Gandhiji asked his colleague Shri Shankarlal Banker in Yeravada jail, “Have you read Bhagvad Gita?”
Shakarlal replied: “I had read it during my student days. At present I do not have much recollection of it.”
Gandhiji asked the second question, “Have you read it in Sanskrit?”
Banker answered: “No, the second language for me was French. So, I have no familiarity with Sanskrit.”
Gandhiji retorted, “Gita must be read in Sanskrit only.
That much of Sanskrit can be learnt quite easily.”
Banker said, “It is difficult to learn Sanskrit at this age.”
Gandhiji undertook the responsibility and said,: “It is not difficult at all. I can teach you.”
Gandhiji used to consider himself a teacher. There was a driver in South Africa and it was possible for him to get a better salary if he could learn English. Gandhiji used to walk a few miles there and teach him English.
After that, the ‘Margopdeshika’ of Bhandarkar was obtained in the jail, and a systematic plan of study followed. Gandhiji then made Banker finish the whole book, devoting one hour of time daily.
Gandhiji told Banker, “This much knowledge of Sanskrit is enough to be able to read Gita.”
Then, the study of Gita began. While reading it, Bapu paid a lot of attention to pronunciation of ‘rhasva’ and ‘dirgha’ (that is, shorter and longer matras). Within few days, the reading of Gita was completed.
Bapu told Shankarlal, “Now you should read one chapter of it daily.”
But Shankarlalbhai was a man of modern times.
He said, “Why? now I have understood the whole Gita by reading it properly with you. Then what is the need to read it again daily?”
Bapu replied, “This is the kind of book, which is worth reading daily. You will find new truths and meanings from it every day.”
Shankarlalbhai still looked a bit doubtful. So, Gandhiji asked him, “How many friends do you have?”
He replied, “I have many friends.”
Gandhiji further asked, “How many of them are such who can really help you in the time of your difficulty?”
Banker then started thinking deeply and then candidly answered, “None of them are the like. Perhaps, some may help and some may not. In the recent times, one cannot say anything about friends.”
Gandhiji then linked his talk with this candid confession of Banker and said: “It is also the same situation with the books. We may read many books, but are they going to help us in the time of our difficulty? A book which would help us in our difficulty is a true book. Gita is one such book.”