2. HOW I BEGAN LIFE
My elder brother had built
high hopes on me. The desire for wealth and name and fame was great in
him. He had a big heart, generous to a fault. This, combined with his simple
nature, had attracted to him many friends, and through them he expected
to get me briefs. He had also assumed that I should have a swinging practice
and had, in that expectation, allowed the household expenses to become
top-heavy. He had also left no stone unturned in preparing the field for
The storm in my caste over my
foreign voyage was still brewing. It had divided the caste into two camps,
one of which immediately readmitted me, while the other was bent on keeping
me out. To please the former my brother took me to Nasik before going to
Rajkot, gave me a bath in the sacred river, and on reaching Rajkot gave
a caste dinner. I did not like all this. But my brother's love for me was
boundless, and my devotion to him was in proportion to it, and so I mechanically
acted as he wished, taking his will to be law. The trouble about readmission
to the caste was thus practically over.
I never tried to seek admission
to the section that had refused it. Nor did I feel even mental resentment
against any of the headmen of that section. Some of these regarded me with
dislike, but I scrupulously avoided hurting their feelings. I fully respected
the caste regulations about excommunication. According to these, none of
my relations, including my father-in-law and mother-in-law, and even my
sister and brother-in-law, could entertain me; and I would not so much
as drink water at their houses. They were prepared secretly to evade the
prohibition, but it went against the grain with me to do a thing in secret
that I would not do in public.
The result of my scrupulous
conduct was that I never had occasion to be troubled by the caste; nay,
I have experienced nothing but affection and generosity from the general
body of the section that still regards me as excommunicated. They have
even helped me in my work, without ever expecting me to do anything for
the caste. It is my conviction that all these good things are due to my
non-resistance. Had I agitated for being admitted to the caste, had I attempted
to divide it into more camps, had I provoked the caste-men, they would
surely have retaliated; and instead of steering clear of the storm, I should,
on arrival from England, have found myself in a whirlpool of agitation,
and perhaps a party to dissimulation.
My relations with my wife were
still not as I desired. Even my stay in England had not cured me of jealously.
I continued my squeamishness and suspiciousness in respect of every little
thing, and hence all my cherished desires remained unfulfilled. I had decided
that my wife should learn reading and writing, and that I should help her
in her studies, but my lust came in the way and she had to suffer for my
own shortcoming. Once I went [to] the length of sending her away to her
father's house, and consented to receive her back only after I had made
her thoroughly miserable. I saw later that all this was pure folly on my
I had planned reform in the
education of children. My brother had children, and my own child which
I had left at home when I went to England was now a boy of nearly four.
It was my desire to teach these little ones physical exercise and make
them hardy, and also to give them the benefit of my personal guidance.
In this I had my brother's support, and I succeeded in my efforts more
or less. I very much liked the company of children, and the habit of playing
and joking with them has stayed with me till today. I have ever since thought
that I should make a good teacher of children.
The necessity for food 'reform'
was obvious. Tea and coffee had already found their place in the house.
My brother had thought it fit to keep some sort of English atmosphere ready
for me on my return, and to that end crockery and other such things, which
used to be kept in the house only for special occasions, were now in general
use. My 'reforms' put the finishing touch. I introduced oatmeal porridge,
and cocoa was to replace tea and coffee. But in truth it became an addition
to tea and coffee. Boots and shoes were already there. I completed the
Europeanization by adding the European dress.
Expenses thus went up. New things
were added every day. We had succeeded in tying a white elephant at our
door. But how was the wherewithal to be found? To start practice in Rajkot
would have meant sure ridicule. I had hardly the knowledge of a qualified
vakil, and yet I expected to be paid ten times his fee! No client would
be fool enough to engage me. And even if such a one was to be found, should
I add arrogance and fraud to my ignorance, and increase the burden of debt
I owed to the world?
Friends advised me to go to
Bombay for some time in order to gain experience of the High Court, to
study Indian law, and to try to get what briefs I could. I took up the
suggestion, and went.
In Bombay I started a household
with a cook as incompetent as myself. He was a Brahman. I did not treat
him as a servant, but as a member of the household. He would pour water
over himself but never wash. His dhoti was dirty, as also his sacred
thread, and he was completely innocent of the scriptures. But how was I
to get a better cook?
'Well, Ravishankar' (for that
was his name), I would ask him, 'you may not know cooking, but surely you
must know your sandhya (daily worship) ,etc.'
'Sandhya, sir! The plough
is our sandhya, and the spade our daily ritual. That is the type
of Brahman I am. I must live on your mercy. Otherwise agriculture is of
course there for me.'
So I had to be Ravishankar's
teacher. Time I had enough. I began to do half the cooking myself, and
introduced the English experiments in vegetarian cookery. I invested in
a stove, and with Ravishankar began to run the kitchen. I had no scruples
about interdining, Ravishankar too came to have none, and so we went on
merrily together. There was only one obstacle. Ravishankar had sworn to
remain dirty and to keep the food unclean!
But it was impossible for me
to get along in Bombay for more than four or five months, there being no
income to square with the ever-increasing expenditure.
This was how I began life. I
found the barrister's profession a bad job--much show and little knowledge.
I felt a crushing sense of my responsibility.