Let no one imagine that
my experiments in dancing and the like marked a stage of indulgence in
my life. The reader will have noticed that even then I had my wits about
me. That period of infatuations was not unrelieved by a certain amount
of self-introspection on my part. I kept account of every farthing I spent,
and my expenses were carefully calculated. Every little item, such as omnibus
fares or postage or a couple of coppers spent on newspapers, would be entered,
and the balance struck every evening before going to bed. That habit has
stayed with me ever since, and I know that as a result, though I have had
to handle public funds amounting to lakhs, I have succeeded in exercising
strict economy in their disbursement, and instead of outstanding debts
have had invariably a surplus balance in respect of all the movements I
have led. Let every youth take a leaf out of my book and make it a point
to account for everything that comes into and goes out of his pocket, and
like me he is sure to be a gainer in the end.
As I kept strict watch over
my way of living, I could see that it was necessary to economize. I therefore
decided to reduce my expenses by half. My accounts showed numerous items
spent on fares. Again my living with a family meant the payment of a regular
weekly bill. It also included the courtesy of occasionally taking members
of the family out to dinner, and likewise attending parties with them.
All this involved heavy items for conveyances, especially as, if the friend
was a lady, custom required that the man should pay all the expenses. Also,
dining out meant extra cost, as no deduction could be made from the regular
weekly bill for meals not taken. It seemed to me that all these items could
be saved, as likewise the drain on my purse caused through a false sense
So I decided to take rooms on
my own account, instead of living any longer in a family, and also to remove
from place to place according to the work I had to do, thus gaining experience
at the same time. The rooms were so selected as to enable me to reach the
place of business on foot in half an hour, and so save fares. Before this
I had always taken some kind of conveyance whenever I went anywhere, and
had to find extra time for walks. The new arrangement combined walks and
economy, as it meant a saving of fares and gave me walks of eight or ten
miles a day. It was mainly this habit of long walks that kept me practically
free from illness throughout my stay in England and gave me a fairly strong
Thus I rented a suite of rooms;
one for a sitting room and another for a bedroom. This was the second stage.
The third was yet to come.
These changes saved me half
the expense. But how was I to utilize the time? I knew that Bar examinations
did not require much study, and I therefore did not feel pressed for time.
My weak English was a perpetual worry to me. Mr. (afterwards Sir Frederic)
Lely's words, 'Graduate first and then come to me,' still rang in my ears.
I should, I thought, not only be called to the bar, but have some literary
degree as well. I inquired about the Oxford and Cambridge University courses,
consulted a few friends, and found that if I elected to go to either of
these places, that would mean greater expense and a much longer stay in
England than I was prepared for. A friend suggested that, if I really wanted
to have the satisfaction of taking a difficult examination, I should pass
the London Matriculation. It meant a good deal of labour and much addition
to my stock of general knowledge, without any extra expense worth the name.
I welcomed the suggestion. But the syllabus frightened me. Latin and a
modern language were compulsory! How was I to manage Latin? But the friend
entered a strong plea for it: 'Latin is very valuable to lawyers. Knowledge
of Latin is very useful in understanding law books. And one paper in Roman
Law is entirely in Latin. Besides, a knowledge of Latin means greater command
over the English language.' It went home, and I decided to learn Latin,
no matter how difficult it might be. French I had already begun, so I thought
that should be the modern language. I joined a private Matriculation class.
Examinations were held every six months, and I had only five months at
my disposal. It was an almost impossible task for me. But the aspirant
after being an English gentleman chose to convert himself into a serious
student. I framed my own time-table to the minute; but neither my intelligence
nor memory promised to enable me to tackle Latin and French besides other
subjects within the given period. The result was that I was ploughed [=that
I failed] in Latin. I was sorry but did not lose heart. I had acquired
a taste for Latin; also I thought my French would be all the better for
another trial, and I would select a new subject in the science group. Chemistry,
which was my subject in science, had no attraction for want of experiments,
whereas it ought to have been a deeply interesting study. It was one of
the compulsory subjects in India, and so I had selected it for the London
Matriculation. This time, however, I chose Heat and Light instead of Chemistry.
It was said to be easy and I found it to be so.
With my preparation for another
trial, I made an effort to simplify my life still further. I felt that
my way of living did not yet befit the modest means of my family. The thought
of my struggling brother, who nobly responded to my regular calls for monetary
help, deeply pained me. I saw that most of those who were spending from
eight to fifteen pounds monthly had the advantage of scholarships. I had
before me examples of much simpler living. I came across a fair number
of poor students living more humbly than I. One of them was staying in
the slums in a room at two shillings a week and living on two pence worth
of cocoa and bread per meal from Lockhart's cheap Cocoa Rooms. It was far
from me to think of emulating him, but I felt I could surely have one room
instead of two and cook some of my meals at home. That would be a saving
of four to five pounds each month. I also came across books on simple living.
I gave up the suite of rooms and rented one instead, invested in a stove,
and began cooking my breakfast at home. The process scarcely took me more
than twenty minutes for there was only oatmeal porridge to cook and water
to boil for cocoa. I had lunch out and for dinner bread and coca at home.
Thus I managed to live on a shilling and three pence a day. This was also
a period of intensive study. Plain living saved me plenty of time, and
I passed my examination.
Let not the reader think that
this living made my life by any means a dreary affair. On the contrary,
the change harmonized my inward and outward life. It was also more in keeping
with the means of my family. My life was certainly more truthful and my
soul knew no bounds of joy.