GANDHI – A Biography

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GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners A BIOGRAPHY FOR CHILDREN AND BEGINNERS By: Ravindra Varma Price: Rs. 60/- Printed & Published by: Navajivan Publishing House Ahmedabad 380 014 (INDIA) Phone: +91-79-27540635/27542634 Fax: +91-79-27541329 E-mail: GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners FOREWORD Ravindra Varma is a learned scholar, who has been running the Institute of Gandhian Studies at Gopuri, Wardha for several years. He has been introducing the youth, especially the college students and postgraduates to the life and message of Gandhiji. I have had the privilege of addressing a number of such audiences at his Institute in Gopuri, and I have also heard him there and in other places talking about Gandhiji. His knowledge and study of Gandhian ideology is deep, and to the best of my knowledge he has been trying his level best to live according to the Gandhian ideology. This gives depth to whatever he says or writes. He has written three books on Gandhiji or I might say that he has written one book which is divided into three parts. Part one gives a narrative of Gandhiji's life story describing a shy mediocre student at Rajkot, who goes to England and comes back as a Barrister. Circumstances take him to South Africa. He goes as a young man to earn money, and to find name and fame, and also to see a new country. This first book describes Gandhiji's struggle to establish himself in which he makes outstanding success as a lawyer. As a seeker of truth, and full of love for the oppressed Indians and black population in the midst of racial prejudice, he has to fight and overcome many hurdles to preserve the self-respect of Indians and also to serve the blacks in every way he can. He also serves the whites during the Boer War. His fight against colour prejudice starts from the day of his arrival in South Africa and continues throughout his stay in that country. Discovery of the mighty weapon of Satyagraha which can enable the downtrodden and the weak also to stand up for their own rights, is the first great achievement which makes the shy young man a great leader. He shows to the Indians the way of fighting prejudice by bringing about a change of heart among the oppressors through self-suffering. His experiments and his studies in non-violence lead him to establish his first Ashram at Phoenix. Page 3 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners He fought many battles against racism. His struggle was based on truth and non-violence, and he worked to bring about a change of heart among the oppressors who were the white rulers in South Africa. He had gone to South Africa for one year, but he was there for almost 25 years, and at last left in 1914 after signing an agreement with General Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa, which ensured minimum justice for the Indians in that country. The First World War started while he was nearing England where he had gone to meet Gopal Krishna Gokhale his political Guru, who in the meantime had gone to France. He returned to India early in 1915. In England he got Pleurisy. The cold climate did not suit him. Gandhiji landed at Bombay in mid January 1915 with Kasturba, and had a rousing reception. His reputation had reached India before him. He decided to go to Pune to meet Gopal Krishna Gokhale and from there he went to Shanti Niketan where his party had arrived in the meantime from South Africa. He introduced many healthy changes in self-help at Shanti Niketan. Gokhale's death soon afterwards led to Gandhiji founding the Satyagraha Ashram at Ahmedabad from where he spread the message of Satyagraha and provided leadership for the struggle, first in Bihar for justice to Indian Indigo planters and then in Khera and Bardoli regarding land revenue, and finally for India's freedom struggle. It was a new way of fighting for justice, and for one's rights in which the physically weak could have as much opportunity to show their valour as the physically and intellectually strong. High and low, rich and poor, men and women all joined him, and a new moral and spiritual awakening was seen in India which finally led to the end of foreign rule in India. But unfortunately the British agreed to the partition of India before they quit India, which resulted in endless suffering to millions of people in India and Pakistan. If the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten had listened to Gandhiji's advice, and the British had left India to Indians, or God and Indians were allowed to settle the Hindu-Muslim question by themselves, History might have been quite Page 4 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners different. Much suffering and bloodshed could have been avoided. But Mountbatten wanted to be the hero, who solved the Indian problem, and the result was the dead line of 15th August 1947. Partition of India became a reality, and the creation of Pakistan with mass migration led to bloody riots and terrible suffering for millions on both sides. Gandhiji stood like a beacon light bringing peace and