The gardener15

There was a great leader who was very, very simple. From his appearance nobody could tell that he was a great leader. Only people who were around him and knew him well, or those who were in the political world, could recognise who he was. Otherwise, from his outer appearance he could fool anyone, since he was not tall and there was nothing about him that showed that he was bright or commanded respect and admiration from people. He always wore very simple clothes, and he was all simplicity and all sincerity.

One day he was working in his garden, digging and planting and doing everything all by himself. He was wearing very, very simple gardening clothes. A few middle-aged men came up to him and said, “Can you tell us where the chief is?”

He said, “Yes, I can. Just wait. I will call him.” Then he went into the house, washed his hands, put on a panjabi and dhoti and came out and stood in front of them.

They said, “You! You have come again. You didn’t tell the chief that we are here? We wanted to see the chief and not you.”

This time the gardener was a little serious. He said, “Well, the chief is here. I am the chief.”

“You are the Prime Minister of India?”

“Yes, I am!” Some of them bowed down, some were shocked. Some felt miserable. “Oh, we thought you were just the gardener,” they said.

The Prime Minister said, “I am so glad that you didn’t recognise me as the Prime Minister of India because I don’t want the world to know me by my appearance, but by my actions. I want to remain always simple, always humble.”

He was the second Prime Minister of India, after Nehru. Lal Bahadur Shastri: simplicity incarnate and heart’s magnanimity incarnate. Lal Bahadur Shastri was without a single enemy. His own people admired him and the opposition party also admired him equally for his heart’s nobility and his life’s simplicity and purity.

GIM 55. 15 January 1979