NEW DELHI: Known as a strict disciplinarian, Mahatma Gandhi also possessed an "infectious" sense of humour, a quality that helped him withstand the rigours of the arduous journey of country's freedom struggle, say scholars.
Amid fighting for civil rights in South Africa to becoming a crusader in India, throwing off its colonial yoke, Gandhi's witty side only added to his charismatic personality.
When a reporter once asked Gandhi-- "Why do you always choose to travel by third class in a train?" He is said to have replied "Simply, because there is no fourth class as yet."
Sixty-three-year-old Delhi-based Gandhian scholar Shobhana Radhakrishna, says, "his infectious humour was as quintessential as his serious side."
"While those who were close to him, knew about his wisecracking style, others think of him as a very serious person, let alone someone who would joke around," said
Shobhana, who was born at Sevagram in Maharashtra's Wardha, where Gandhi had lived for several decades. "Once he even called himself a 'commander of a non-violent army', I mean imagine a man who stood for 'ahimsa'
all his life, using a war metaphor to describe his philosophy.
"And, it was his humourous side that let him withstand the rigours of the tough journey he had undertaken for freedom of the country and its people," she said.
Gandhi is said to have once remarked that "If I had no sense of humour, I would long ago have committed suicide."
Even as a barrister in South Africa, when migrants had to face persecution and discriminatory laws, he displayed his sense of humour even while talking to his family.
"In the 1910s, when non-Christians marriages in South Africa were treated invalid, Gandhiji once told Kasturba that --"This means you are my mistress" much to her amusement," she said.
S Durai Raja Singam, author of 'Recalling Gandhi' wrote about "Gandhi's other side" in the essay 'The Humour of Gandhi'.
"Gandhiji's humour or his mirth, as Mrs Sarojini Naidu prefers to call it–was always to the point, it was sometimes sly but quite without malice, sometimes whimsical, and sometimes, when he made a joke to cap a discussion on a question of morality or ethics, it was inclined, as Mrs Polak has told in 'Gandhi the Man,' to leave his questioner feeling baffled if not exasperated," Singam said.
The essay goes on to describe Gandhi's "tongue-in-cheek" side as he cracks a "viceregal joke" after his return voyage to India from the Round Table Conference.
"He expected before the week (Christmas) was out to receive some gifts from his Christian friends for having lent his presence to the Conference. Instead, the ordnances were promulgated, which provoked Gandhiji to make the ironical comment that they were "Christmas gifts from His Excellency the Viceroy"," the essay said.
In fact, when Gandhi was going to attend the Round Table Conference in England, a reporter asked, "Mr Gandhi do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?"
"Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us," Gandhi replied, according to the archived documents available on the site of Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal.
Gandhi's infectious sense of humour, especially on goat milk, had rubbed off on people who were close to him.
"Mrs Sarojini Naidu remarked on this goat's milk habit of Bapu by saying, "It is becoming a costly affair to keep Gandhiji in poor conditions," it said.
Veteran Congress leader C Rajgopalachari had also called him "a man of laughter".