sanity wherever he went. Instances of his work in Calcutta, Noakhali and Bihar illustrated his ability to bring about change of heart among the fighting Hindus and Muslims through his own self-suffering, and establishment of peace between the two communities. His effectiveness, and total dedication to peace and non-violence to bring about sanity and change of heart among the fighting Hindus and Muslims through his own self-suffering, was not acceptable to certain communal-minded Hindu sections, and as a result of that Gandhiji became the victim of the three bullets of Godse while on his way to prayers on 30th January 1948. With God's name on his lips he made a perfect exit and thus ended a perfect life. The youth of India will greatly benefit by reading Ravindra Varma's book which is in three parts — Part-I gives the narrative of Gandhiji's life. Part-II consists of a series of anecdotes from Gandhiji's life. Part-Ill concentrates on his philosophy of life, the development of his concept of Satyagraha based on truth and non-violence as the law of life. The discovery of Satyagraha provided the remedy to the weak and strong alike to fight injustice and get back their legitimate rights from the oppressor without causing bitterness or enmity. Satyagraha he showed, leads to winning over the opponent so that he willingly gives up the path of injustice, and mutual differences are settled by change of heart. Gandhiji's death of January 30th, 1948, shocked the whole world and sanity prevailed in India for quite some time. There were no reprisals or killings by Hindus or Muslims of one another as was feared. His martyrdom made India and Pakistan to turn the search light inward at that time. Gandhiji's teachings, however, are still to become a part and parcel of India's way of thinking and solving the problems of communalism, poverty and Page 5 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners unemployment. The downtrodden are still to get justice, and peace and prosperity have yet to reach all. We need opportunities for development for all and there has to be an end to the exploitation of the weak by the strong. We have a long way to go to eradicate poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and exploitation. We can do so only by going back to Gandhiji's message of Satyagraha and sustainable development by using human hands and tools to supplement their strength. May God give us the wisdom to choose the right path. Pursuit of power by itself is not going to end our problems. Pursuit of service of the weak by the strong and putting an end to corruption and exploitation of the weak by the strong with a firm hand alone can and will do so. Similarly we must avoid machines which make human hands mere cogs in the machine and take away all joy of creativity which is the reward of making things with one's own hands making use of tools where necessary. Gandhiji's favourite example was the Singer Sewing machine which takes away drudgery but not the joy of creativity. A study of Gandhiji's message can show us the right path, and Ravindra Varma's three books can prove very helpful to the youth of India. I have narrated above the message of the 1st book. Book 3 concentrates on the implications and application of Gandhian technique and the ideology of Satyagraha, non- violence, non-cooperation and the importance of bringing about change of heart in the opponent through self-suffering. Book 2 narrates several anecdotes that illustrate the way Bapu dealt with problems, which are very interesting. I congratulate Ravindra Varma for the service he has rendered to the younger generation in India by writing these three books and hope they will be widely read and their message understood and accepted by our people. Sevagram June 19, 2000 Dr. Sushila Nayar Page 6 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners PREFACE It is not easy to list the number of books that have been written on the life or message of Mahatma Gandhi. They have appeared in almost all the main languages of the world. The first of these was written while Gandhi was still finding himself in South Africa. This was written by a South African missionary, Rev. Doke. Since then many outstanding biographies have been written by philosophers like Romain Rolland, and illustrious authors like Louis Fischer. Biographies written by D.G. Tendulkar and Shri Pyarelal span many volumes and are invaluable mines of information. They will continue as classic sources of inspiration. I do not attempt to cite other books and authors for fear of exposing myself to the charge of being invidious. But I have learned much from many of them. This small book does not lay claims to being comprehensive or exhaustive. It is meant only to serve as an introduction, particularly to benefit children and beginners, and to inspire them to make a deeper study, and to instil the desire to know more, and to benefit from the life and message of Mahatma Gandhi. Ravindra Varma Page 7 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am deeply grateful to all those who have helped me to revise the manuscript of this book by making valuable suggestions