1. BIRTH AND PARENTAGE
The Gandhis belong to
the Bania caste and seem to have been originally grocers. But for three
generations, from my grandfather, they have been Prime Ministers in several
Kathiawad States. Uttamchand Gandhi, alias Ota Gandhi, my grandfather,
must have been a man of principle. State intrigues compelled him to leave
Porbandar, where he was Diwan, and to seek refuge in Junagadh. There he
saluted the Nawab with the left hand. Someone, noticing the apparent discourtesy,
asked for an explanation, which was thus given: 'The right hand is already
pledged to Porbandar.'
Ota Gandhi married a second
time, having lost his first wife. He had four sons by his first wife and
two by his second wife. I do not think that in my childhood I ever felt
or knew that these sons of Ota Gandhi were not all of the same mother.
The fifth of these six brothers was Karamchand Gandhi, alias Kaba Gandhi,
and the sixth was Tulsidas Gandhi. Both these brothers were Prime Ministers
in Porbandar, one after the other. Kaba Gandhi was my father. He was a
member of the Rajasthanik Court. It is now extinct, but in those days it
was a very influential body for settling disputes between the chiefs and
their fellow clansmen. He was for some time Prime Minister in Rajkot and
then in Vankaner. He was a pensioner of the Rajkot State when he died.
Kaba Gandhi married four times
in succession, having lost his wife each time by death. He had two daughters
by his first and second marriages. His last wife, Putlibai, bore him a
daughter and three sons, I being the youngest.
My father was a lover of his
clan, truthful, brave and generous, but short-tempered. To a certain extent
he might have been even given to carnal pleasures. For he married for the
fourth time when he was over forty. But he was incorruptible, and had earned
a name for strict impartiality in his family as well as outside. His loyalty
to the state was well known. An Assistant Political Agent spoke insultingly
of the Rajkot Thakore Saheb, his chief, and he stood up [=objected] to
the insult. The Agent was angry and asked Kaba Gandhi to apologize. This
he refused to do and was therefore kept under detention for a few hours.
But when the Agent saw that Kaba Gandhi was adamant, he ordered him to
My father never had any ambition
to accumulate riches, and left us very little property.
He had no education, save that
of experience. At best, he might be said to have read up to the fifth Gujarati
standard. Of history and geography he was innocent. But his rich experience
of practical affairs stood him in good stead in the solution of the most
intricate questions and in managing hundreds of men. Of religious training
he had very little, but he had that kind of religious culture which frequent
visits to temples and listening to religious discourses make available
to many Hindus. In his last days he began reading the Gita at the
instance of a learned Brahman friend of the family, and he used to repeat
aloud some verses every day at the time of worship.
The outstanding impression my
has left on my memory is that of saintliness. She was deeply religious.
She would not think of taking her meals without her daily prayers. Going
to Haveli--the Vaishnava temple--was one of her daily duties. As
far as my memory can go back, I do not remember her having ever missed
would take the hardest vows and keep them without flinching. Illness was
no excuse for relaxing them. I can recall her once falling ill when she
was observing the Chandrayana/2/
vow, but the illness was not allowed to interrupt the observance. To keep
two or three consecutive fasts was nothing to her. Living on one meal a
day during Chaturmas was a habit with her. Not content with that,
she fasted every alternate day during one Chaturmas. During another
she vowed not to have food without seeing the sun. We children on those
days would stand, staring at the sky, waiting to announce the appearance
of the sun to our mother. Everyone knows that at the height of the rainy
season the sun often does not condescend to show his face. And I remember
days when, at his sudden appearance, we would rush and announce it to her.
She would run out to see with her own eyes, but by that time the fugitive
sun would be gone, thus depriving her of her meal. 'That does not matter,'
she would say cheerfully, 'God did not want me to eat today.' And then
she would return to her round of duties.
My mother had strong commonsense.
She was well informed about all matters of state, and ladies of the court
thought highly of her intelligence. Often I would accompany her, exercising
the privilege of childhood, and I still remember many lively discussions
she had with the widowed mother of the Thakor Saheb.
Of these parents I was born
at Porbandar, otherwise known as Sundampuri, on the 2nd October, 1869.
I passed my childhood in Porbandar. I recollect having been put to school.
It was with some difficulty that I got through the multiplication tables.
The fact that I recollect nothing more of those days than having learnt,
in company with other boys, to call our teacher all kinds of names, would
strougly suggest that my intellect must have been sluggish, and my memory
= = = = = = = = = = =
Literally a period of four months. A vow of fasting and semi-fasting during
the four months of the rains. The period is a sort of long Lent.
A sort of fast in which the daily quantity of food is increased or diminished
according as the moon waxes or wanes.