In his Mann ki Baath, PM Narendra Modi recollected the great gift-giving habits around the world and how Queen Elizabeth once showed him a hand kerchief woven in khadi by Gandhiji and sent to her as her wedding gift.
Referring to his Kerala visit recently, Modi said the P.N. Panicker Foundation encourages people to cultivate the habit of reading books and to enhance their awareness towards this, by organising celebrations such as ‘Reading Day’, and ‘Reading Month’. “I had the opportunity to go for the inaugural function, where I was told that instead of bouquets, they gift books. I liked it,” he said.
“When I was in Gujarat, I had set this tradition of welcoming, by not giving bouquets, but books or handkerchiefs instead. And that too, a ‘Khadi’ handkerchief, so that it promotes ‘Khadi’. Till the time I was in Gujarat, this habit had been ingrained in us, but after coming here, I had lost that habit. When I went to Kerala, it was rekindled. I have already begun to issue instructions in the government.”
A bouquet is very short, “You receive it in your hand for a moment and then abandon it. But when you present a book, it becomes a part of the household, a part of the family. One can also use a ‘Khadi’ handkerchief to welcome people, and be a support to the innumerable underprivileged. The expenses are reduced as well, and the gift is well utilized too.”
Recollecting his visit to London, he said Queen Elizabeth had invited him to dine with her and later she showed him a small thread-spun khadi handkerchief. With great respect and in an emotion filled voice, she told him that Mahatma Gandhi had sent this handkerchief to her as a wedding gift. “So many years have passed and yet, Queen Elizabeth has treasured the handkerchief gifted by Mahatma Gandhi. And she was happy to show it to me, when I went there.”
When he gazed at it, the Queen encouraged him to touch it. “A small gift by Mahatma Gandhi, has become a part of her life and a part of history,” he noted. Modi said he would henceforth encourage people to give books or khadi handkerchiefs or gift. “I cannot say that if I go somewhere and somebody brings a bouquet I will refuse it. No, I won’t do that, but we will talk about it even though there is criticism, and then gradually, the change will happen.”