and correcting errors. I must make particular mention of Shri Shailesh Bandopadhyaya, Secretary of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Dr. Siby Joseph of the Gandhi Vichar Parishad, Wardha, Ms. Maya Joshi, Ms. Anshu Priya and my son Harshawardhan Varma. I am also grateful to Shri S. K. Dubey, Shri Venu and Shri Sivan for the pains they took in typing and preparing the manuscript for the press. I do not know how to thank Dr. Sushila Nayar for graciously finding time to go through the manuscripts of the three books in these series, making invaluable suggestions, and writing a foreword to them. I was amazed at the care and meticulousness with which she went through the manuscripts even in the midst of the many demands on her time. New Delhi Ravindra Varma Page 8 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners 1 Einstein was not the only one to see that Gandhi was a unique and incredible kind of human being. All those who came in contact with him including those who were ranged against him perceived that there was something unique about Gandhi. General Smuts whom he 'fought' in South Africa, successive representatives of the British Crown whom he 'fought' in India, the planters in Champaran, the mill-owners, the landlords, the orthodox fundamentalists whom he 'fought', on the question of untouchability or communalism,—all saw this uniqueness. He fought, but he loved even those whom he fought. He did not fight them out of anger or hatred or jealousy; he fought them because he loved them, and did not want them to persist in doing what was harmful and injurious to themselves as to others. Yet, he was felled down by an assassin, by one of his own countrymen, one of his co-religionists. On hearing that Gandhi had been assassinated, George Bernard Shaw, the well-known British playwright and litterateur said that the assassination showed how dangerous it was to be too good. Gandhi wanted to be wholly good. To be wholly good one not only has to renounce what is not in the good of all, but also be active in the defense of what is in the good of all, through means that were consistent with the good of all. How can one be wholly good? Ours is a world of attractions and temptations. One sees and experiences suffering, and wants to seek freedom from suffering. One feels tempted to believe that the easiest way to escape suffering is to seek pleasure; to possess what can give pleasure: to seek the power that can enable one to acquire and retain possessions; to dominate so that one may forestall and thwart possible challenges to one's possessions. Yet, Gandhi wanted to be wholly good, wholly truthful, wholly loving. He did not seek possessions. He did not seek power. What he wanted to do in life, what he wanted to do with life was to "realize" the power that was latent in all human beings — the power to know or see god, or the law that governs the Page 9 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners universe, or the truth of the universe. He learned that he could see truth only by divesting himself of ego- centricity, or by 'reducing oneself to zero', as he said. One could move out of ego-centricity only when one began to love all else in the universe — animate and inanimate. It is only when one loves all that one sees in the universe that one learns to identify oneself with 'creation', and the Law or Truth or God that rules 'Creation'. Gandhi never claimed uniqueness. In fact, he protested against being described as unique. He insisted that he was a common man; that there was nothing uncommon about him. He was not a prophet, not a Mahatma. He believed, and said again and again that there was nothing he had done which other human beings could not do. He often said that he had nothing new to teach the world. The principles of Truth and Love that he had placed before humanity were "as old as the hills". All that he had done was to try to prove their value, the need for them and their validity in every field of human activity — in personal life or social life. It is easy to see that Truth and love are the laws on which the Universe, and human society are built. The laws of nature are unalterable. Since they are unalterable and sovereign, what is in conflict with them will not endure. One has to conform to the laws if one wants to build something that may endure, to achieve something beneficial or enduring. The identification and pursuit of the law or truth were therefore essential in all fields of life. It was the quest for this truth, and the desire to live in the light of this truth that made Gandhi what he became. Gandhi felt the call of truth even in his childhood. But it took many years and many ordeals and experiments before he could learn to discover and apply it in all walks of life. The story of his life is the story of his "experiments with Truth". It reflects the way he grew with his experiments in his personal life, and in the life of the society of which he was a member. Gandhi claimed to be a common man; the common man was at the centre of his concern. He wanted to show what the common human being could achieve, and how. He wanted the common human