a story of Vinoba Bhave. It sets you thinking.” I kept the magazine aside.

“What’s that?”

“Workers told Mahatma Gandhi that their earning out of spinning yarn on ‘Charkha’ was too meagre, it could not provide for even two square meals a day. So, he referred the issue to Vinobaji who asked six months to decide. By the time they met after six months, Vinobaji had lost thirty pounds of weight. Vinobaji explained that he spun yearn for eight hours a day and ate his meals out of that earning – the result was obvious.”

“What a way to understand what the problem was! He lived their way. He experienced their experience, he felt what they felt!”

“Great men understand the problem differently than ordinary men, that is why they come out with different solutions.”

“You also have ‘minimum wage.’ Does it not provide for good living?”

“I once asked a group of managers if it was possible to live with dignity for a family of three in the meagre income of minimum wage. They said it was impossible.”

“The so-called minimum wage cannot provide for subsistence with human dignity. It is not possible in that income….”

“…..You said it Lulu,” I said, “Sorry to cut you short here, why do people show such insensitivity?”

Lulu fluttered his wings and hopped closer. “Governments all over the world are neither for the people, nor of the people, not by the people! What prevents employers from giving a better wage?”

“You mean a wage which in their view represents fair value of a man’s labour?”

“That is the catchword. Value! Nobody, not even the best economists can decide the value of anything; they can only decide the price of anything!! To decide the value of anything, you must bring your personal values into play.”

“That’s a tall order. Bringing one’s personal values in play! People do not live life with such consciousness. They should, but they don’t. Not even the big industrialists!”

“If you are not given to thinking about what values you should practise in life then you must follow Vinobaji. His message is loud and clear. ‘Your decisions must be based on experience – and your experience of what others experience.’ Like he did.’”

Lulu, as always, has the last word. It will take me a good time to understand the full import of that statement.

Vivek S Patwardhan