When I joined Sevagram, the people there were skeptical of my teaching techniques and practices. The general perception was that since I had come from Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan known for its freethinking at Sevagram there was adherence to strict routines and discipline.
One day I wanted to take the students out for a picnic and my colleagues objected to this. They said what would the students learn at a picnic. My colleagues questioned my unconventional teaching methods. They were very orthodox people. So I went to bapu (Gandhiji) and said, “I want to talk to you”. He replied that I should write him a letter. So I wrote him a letter saying that this is what has happened and requested for his guidance on the issue. He wrote me back a letter.
The sense of the letter was that that since I had learnt my subject from a person like Nandlal Bose, had come here to impart that knowledge, I should do as I deem correct. He gave an analogy of sweeping- a person who sweeps the floor properly and picks up the dust and not merely puts it under the carpet. He said that I had learnt this meticulous living at Shantiniken. He gave me complete freedom to teach art to the pupils at Sevagram. That was the greatest freedom I could ever enjoy. When I showed this letter to my colleagues they were very surprised. They couldn’t say anything after this and accepted my position as an artist and as an art teacher.
I still have Gandhiji’s letter with me. He had a magnetic charm. Just by looking at him one felt that he was like a father. And he even behaved like one.