being to be free, since he believed that Page 10 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners without freedom there could be no self-fulfillment. He wanted a social, economic and political order — national and international order — that provided the opportunity for self-fulfillment, and preserved the right and power of the common man to defend his freedom. It is this transparent love for the common human being that made Gandhi what he meant to the common man. It was, therefore, no wonder that when Gandhi died, human beings all over the world felt that something had been wrenched off from them, that something in them had ceased to exist, something for which they had yearned, and would continue to yearn. How did Gandhi, the shy young child from Porbander and Rajkot become the symbol of the hope of the common man everywhere? That is the story we will read in the chapters that follow. Page 11 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners 2 Gandhi was born in Porbandar, on the 2nd of October 1869. Porbandar is one of the many princely States in Kathiawad (Saurashtra) which is now in the state of Gujarat. Gandhi's father belonged to a family that was well known and highly respected in Porbandar as well as in neighbouring states like Rajkot and Junagarh. The family was not known for its wealth or scholarship. But two of the members of the family had occupied the high position of "Dewan" or Chief Minister of the state of Porbandar. They had earned a high reputation for their honesty and wisdom, and their knowledge of the arts of administration and the affairs of the court of the Ruler. They were also known for their loyalty as well as their tact in handling citizens and situations. They were men of culture and high principles in public and private life. These principles sometimes got them into trouble with the Ruler or highly placed members of the royal family and court. But they conducted themselves with such exemplary courage and rectitude that their views and acts were vindicated, and the reputation of their rectitude spread to other parts of Saurashtra. Gandhi's grandfather, Uttamchand Gandhi was an able administrator. But he ran into trouble with the Queen-mother-Regent because he refused to do what her maids asked of him. The Regent then dispatched the army and got Uttamchand's house shelled. But Uttamchand did not budge. He preferred to leave her service and move to Junagarh. There he had the audacity to salute the Nawab with his left hand. He was asked to explain why he had shown such disrespect to the Nawab. He explained that his right hand had been pledged to Porbandar. The Nawab was pleased to see such loyalty, and tried to get Uttamchand reinstated as Diwan of Porbandar when the Queen-rnother passed away, and the successor ascended the throne. But Uttamchand declined, and his son Karamchand was appointed Diwan at the young age of 24. Page 12 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners Karamchand too was a man of high principles and courage. He too incurred the displeasure of the Ruler of Porbandar, and moved to Rajkot. He was appointed Diwan in Rajkot. There, he could not bear the contemptuous manner in which the British Political Agent talked of the Ruler. He protested, and the British officer retaliated by ordering his arrest and detention. But Karamchand refused to relent or apologize, and the Political Agent had to retract and release Karamchand Gandhi. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who later came to be known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born as the son of this Karamchand Gandhi and his wife, Putlibai. Putlibai also came from the trading community. She had not received much education. But she was very knowledgeable about social affairs and matters of court, and could participate intelligently in the talks and discussions that took place among the ladies of the Royal Court. She was a devout Hindu, and used to visit the Haveli or temple regularly. Gandhi used to accompany her to the temple, although, he admitted, he was not attracted by the pomp and show and the goings on in the temple. But what left a lasting mark on Gandhi's mind was the genuine piety of his mother, her profound faith in God, and her unswerving determination to take and adhere to even the hardest of vows in the pursuit of her religious beliefs. To cite an instance, in the rainy season, she would vow not to take her meals till she saw the sun, and would often have to go without food because the sun disappeared behind clouds by the time her children who had spotted the fugitive shouted to her, and she came out to see the sun herself. Both Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai were deeply religious although they were not scholars. They were Hindus, perhaps orthodox in many respects. But sadhus and religious men of many faiths (Hindu, Jain, Muslim and Parsi) visited their house and engaged in religious discussions. All the members of the family and the children including young Mohandas listened to these discussions with deep interest and reverence. These discussions and the atmosphere of piety in the house must