Gandhi

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MAHATMA GANDHI

VOICE OVER ON OPENING CREDITS

Sometime ago, at the instance of some of my nearest co-workers, I agreed to write my autobiography. I made the start, but scarcely had I turned over the first sheet when riots broke out in Bombay and the work remained at a standstill. I should indeed have finished the autobiography had I gone through my full term of imprisonment in Yeravada, for there was still a year to complete the task, when I was discharged. Now, I am tempted to undertake the autobiography for Navjivan. Something has to be written every week for Navjivan. Why should it not be the autobiography? But a God-fearing friend had his doubts, which he shared with me on my day of silence. 'What has set you on this adventure?' he asked. 'Writing an autobiography is a practice peculiar to the West. I know of nobody in the East having written one, except among those who have come under Western influence. And what will you write? Supposing you reject tomorrow the things that you hold as principles today? Is it not likely that the men who shape their conduct on the authority of your word, spoken or written, may be misled?' But it is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography. My experiments in the political field are now known, not only in India, but to a certain extent, to the 'civilized' world. For me, they have not much value; and the title of 'Mahatma' that they have won for me has, therefore, even less. But I should certainly like to narrate my experiments in the spiritual field which are known only to myself, and from which I have derived such power as I possess for working in the political field. What I want to achieve -what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years - is self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain moksha. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. The experiments I am about to relate are spiritual or rather moral, for the essence of all religion is morality.

MONTAGE OF PHOTOTGRAPHS The Gandhis belong to the Bania caste and seem to have been grocers originally. But for three generations, from my grandfather on, they have been Prime Ministers in several Kathiawad states. My father, Karamchand Gandhi, and his youngest brother Tulsidas Gandhi, were both Prime Ministers of Porbandar, one after the other. My father married four times in succession, having lost his wife each time to death. He had two daughters by his first and second marriages. His last wife, Putlibai, bore him a daughter and three sons, I being the youngest. My father was a lover of his clan, truthful, brave and generous, but short-tempered. To a certain extent he might even have been given to carnal pleasures, for he married for the fourth time when he was over forty. But he was incorruptible, and had earned a name for strict impartiality, in his family as well as outside. He never had any ambition to accumulate riches, and left us very little property. He had no education, save that of experience. Of religious training he had very little, but he had that kind of religious culture which frequent visits to temples and listening to religious discourses make available to many Hindus. The outstanding impression my mother has left on my memory is that of saintliness. She was deeply religious. She would not think of taking her meals without her daily prayers. Once, she vowed not to eat without seeing the sun. we children on those days would stand, staring at the sky, waiting to announce the appearance of the sun to our mother. But at the height of the rainy season, the sun often does not condescend to show his face. And I remember days when, at his sudden appearance, we would rush and announce it to her. She would run out to see with her own eyes, but by that time the fugitive sun would be gone, thus depriving her of her meal. 'That does not matter', she would say cheerfully. 'God does not want me to eat today.' And she would return to her round of duties. Of these parents I was born at Porbandar, otherwise known as Sudamapuri, on the 2nd of October, 1869. LAST TITLE: MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH

KETAN'S SHOOT I passed my childhood in Porbandar. I recollect having been put to school. It was with some difficulty that I got through the multiplication tables. The fact that I recollect nothing more of those days than having learnt, in company with other boys, to call our teacher all kinds of names, would strongly suggest that my intellect must have been sluggish, and my memory raw. I must have been about seven when my father left Porbandar for Rajkot to become a member of the Rajasthanik Court. There I was put into a primary school, and I can well recollect those days, including the names of the teachers who taught me. From this school I went to the suburban school and thence to the high school, having already reached my twelfth year. As a rule, I had a distaste for any reading beyond my school books. But somehow my eyes fell on a book purchased by my father. It was 'Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka' - a play about Shravan's devotion to his parents. I read it with intense interest. Just about this time I had secured my father's permission to see a play performed by a certain dramatic company. It was 'Harischandra' and it captured my heart. I could never tire of seeing it. It haunted me. The thought of it all often made me weep. To follow truth was the one ideal it inspired in me. I wish that I had not to write this next chapter. It is my painful duty to have to record here my marriage at the age of thirteen. Make no mistake - I