Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reading habit

Gandhiji, during his days in England for his bar-at-law course, meets a person called Fredrick Pincutt. This meeting is sought by Gandhiji himself to ascertain his readiness for practising law. In Pincutt's evaluation, Gandhiji's general reading was very meagre. He says every Indian should know Indian history in detail. He also tells Gandhiji that although this has no connection with the practice of law, he ought to know this because knowledge of the world is a sine qua nonfor a lawyer. This will help him read a man's character from his face. Pincutt was also surprised that Gandhiji had not read about the First War of Indian Independence. Gandhiji immediately realises the importance of what Pincutt said and humbly accepts that he has not had much supplementary reading.

When I acquainted him with my little stock of reading, he was, as I could see, rather disappointed. But it was only for a moment. Soon his face beamed with a pleasing smile and he said, 'I understand your trouble. Your general reading is meagre. You have no knowledge of the world, a sine qua non for a vakil. You have not even read the history of India. A vakil should know human nature. He should be able to read a man's character from his face. And every Indian ought to know Indian history. This has no connection with the practice of law, but you ought to have that knowledge. I see that you have not even read kaye and Malleson's history of the Mutiny of 1857. Get hold of that at once and also read two more books to understand human nature.' These were Lavator's and Shemmelpennick's books on physiognomy. Link

The reason for highlighting this incident from the Mahatma's autobiography is to emphasise the importance of cultivating the reading habit at a very young age to be successful in life.

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