have sown the seeds of faith and tolerance in the mind of young Page 13 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners Mohandas. In later years, they became the foundation of Gandhi's firm belief that all religions deserved equal respect. There were also days on which the family listened to readings from the great Hindu devotional classics like the Bhagavata and the Ramayana. Mohandas came under the spell of the devotion and dedication to God that throbbed in these verses. He learned to look upon Tulsidas's rendering of the Ramayana as the most moving devotional classic in Hinduism, — perhaps in any religion. Around this time, Gandhi chanced to see a copy of the Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka on his father's table. Though he was not given to reading books, this book attracted him. He read it with great interest, and the picture of Shravana carrying both his blind parents on his shoulders imprinted itself on young Gandhi's mind. The thought arose in him that he should be as loyal to his parents as Shravana was, and should serve them with as much dedication and self- surrender as Shravana. The visit of a travelling troupe that exhibited pictures from Shravana's life intensified this desire to serve his parents with devotion and joy. Another portrayal that created a lasting impression on Gandhi's mind was that of Raja Harishchandra who had dedicated his life to truth. The ordeals through which the king had to pass and the agony, sacrifices and suffering that he had to undergo to stick to Truth melted Gandhi's heart. He could not banish the picture of Harishchandra from his mind. Gandhi had always felt a great fascination for Truth. The story of Harishchandra reinforced this attraction and the determination to cling to Truth at any cost. Page 14 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners 3 Gandhi started going to school in Porbandar. Later when the family moved to Rajkot, he joined the Alfred High School at Rajkot. He was conscientious, but not fond of studies. He was shy. He would hardly mix with other students in school, and the moment school was over, he would run back home. He was not fond of games but liked to go for long and brisk walks. He had the highest respect for his teachers, and never wanted to do anything that would give them pain. Yet, there were occasions in school (and outside) when his innate loyalty to truth was put to test. Once when he was in the class, the Inspector of Schools visited his school. The English teacher was keen to prove that his students had been taught well. He gave the students a dictation test in the presence of the Inspector. Young Gandhi could not spell the world 'kettle' correctly. The teacher saw this. He tried to prompt Gandhi to look at what the student next to him had written and to correct himself. But Gandhi could not bring himself to do this. He could not believe that his teacher who should have been concerned with the truthfulness and character of his students was himself prompting him to cheat or engage in untruth. On another occasion Gandhi had to experience the agony of being taken for a liar. Most students of his school used to go home after the end of regular classes and return for the period of gymnastics. Gandhi too used to do this. One day, by the time Gandhi arrived for gymnastics, the period was over, and boys had gone home. He was marked absent, and was hauled up before the Headmaster, Eduljee. Gandhi explained that he had been nursing his ailing father. Besides, the clouds too had misled him in judging the time. But the headmaster did not believe Gandhi, called him a liar, accused him of lying and imposed a fine. It was not the fine that hurt him, but the thought that he had been looked upon as a liar. That day, Gandhi learnt the lesson that those who wanted to be truthful, and taken as truthful, had to be vigilant and mindful of everything. Page 15 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners There were other experiences that taught Gandhi even more bitter lessons. He became friendly with a boy who had earlier been a friend of his elder brother. Gandhi had been warned against coming under the influence of this boy, Sheikh Mahtab. But he persisted in the belief that he would be able to reform Mahtab. But Mahtab's pleasant ways and persuasive tongue began to lead Gandhi astray in one field after another. Gandhi's family was strictly vegetarian. But Mahtab convinced Gandhi that no one could be strong and muscular without eating meat, and the Indians would never be able to free themselves from the British unless they took to eating meat, which was the secret of the strength of the British. The argument appealed to Gandhi. Though hesitant, he agreed to try. So a day was chosen. A deserted place was located, and Gandhi shared a non-vegetarian meal with Mahtab. At night, however, Gandhi had strange dreams and nightmares. He felt he could hear the goat bleating from within his belly. In spite of this first experience which had made Gandhi restless, his companion persisted in tempting him, and Gandhi went along. But soon it became clear that the habit was expensive. Neither