was married, not betrothed. It appears that I was betrothed twice earlier. I was told that two girls chosen for me had died in turn. I have a faint recollection that the third betrothal took place in my seventh year. The elders decided to marry my second brother, a cousin, and me, all at the same time. In doing so, there was no thought of our welfare, much less of our wishes. It was purely a question of their own convenience and economy. My father and my uncle were both old, and we were the last children they had to marry off. It is likely that they wanted to have the last best time of their lives. In view of all these considerations, a triple wedding was decided upon, and months were taken up in preparation for it. I do not think it meant anything more to me than the prospect of good clothes to wear, drum beating, marriage processions, rich dinners, and a strange girl to play with. The carnal desire came later. So my brother and I were taken to Porbandar from Rajkot. My father was a Diwan, but nevertheless a servant, and all the more so because he was in favour with the Thakore Saheb. The latter would not let him go until the last moment. Porbandar is a hundred and twenty miles from Rajkot - a cart journey of five days. My father did the distance in three, but the coach toppled over, and he sustained severe injuries. However, I forgot my grief over my father's injuries in the childish amusement of the wedding. I can picture to myself, even today, how we sat on our wedding dais, how we performed the saptapadi, how we put the sweet kansar into each other's mouth, and how we began to live together. And oh! That first night. Two children, all unwitting, hurled themselves into the ocean of life. We were too nervous to face each other. We were certainly too shy. We were the same age, but I lost no time in assuming the authority of a husband. I must say I was passionately fond of Kasturbai. Even at school I used to think of her, and the thought of nightfall and our subsequent meeting was forever haunting me. Separation was unbearable. I used to keep her awake until late at night with my idle talk. However, Hindu society has another custom. Parents do not allow young couples to stay long together. The child-wife spends more than half her time at her father's place. Such was the case with us. During the first five years of our married life we could not have lived together longer than an aggregate period of three years. A wave of 'reform' was sweeping over Rajkot at the time when I first came across the friendship that I consider a tragedy in my life. This companion was originally my elder brother's friend. He informed me that many of our teachers and classmates were secretly taking meat and wine. I was surprised and pained. I asked my friend the reason and he explained it thus: 'We are a weak people because we do not eat meat. The British are able to rule over us because they are meat eaters. You know how hardy I am and how great a runner too. It is because I eat meat. You should do likewise. Try, and see what strength it gives.' The opposition to and abhorrence of meat eating that existed in Gujrat among the Jains and Vaishnavas were to be seen nowhere else in India in such strength. The Gandhis were Vaishnavas. My parents were particularly staunch Vaishnavas. The family even had its own temples. But my elder brother had already fallen. Therefore he supported my friend's argument. I certainly looked feeble-bodied by the side of my brother and this friend. Moreover, I was a coward. Darkness was a terror to me. I could not bear to sleep without a light in the room. All this had its effect on me. I was beaten. It began to grow on me that meat eating was good, that it would make me strong and daring, and that if the whole country took to meat eating, the English could be overcome. My mind was bent on the 'reform'. It was not a question of pleasing the palate. The word 'swaraj' I had not yet heard, but I knew what freedom meant. And I persuaded myself that merely hiding the deed from my parents was no departure from the truth. So the day came. We went in search of a lonely spot by the river, and there, for the first time, I saw meat. The goat's meat was tough as leather. I simply could not eat it. I was sick, and had to stop. But in time, I got over my dislike for the bread, forswore my compassion for the goats, and became a relisher of meat dishes, if not of meat itself. This went on for about a year. Whenever I had occasion to indulge in these surreptitious feasts, dinner at home was out of the question. It was not without compunction that I devised pretexts. I would say to my mother, 'I have no appetite today; there is something wrong with my digestion.' I knew I was lying. I also knew that if my parents came to know of my having become a meat eater, they would be deeply shocked. This knowledge was gnawing at my heart and I decided therefore that for their lifetime, meat eating must be out of the question. When they are no more and I have found my freedom, I will eat meat openly, but until that moment arrives, I will abstain from it. This decision I communicated to my friend, and I have never since gone back to meat. My parents never knew that two of their sons had become meat-eaters. This same company would have led me into faithlessness to my wife. My friend once took me to a brothel. He sent me in with the necessary instructions. It was all pre-arranged. The bill had already been paid. I sat near the woman on her bed, but I was tongue tied. She naturally lost patience with me and showed me the door, with abuses and insults. I then felt as though my manhood had been injured, and