From Rajkot I proceeded to Shantiniketan.
The teachers and students overwhelmed me with affection. The reception
was a beautiful combination of simplicity, art, and love. It was here I
met Kakasaheb Kalelkar for the first time.
I did not know then why Kalelkar
was called 'Kakasaheb'. But I learnt later on that Sjt. Keshavrao Deshpande,
who was a contemporary and a close friend of mine in England, and who had
conducted a school in the Baroda State called 'Ganganath Vidyalaya', had
given the teachers family names with a view to investing the Vidyalaya
with a family atmosphere. Sjt. Kalelkar, who was a teacher there, came
to be called 'Kaka' (literally, paternal uncle), Phadke was called 'Mama'
(literally, maternal uncle), and Harihar Sharma received the name 'Anna'
(literally, brother). Others also got similar names. Anandanand (Swami)
as Kaka's friend, and Patwardhan (Appa) as Mama's friend, later joined
the family, and all in course of time became my co-workers one after another.
Sjt. Deshpande himself used to be called 'Saheb'. When the Vidyalaya had
to be dissolved, the family also broke up, but they never gave up their
spiritual relationship or their assumed names.
Kakasaheb went out to gain experience
of different institutions, and at the time I went to Shantiniketan he happened
to be there. Chintaman Shastri, belonging to the same fraternity, was there
also. Both helped in teaching Samskrit.
The Phoenix family had been
assigned separate quarters at Shantiniketan. Maganlal Gandhi was at their
head, and he had made it his business to see that all the rules of the
Phoenix Ashram should be scrupulously observed. I saw that by dint of his
love, knowledge, and perseverance, he had made his fragrance felt in the
whole of Shantiniketan.
Andrews was there, and
also Pearson. Amongst the Bengali teachers with whom we came in fairly
close contact were Jagadanandbabu, Nepalbabu, Santoshbabu, Kshitimohanbabu,
Nagenbabu, Sharadbabu, and Kalibabu.
As is my wont, I quickly mixed
with the teachers and students, and engaged them in a discussion on self-help.
I put it to the teachers that if they and the boys dispensed with the services
of paid cooks and cooked their food themselves, it would enable the teachers
to control the kitchen from the point of view of the boys' physical and
moral health, and it would afford to the students an object-lesson in self-help.
One or two of them were inclined to shake their heads. Some of them strongly
approved of the proposal. The boys welcomed it, if only because of their
instinctive taste for novelty. So we launched the experiment. When I invited
the Poet to express his opinion, he said that he did not mind it provided
the teachers were favourable. To the boys he said, 'The experiment contains
the key to Swaraj.'
Pearson began to wear away his
body in making the experiment a success. He threw himself into it with
zest. A batch [=group] was formed to cut vegetables, another to clean the
grain, and so on. Nagenbabu and others undertook to see to the sanitary
cleaning of the kitchen and its surroundings. It was a delight to me to
see them working spade in hand.
But it was too much to expect
the hundred and twenty-five boys with their teachers to take to this work
of physical labour like ducks to water. There used to be daily discussions.
Some began early to show fatigue. But Pearson was not the man to be tired.
One would always find him with his smiling face doing something or other
in or about the kitchen. He had taken upon himself the cleaning of the
bigger utensils. A party of students played on their sitar before
this cleaning party, in order to beguile the tedium of the operation. All
alike took the thing up with zest, and Shantiniketan became a busy hive.
Changes like these, when once
begun, always develop. Not only was the Phoenix party's kitchen self-conducted,
but the food cooked in it was of the simplest. Condiments were eschewed.
Rice, dal, vegetables, and even wheat flour were all cooked at one and
the same time in a steam cooker. And Shantiniketan boys
started a similar kitchen, with a view to introducing
reform in the Bengali kitchen. One or two teachers and some students ran
The experiment was, however,
dropped after some time. I am of the opinion that the famous institution
lost nothing by having conducted the experiment for a brief interval, and
some of the experiences gained could not but be of help to the teachers.
I had intended to stay at Shantiniketan
for some time, but fate willed otherwise. I had hardly been there a week
when I received from Poona a telegram announcing Gokhale's death. Shantiniketan
was immersed in grief. All the members came over to me to express their
condolences. A special meeting was called in the Ashram temple to mourn
the national loss. It was a solemn function. The same day I left for Poona
with my wife and Maganlal. All the rest stayed at Shantiniketan.
Andrews accompanied me up to
Burdwan. 'Do you think,' he asked me, 'that a time will come for Satyagraha
in India? And if so, have you any idea when it will come?'
'It is difficult to say,' said
I. 'For one year I am to do nothing. For Gokhale took from me a promise
that I should travel in India for gaining experience, and express no opinion
on public questions until I have finished the period of probation. Even
after the year is over, I will be in no hurry to speak and pronounce opinions.
And so I do not suppose there will be any occasion for Satyagraha for five
years or so.'
I may note in this connection
that Gokhale used to laugh at some of my ideas in Hind Swaraj or Indian
Home Rule and say: 'After you have stayed a year in India, your views
will correct themselves.'