Gandhi nor his friend had any income of their own to have such special meals at special places. Moreover, it involved lying and deceiving his parents and other members of the family. Gandhi could not reconcile himself to a life of deceit. So he decided to give up the experiment and wait till he had his own income. Mahtab introduced Gandhi to other habits. He began to smoke. Cigarettes were hard to come by. But once one is in the grip of a habit, one looks for ways of getting what one wants. So Gandhi too started picking up cigarette butts thrown away by his uncle and smoking them secretly. But this did not assure a steady supply. So Gandhi began to pilfer small coins from the bags of his servants. When this too became difficult or inadequate he felt frustrated. He was overcome by deep despair. Sheikh Mahtab shared his feelings, and they both decided that they would end their lives rather than live in agony and despair. Page 16 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners They had heard that Dhatura seeds could help them in their design. So they collected these seeds from the jungle and met at a temple to end their lives by consuming the seeds. Gandhi even swallowed two or three seeds. But then courage failed, and he decided that it was better to live and improve his condition rather than to end his life. To raise some money, Gandhi and his elder brother made bold to clip off a tiny bit from his brother's golden bracelet. This was too much for Gandhi's conscience. He began to see where he was going and where he would reach if he did not turn back. He was not only living a life of untruth but also deceiving his father who had unquestioning faith in him. He could not continue to steal and cheat and deceive his father. He would choke if he did. There was only one way out. He had to confess to his father and regain a clear conscience. He decided to write out a confession, admit his guilt, assure his father that he would never repeat the crime and ask to be punished for what he had done. Gandhi's father was on his sick bed when Gandhi handed over the letter to him and sat near him waiting to be admonished, and perhaps punished. Karamchand sat up in bed, read the letter. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and he lay down. Gandhi too was in tears. He felt that his father's tears of forgiveness and faith had cleansed him. He learned a lesson that he never forgot. When one realises that one has committed a mistake, one should lose no time in accepting or confessing one's mistake, declaring one's firm resolve not to repeat such mistakes, relinquishing whatever one had gained, and cheerfully suffering any punishment that the mistake calls for. It is this lesson and Gandhi's faith in the power of confession that prompted Gandhi to make public confessions of his shortcomings and mistakes in later life. Page 17 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners 4 Gandhi's father was not in good health, and was growing old. He was keen to see his two young sons married before he passed away. So he decided that the younger son, Mohan's marriage should also take place at the same time as that of the elder son. Gandhi's marriage took place when he was thirteen years of age. He was still a student in the Alfred High School at Rajkot. Kasturba to whom he was married was also of the same age. She had never been to school. Both of them were too young to understand or take up the responsibilities of married life. In later years, Gandhi saw this, and spoke of how thoughtless and dangerous it was to push young children into marriage or for young children to enter into marital life. But at the time Gandhi married, he only knew that his father wanted him to marry, that there would be much pomp and many festivities; that he would be at the centre of all these, and would have an enjoyable experience that he would remember all his life. He also knew that he would, acquire a new playmate or companion, a companion of the other sex with all the mysteries, attractions and social prestige that it held. On the very first night that he spent with his young bride he experienced the stirrings and attractions of the body. In later years, he wondered who had coached whom in how to cope with what happens to the mind and the body when a young bride and bridegroom are thrown together at a tender age. He realised that he was greatly attracted by the pleasures that the body could give. He found that he was in the grip of lust, and would eagerly wait for nightfall and seek joy in the company of his young wife. Sheikh Mahtab, who was still close to Gandhi, perhaps divined these new stirrings in Gandhi. He nearly got Gandhi to embark on a life of lust. He took him to visit the lodgings of prostitutes. But Gandhi was saved by something within him. He sat dumb and frozen on the bed till the prostitute herself rained abuses on him and drove him out. Gandhi was saved. Yet later in life he confessed that even though there was no action on his part, the intention to sin Page 18 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners was present, and so he should confess that he was guilty