V. AT THE HIGH SCHOOL
I have already said that
I was learning at the high school when I was married. We three brothers
were learning at the same school. The eldest brother was in a much higher
class, and the brother who was married at the same time as I was, only
one class ahead of me. Marriage resulted in both of us wasting a year.
Indeed the result was even worse for my brother, for he gave up studies
altogether. Heaven knows how many youths are in the same plight as he.
Only in our present Hindu society do studies and marriage go thus in hand.
My studies were continued. I
was not regarded as a dunce at the high school. I always enjoyed the affection
of my teachers. Certificates of progress and character used to be sent
to the parents every year. I never had a bad certificate. In fact I even
won prizes after I passed out of the second standard. In the fifth and
sixth I obtained scholarships of rupees four and ten respectively, an achievement
for which I have to thank good luck more than my merit. For the scholarships
were not open to all, but reserved for the best boys amongst those coming
from the Sorath Division of Kathiwad. And in those days there could not
have been many boys from Sorath in a class of forty to fifty.
My own recollection is that
I had not any high regard for my ability. I used to be astonished whenever
I won prizes and scholarships. But I very jealously guarded my character.
The least little blemish drew tears from my eyes. When I merited, or seemed
to the teacher to merit, a rebuke, it was unbearable for me. I remember
having once received corporal punishment. I did not so much mind the punishment,
as the fact that it was considered my desert. I wept piteously. That was
when I was in the first or second standard. There was another such incident
during the time when I was in the seventh standard. Dorabji Edulji Gimi
was the headmaster then. He was popular among the boys, as he was a disciplinarian,
a man of method, and a good teacher. He had made gymnastics and cricket
compulsory for boys of the upper standards. I disliked both. I never took
part in any exercise, cricket or football, before they were made compulsory.
My shyness was one of the reasons for this aloofness, which I now see was
wrong. I then had the false notion that gymnastics had nothing to do with
education. Today I know that physical training should have as much place
in the curriculum as mental training.
I may mention, however, that
I was none the worse for abstaining from exercise. That was because I had
read in books about the benefits of long walks in the open air, and having
liked the advice, I had formed a habit of talking walks, which has still
remained with me. These walks gave me a fairly hardy constitution.
The reason for my dislike for
gymnastics was my keen desire to serve as nurse to my father. As soon as
the school closed, I would hurry home and begin serving him. Compulsory
exercise came directly in the way of this service. I requested Mr. Gimi
to exempt me from gymnastics so that I might be free to serve my father.
But he would not listen to me. Now it happened that one Saturday, when
we had school in the morning, I had to go from home to the school for gymnastics
at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I had no watch, and the clouds deceived
me. Before I reached the school the boys had all left. The next day Mr.
Gimi, examining the roll, found me marked absent. Being asked the reason
for absence, I told him what had happened. He refused to believe me and
ordered me to pay a fine one or two annas (I cannot now recall how much).
I was convicted of lying! That
deeply pained me. How was I to prove my innocence? There was no way. I
cried in deep anguish. I saw that a man of truth must also be a man of
care. This was the first and last instance of my carelessness in school.
I have a faint recollection that I finally succeeded in getting the fine
remitted. The exemption from exercise was of course obtained, as my father
wrote himself to the headmaster saying that he wanted me at home after
But though I was none the worse
for having neglected exercise, I am still paying the penalty of another
neglect. I do not know whence I got the notion that good handwriting was
not a necessary part of education, but I retained it until I went to England.
When later, especially in South Africa, I saw the beautiful handwriting
of lawyers and young men born and educated in South Africa, I was ashamed
of myself and repented of my neglect. I saw that bad handwriting should
be regarded as a sign of an imperfect education. I tried later to improve
mine, but it was too late. I could never repair the neglect of my youth.
Let every young man and woman be warned by my example, and understand that
good handwriting is a necessary part of education. I am now of opinion
that children should first be taught the art of drawing before learning
how to write. Let the child learn his letters by observation as he does
different objects, such as flowers, birds, etc., and let him learn handwriting
only after he has learnt to draw objects. He will then write a beautifully
Two more reminiscences of my
school days are worth recording. I had lost one year because of my marriage,
and the teacher wanted me to make good the loss by skipping a class--a
privilege usually allowed to industrious boys. I therefore had only six
months in the third standard, and was promoted to the fourth after the
examinations which are followed by the summer vacation. English became
the medium of instruction in most subjects from the fourth standard. I
found myself completely at sea. Geometry was a new subject in which I was
not particularly strong, and the English medium made it still more difficult
for me. The teacher taught the subject very well, but I could not follow
him. Often I would lose heart and think of going back to the third standard,
feeling that the packing of two years' studies into a single year was too
ambitious. But this would discredit not only me, but also the teacher;
because, counting on my industry, he had recommended my promotion. So the
fear of the double discredit kept me at my post. When, however, with much
effort I reached the thirteenth proposition of Euclid, the utter
simplicity of the subject was suddenly revealed to me. A subject which
only required a pure and simple use of one's reasoning powers could not
be difficult. Ever since that time geometry has been both easy and interesting
Samskrit, however, proved a
harder task. In geometry there was nothing to memorize, whereas in Samskrit,
I thought, everything had to be learnt by heart. This subject also was
commenced from the fourth standard. As soon as I entered the sixth I became
disheartened. The teacher was a hard taskmaster, anxious, as I thought,
to force the boys. There was a sort of rivalry going on between the Samskrit
and the Persian teachers. The Persian teacher was lenient The boys use
to talk among themselves that Persian was very easy and the Persian teacher
very good and considerate to the students. The 'easiness' tempted me, and
one day I sat in the Persian class. The Samskrit teacher was grieved. He
called me to his side and said: 'How can you forget that you are the son
of a Vaishnava father? Won't you learn the language of your own religion?
If you have any difficulty, why not come to me? I want to teach you students
Samskrit to the best of my ability. As you proceed further, you will find
in it things of absorbing interest. You should not lose heart. Come and
sit again in the Samskrit class.'
This kindness put me to shame.
I could not disregard my teacher's affection. Today I cannot but think
with gratitude of Krishnashankar Pandya. For if I had not acquired the
little Samskrit that I learnt them, I should have found it difficult to
take any interest in our sacred books. In fact I deeply regret that I was
not able to acquire a more through knowledge of the language, because I
have since realized that every Hindu boy and girl should posses sound Samskrit
It is now my opinion that in
all Indian curricula of higher education there should be a place for Hindi,
Samskrit, Persian, Arabic, and English, besides of course the vernacular.
This big list need not frighten anyone. If our education were more systematic,
and the boys free from the burden of having to learn their subjects through
a foreign medium, I am sure learning all these languages would not be an
irksome task, but a perfect pleasure. A scientific knowledge of one language
makes a knowledge of other languages comparatively easy.
In reality, Hindu, Gujarati,
and Samskrit may be regarded as one language, and Persian and Arabic also
as one. Though Persian belongs to the Aryan, and Arabic to the Semitic,
family of languages, there is a close relaitionship between Persian and
Arabic, because both claim their full growth through the rise of Islam.
Urdu I have not regarded as a distnict language, because it has adopted
the Hindi grammar, and its vocabulary is mainly Persian and Arabic, and
he who would learn good Urdu must learn Persian and Arabic, as one who
would learn good Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali, or Marathi must learn Samskrit.