1. THE FIRST EXPERIENCE
Before I reached home,
the party which had started from Phoenix had already arrived. According
to our original plan I was to have preceded them, but my preoccupation
in England with the war had upset all our calculations, and when I saw
that I had to be detained in England indefinitely, I was faced with the
question of finding a place for accommodating the Phoenix party. I wanted
them all to stay together in India, if possible, and to live the life they
had led at Phoenix. I did not know of any Ashram to which I could recommend
them to go, and therefore cabled to them to meet Mr. Andrews and do as
So they were first put in the
Gurukul, Kangri, where the late Swami Shraddhanandji treated them as his
own children. After this they were put in the Shantiniketan Ashram, where
the Poet and his people showered similar love upon them. The experiences
they gathered at both these places too stood them and me in good stead.
The Poet, Shraddhanandji, and
Principal Sushil Rudra, as I used to say to Andrews, composed his trinity.
When in South Africa he was never tired of speaking of them, and of my
many sweet memories of South Africa, Mr. Andrews' talks, day in and day
out, of this great trinity, are amongst the sweetest and most vivid. Mr.
Andrews naturally put the Phoenix party in touch with Sushil Rudra. Principal
Rudra had no Ashram, but he had a home which he placed completely at the
disposal of the Phoenix family. Within a day of their arrival, his people
made them feel so thoroughly at home that they did not seem to miss Phoenix
It was only when I landed in
Bombay that I learnt that the Phoenix party was at Shantiniketan. I was
therefore impatient to meet them as soon as I could, after my meeting with
The receptions in Bombay gave
me an occasion for offering what might be called a little Satyagraha.
At the party given in my honour
at Mr. Jehangir Petit's place, I did not dare to speak in Gujarati. In
those palatial surroundings of dazzling splendour I, who had lived my best
life among indentured labourers, felt myself a complete rustic. With my
Kathiawadi cloak, turban, and dhoti, I looked somewhat more civilized than
I do today, but the pomp and splendour of Mr. Petit's mansion made me feel
absolutely out of my element. However, I acquitted myself tolerably well,
having taken shelter under Sir Pherozeshah's protecting wing.
Then there was the Gujarati
function. The Gujaratis would not let me go without a reception, which
was organized by the late Uttamlal Trivedi. I had acquainted myself with
the programme beforehand. Mr. Jinnah was present, being a Gujarati, I forget
whether as president or as the principal speaker. He made a short and sweet
little speech in English. As far as I remember most of the other speeches
were also in English. When my turn came, I expressed my thanks in Gujarati,
explaining my partiality for Gujarati and Hindustani, and entering my humble
protest against the use of English in a Gujarati gathering. This I did
not without some hesitation, for I was afraid lest it should be considered
discourteous for an inexperienced man, returned home after a long exile,
to enter his protest against established practices. But no one seemed to
misunderstand my insistence on replying in Gujarati. In fact I was glad
to note that everyone seemed reconciled to my protest.
The meeting thus emboldened
me to think that I should not find it difficult to place my new-fangled
notions before my countrymen.
After a brief stay in Bombay,
full of these preliminary experiences, I went to Poona, whither Gokhale
had summoned me.