in terms of morality. However, he decided that he would never betray or deceive his wife. Gandhi was devoted to his wife, Kasturba. But he also believed that as her husband, he had unquestioned authority over her. He would take decisions for her. She could not go anywhere, not even to the temple, without his permission. He was her master. But Kasturba showed that she also had a mind and will of her own. She would go to the temple and visit her friends without seeking Gandhi's permission. Gandhi was jealous, and therefore suspicious. It was only much later in life, after he ceased to be a slave of the body and bodily attractions, that he realised that a wife was not a piece of property to be possessed by him. He then realised that a woman had all the rights that a man had. She was, therefore, entitled to a personality and will of her own. The wife was a companion and an equal partner of the husband, and not a toy or slave. Later in life, Gandhi even said that he had learnt many lessons from his wife, Kasturba — especially in Ahimsa (non-violence) and the way to resist with love. But that was where Gandhi reached many years later. While in school, and in the years immediately after his marriage, Gandhi was attracted to the bodily pleasures of married life. He would wait for classes to end to run back to his wife. This affected his studies. Worse still, it began to distract his mind even when he was serving his sick father, keeping vigil at his bedside or massaging his feet, before he fell asleep. One night, the inevitable happened. Gandhi was massaging the feet of his ailing father while his mind was full of the thoughts of Kasturba and the pleasures of their bed. Karamchand's brother, young Gandhi's uncle, offered to massage Karamchand's feet so that Gandhi could go and sleep. Gandhi agreed and ran to his room. He had hardly bolted the room when someone knocked on the door and asked Gandhi to hurry back to his father's bed since he was 'seriously' ill. He knew what it meant, and hurried back into his father's room only to find that his father had breathed his last during the few minutes that had taken him to go to the side of his wife. Gandhi was overcome with remorse and shame. There was no way of making amends. He had hoped that he would be serving Page 19 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners his father even when his breath departed from the body. He had missed the opportunity because of his desire for bodily pleasures. He let the bitter lesson sink in. His father's death raised many questions for the family. Gandhi had completed his education in the High School at Rajkot. There was no college in Rajkot then. So he had moved on to the Samaldas College at Bhavnagar. But there he found studies very difficult. All subjects were taught in English. He found that his knowledge of English was not adequate. He did not know what to do. The family needed his support. He had his own wife. One suggestion was that he should look for work or go to Bombay to study. Some friends of the family had a different idea. It would be good if someone from the family could maintain the tradition of serving as the Diwan of Rajkot or Porbandar. Only young Gandhi could attempt this. But times had changed. No one could aspire to be Diwan unless he had sound education. So why should not Gandhi go to England and qualify for the Bar ? It would be a prestigious qualification, and would open new avenues. The idea appealed to Gandhi. It was an opportunity and an escape. England had its own attractions at that time. To be educated in England was to receive a passport to the circles of the elite. But there were many hurdles. The money had to be found. Elders, particularly Gandhi's mother, had to give her consent. His uncle said he would not stand in the way if his mother agreed. His brother agreed to make the money available, if necessary by raising a loan. The harder task was to get his mother's consent. After much persuasion from many well-wishers and friends of the family Gandhi's mother agreed to let Mohandas go to England, provided he took three solemn vows — to keep away from meat, wine and women. Gandhi took these vows in all solemnity, and went to Bombay on his way to England. Gandhi's troubles were not over. At Bombay, he was summoned by the elders of the caste. He was about to cross the seas and go abroad. This was forbidden by tradition. So he should desist or face being expelled from the caste and made an outcaste (denied all social contact with members of his own caste, including Page 20 GANDHI – A Biography for children and beginners his own family). Gandhi was hardly 18. But he discovered that he was not the man to be cowed down. He did not reply with anger or bitterness. He remained calm, and told the elders of the caste that he had made up his mind to go. He respected them. But he would not obey their order, and would readily face the consequences of his disobedience. In later years, Gandhi cited this as the first occasion on which he resorted to Satyagraha, though he did not know then his was an act of Satyagraha. Page 21

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