This story belongs to one of Gandhi’s Tamilnad tours. Gandhi had said that next to Punjab it is in Tamilnad he draws the biggest crowds.
The Tamilians just adored him. The train was steaming into Virudhnagar.
This station was already visible in the distance, besieged by a huge multitude.
Gandhi woke up from a little nap in his third class compartment. He had the rare knack of snatching ten to fifteen minute naps on his journeys, which were very often crowded with public meetings. He jumped to his feet tightening his little loin cloth round his waist. One of his party caught sight of a fair-sized tear in his loin cloth, and said to Gandhi, “We are almost at the station. You have hardly a minute to change.”
“Why change?” querried Gandhi as he quickly stepped into the bathroom to step out again a moment later. There was no longer a tear in the loin cloth. He had worn his dhoti the other way about!
As he swiftly gathered up his spectacles, watch and other personal belongings the train pulled up at the platform. As he was about to alight he turned with a smile to the member of his party who had spoken to him and remarked, “There was a time when as a student in London, I took ten minutes to dress my hair. Now I only need half a minute for my entire toilet.” Then he stepped out and was ready for the reception.
It was a during this tour that Gandhi perfected his technique of snatching ten to fifteen minutes naps in a motor car. He did the tour in a ‘Master Buick’ placed at his disposal by a Madras automobile firm. In the seat at the rear he would curl up and go to sleep. He addressed five or six public meetings a day on the question of Harijan emancipation.
As the car drove him from one meeting to the next, he would ask Dr. TSS Rajan, who was in charge of the tour, “Well, Rajan, what is the next item, a ten minute or fifteen minute nap?”
Occasionally, Dr Rajan would answer with a twinkle in his eyes, “No, Bapu, the next item is a big one, a real good thirty minutes nap!”
“Oh, what a luxury!” Gandhi would remark, and the next moment he would be fast asleep as the Buick, to the steady roar of its engine, rode up mile after mile. It was a miracle how Gandhi would wake up right to the minute as the car pulled up at the next halt. He would arise refreshed and step straight on to the platform at the next place of meeting.
Legend has it that Napoleon used to sleep on horseback. The Napoleon of India’s non-violent struggle not only slept in a speeding motor car, but to an exact schedule between mammoth public meetings. And make no mistake about it, he did not merely rest himself during these famous little naps; he slept, as they say, like a log!