wished to sink into the ground for shame. I can recall four more similar incidents in my life, and in most of them, my good fortune, rather than any effort on my part, saved me. From a strictly ethical point of view, all these occasions must be regarded as moral lapses; for the carnal desire was there, and it was as good as the act. I was saved only in the sense that a man saved from physically committing a sin is regarded as saved. One of the reasons of my differences with my wife was undoubtedly the company of this friend. I was both a devoted and a jealous husband, and this friend fanned the flame of my suspicions about my wife. I have never forgiven myself the violence of which I have been guilty in often having pained my wife by acting on his information. During this meat eating period, when I was twelve or thirteen, a relative and I became fond of smoking. We imagined a sort of pleasure in emitting clouds of smoke from our mouths. My uncle had the habit, and when we saw him smoking, we thought we should copy his example. But we had no money. So we began to pilfer stumps of cigarettes thrown away by my uncle. The stumps, however, were not always available, and did not emit much smoke either. So we began to steal coppers from the servant's pocket money in order to purchase Indian cigarettes. But the question was, where to keep them. Then we heard that the stalks of a certain plant were porous and could be smoked like cigarettes. We got them and began this kind of smoking. But our want of independence began to smart. It was unbearable that we should be unable to do anything without the elders' permission. At last, in sheer disgust, we decided to commit suicide. We had heard that dhatura seeds were an effective poison. Off we went to the jungle in search of these seeds. Evening was thought to be an auspicious hour. We went to Kedarji Mandir, put ghee in the lamp, had darshan, and looked for a lonely corner. We swallowed two or three seeds each. But then, our courage failed us. We dared not take more. Both of us fought shy of death and decided to bid goodbye to the thought of suicide and the habit of smoking. But much more serious than this was the theft I was guilty of when I was fifteen. In this case, I stole a bit of gold out of my meat-eating brother's armlet. This brother had run into a debt of about twenty-five rupees. He had on his arm an armlet of solid gold. It was not difficult to clip a bit out of it. Well, it was done, and the debt cleared. But this became more than I could bear, and I resolved never to steal again. I also made up my mind to confess it to my father. But I did not dare to speak. I decided at last to write out the confession, to submit it to my father and ask his forgiveness. Not only did I confess my guilt, but I also asked adequate punishment for it, and requested my father not to punish himself for my offence. I also pledged myself never to steal in the future. I was trembling as I handed the confession to my father. He was suffering from a fistula, and was confined to his bed, which was a plain wooden plank. I handed him the note and sat opposite the plank. He read it through, and pearl drops trickled down his cheeks, wetting the paper. For a moment he closed his eyes in thought, and then tore up the note. He had sat up in bed to read it. He now lay down again. I also cried. I could see my father's agony. If I were a painter, I could draw a picture of the whole scene today, it is still so vivid in my mind. Those pearl drops of love cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. For me, it was an object lesson in Ahimsa. Then, I could read in it nothing more than a father's love, but today I know that it was pure Ahimsa. When such Ahimsa becomes all embracing, it transforms everything it touches. There is no limit to its power. My father, as we have seen, was bed-ridden. My mother, an old servant of the house, and I were his principal attendants. I had the duties of a nurse, which consisted of dressing the wound, giving my father his medicine, and compounding drugs whenever they had to be made up at home. Every night I massaged his legs and retired only when he asked me to do so or after he had fallen asleep. I loved to do this service. I do not remember ever having neglected it. This was also the time when my wife was expecting a baby - a circumstance which, as I can see today, meant a double shame for me. For one thing, I did not restrain myself, as I should have done, whilst I was still a student. And secondly, this carnal lust got the better of an even greater duty, my devotion to my parents. Every night whilst my hands were busy massaging my father's legs, my mind was hovering about the bedroom - and that too at a time when religion, medical science and commonsense alike forbade sexual intercourse. My father was getting worse every day. He despaired of living any longer. The dreadful night came. It was ten-thirty or eleven p.m. I was giving the massage. My uncle, who was then in Rajkot, offered to relieve me. I was glad, and went straight to the bedroom. My wife, poor thing, was asleep. But how could she sleep when I was there? I woke her up. In five or six minutes, however, the servant knocked on the door. I started in alarm. 'Get up', he said, 'father is very ill.' I guessed what 'very ill' meant at that moment. I sprang out of bed. 