A Pair of Handcrafted Sandals turned an Enemy to an Ally
Gandhi Ji is known in the world for his non-violent style of the struggle for freedom. He won his enemies by his kindness and humility. There is this incidence which turned one of his greatest adversary Field General Smuts to his lifelong ally.
During his stay in South Africa Gandhi Ji participated in the freedom campaigns of Africa. During one of these campaigns, Gandhi Ji was detained and imprisoned by General Smuts as a result of refusal to obey unjust laws imposed by the Government on Africans, Indians and Coloureds.
Prisoners had to opt for one of the “self-development crafts” conducted in the Prisons at that time. Gandhi Ji opted to learn the craft of handmade Shoemaking. He made and gifted a pair of sandals to General Smuts, the man responsible for his imprisonment.
Smuts wore these sandals every summer. Later in life, on Gandhi’s seventieth birthday, Smuts returned the sandals to Gandhi Ji remarking:
“I have worn these sandals for many a summer, even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man”.
Smuts went on to say:
“It was my fate to be the antagonist of a man for whom, even then, I had the highest respect”.
At that time, Gandhi Ji set a fashion in wearing sandal-shoes with trousers. In tropical countries, they were more comfortable than covered shoes and could as well be worn with socks in the winters.
Gandhi Ji taught others to make shoes after getting out of prison and some of them excelled their teacher in shoemaking. He continued teaching the art of handmade shoemaking even after coming to India.
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