'Father is no more.' I felt deeply ashamed and miserable. I ran to my father's room. I saw that, if animal passion had not blinded me, I should have been spared the torture of separation from my father during his last moments. I should have been massaging him, and he would have died in my arms. The shame of my carnal desire even at the critical hour of my father's death is a blot I have never been able to efface or forget. I may mention here that the poor mite that was born to my wife scarcely breathed for more than three or four days. Nothing else could be expected. From my sixth or seventh year up to my sixteenth I was at school, being taught all sorts of things except religion. I failed to get from the teachers what they could have given me without any effort on their part. But what I failed to get there I obtained from my nurse, an old servant of the family, whose affection for me I still recall. I have said before that there was in me a fear of ghosts and spirits. Rambha suggested a remedy for this fear - the repetition of Ramanama. I had more faith in her than in her remedy, so at a tender age I began repeating Ramanama to cure my fear of ghosts and spirits. That laid the foundation of my deep devotion to the Ramayana. Today, I regard the Ramayana of Tulasidas as the greatest book in all devotional literature. I passed the Matriculation examination in 1887. My elders wanted me to pursue my studies at college so I decided to go to Bhavnagar and join the Samaldas College. I went, but found myself entirely at sea. Everything was difficult. I could not follow, let alone take interest in, the professors' lectures. It was no fault of theirs. The professors in that college were regarded as first rate. But I was so raw. At the end of that first term, I returned home. In Mavji Dave, who was a shrewd and learned Brahmin, we had an old friend and adviser of the family. He said, 'The times are changed. It will take Mohandas four or five years to get his B.A. degree, which will at best qualify him for a sixty rupees' post, not for a Diwanship. I would far rather that you sent him to England. It is very easy to become a barrister. In three years' time, he will return. Expenses will not exceed four to five thousand rupees. He could get the Diwanship for the asking. I would strongly advise you to send Mohandas to England this very year.' Nothing could have been more welcome to me. I was fighting shy of my difficult studies. So I jumped at the proposal and said the sooner I was sent, the better. My mother was sorely perplexed. She did not like the idea of parting with me. She made minute inquiries. Someone said that young men took to meat in England; yet another said that they could not live there without liquor. 'Will you not trust me?' I said. 'I shall not lie to you. I swear that I will not touch any of those things.' An oath was administered, and I vowed not to touch wine, woman, and meat. This done, my mother gave her permission. With the blessings of my elders and accompanied by my brother, I set off exultantly, leaving my wife with a baby of a few months. But on arrival in Bombay, friends told my brother that the Indian Ocean was rough in June and July, and as this was my first voyage, I should not be allowed to sail until November. My brother put the money for my travelling expenses in the keeping of a brother-in-law and returned to Rajkot to resume his duty. Meanwhile, my caste people were agitated about my going abroad. No Modh Bania had been to England up to now. A general meeting of the caste was called and I was summoned to appear before it. I went. How I suddenly managed to muster up courage, I do not know. The headman of the community said, 'In the opinion of the caste, your proposal to go to England is not proper. Our religion forbids voyages abroad. We have also heard that it is not possible to live there without compromising our religion. Will you disregard the orders of the caste?' 'I am helpless,' I replied. 'I think the caste should not interfere in the matter.' This incensed the Sheth and he pronounced his order. 'This boy shall be treated as an outcast from today. Whoever helps him or goes to see him off at the dock shall be punishable with a fine of one rupee four annas.' The order had no effect on me, but I wondered how my brother would take it. Fortunately, he remained firm and wrote to assure me that I had his permission to go, the Sheth's order notwithstanding. As I was worrying over my predicament, I heard that a Junagadh vakil was going to England by a boat sailing on the 4th of September. There was no time to be lost. I asked my brother-in-law for the money, but he referred to the Sheth's order and said that he could not afford to lose caste. I then sought a friend of the family and requested him to accommodate me to the extent of my passage and sundries, and to recover the loan from my brother. A berth was reserved for me in the same cabin as that of Trymbakrai Mazumdar, the Junagadh vakil. He was an experienced man of mature age and knew the world. I was yet a stripling of eighteen without any experience of the world. I sailed at last from Bombay on the 4th of September, 1888. I was quite unaccustomed to talking English. I could rarely follow the remarks of the other passengers when they came up to speak to me, and even when I understood, I could not reply. I had to frame every sentence in my head before I could bring it out. I was innocent of the use of knives and forks and had not the boldness to inquire what dishes on the menu were free of meat. I therefore never took meals at table but always had them in my cabin, and they consisted principally of fruits and sweets which I had brought with me. Nothing could make me conquer my shyness. We reached Southampton, as far as I remember, on a Saturday. Someone on board had advised us to put up at the Victoria Hotel in London and I accordingly went there.

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