Much as I wish that I had not to write this chapter, I know that I shall have to swallow many such bitter draughts in the course of this narrative. And I cannot do otherwise, if I claim to be a worshipper of Truth. It is my painful duty to have to record here my marriage at the age of thirteen. As I see the youngsters of the same age about me who are under my care, and think of my own marriage, I am inclined to pity myself and to congratulate them on having escaped my lot. I can see no moral argument in support of such a preposterously early marriage.
Let the reader make no mistake. I was married, not betrothed. For in Kathiawad
there are two distinct rites – betrothal and marriage. Betrothal is a
preliminary promise on the part of the parents of the boy and the girl
to join them in marriage, and it is not inviolable. The death of the boy
entails no widowhood on the girl. It is an agreement purely between the
parents, and the children have no concern with it. Often they are not
even informed of it. It appears that I was betrothed thrice, though
without my knowledge. I was told that two girls chosen for me had died
in turn, and therefore I infer that I was betrothed three times. I have
a faint recollection, however, that the third betrothal took place in my
seventh year. But I do not recollect having been informed about it. In
the present chapter I am talking about my marriage, of which I have the
It will be remembered that we were three brothers. The first was already married.
The elders decided to marry my second brother, who was two or three
years my senior, a cousin, possibly a year older, and me, all at the
same time. In doing so there was no thought of our welfare, much less
our wishes. It was purely a question of their own convenience and
Marriage among Hindus is no simple matter. The parents of the bride and the
bridegroom often bring themselves to ruin over it. They waste their
substance, they waste their time. Months are taken up over the preparations – in making
clothes and ornaments and in preparing budgets for dinners. Each tries
to outdo the other in the number and variety of courses to be prepared.
Women, whether they have a voice or no, sing themselves hoarse, even get
ill, and disturb the peace of their neighbours. These in their turn
quietly put up with all the turmoil and bustle, all the dirt and filth,
representing the remains of the feasts, because they know that a time
will come when they also will be behaving in the same manner.
It would be better, thought my elders, to have all this bother over at one and the
same time. Less expense and greater eclat.
For money could be freely spent if it had only to be spent once instead
of thrice. My father and my uncle were both old, and we were the last
children they had to marry. 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 as I have said before, months were
taken up in preparation for it.
It was only through these preparations that we got warning of the coming event. I do
not think it meant to me anything more 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. I propose to draw a
curtain over my shame, except for a few details worth recording. To
these I shall come later. But even they have little to do with the
central idea I have kept before me in writing this story.
So my brother and I were both taken to Porbandar from Rajkot. There are some amusing
details of the preliminaries to the final drama – e.g., smearing our
bodies all over with turmeric paste – but I must omit them.
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. And when he did so, he ordered for my father special
stage coaches, reducing the journey by two days. But the fates had
willed otherwise. Porbandar is 120 miles from Rajkot – a
cart journey of five days. My father did the distance in three, but the
coach toppled over in the third stage, and he sustained severe injuries.
He arrived bandaged all over. Both his and our interest in the coming
event was half destroyed, but the ceremony had to be gone through. For
how could the marriage dates be changed? However, I forgot my grief over
my father's injuries in the childish amusement of the wedding.
I was devoted to my parents. But no less was I devoted to the passions that flesh is
heir to. I had yet to learn that all happiness and pleasure should be
sacrificed in devoted service to my parents. And yet, as though by way
of punishment for my desire for pleasures, an incident happened, which
has ever since rankled in my mind and which I will relate later.
Nishkulanand sings: 'Renunciation of objects, without the renunciation
of desires, is short-lived, however hard you may try'. Whenever I sing
this song or hear it sung, this bitter untoward incident, rushes to my
memory and fills me with shame.
My father put on a brave face in spite of his injuries, and took full part in the
wedding. As I think of it, I can even today call before my mind's eye
the places where he sat as he went through the different details of the
ceremony. Little did I dream then that one day I should severely
criticize my father for having married me as a child. Everything on that
day seemed to me right and proper and pleasing. There was also my own
eagerness to get married. And as everything that my father did then
struck me as beyond reproach, the recollection of those things is fresh
in my memory. I can picture to myself, even today, how we sat on our
wedding dais, how we performed the Saptapadi1,how we, the
newly wedded husband and wife, put the sweet Kansar2 into each
other's mouth, and how we began to live together. And oh! that first
night. Two innocent children all unwittingly hurled themselves into the
ocean of life. My brother's wife had thoroughly coached me about my
behaviour on the first night. I do not know who had coached my wife. I
have never asked her about it, nor am I inclined to do so now. The
reader may be sure that we were too nervous to face each other. We were
certainly too shy. How was I to talk to her, and what was I to say? The
coaching could not carry me far. But no coaching is really necessary in
such matters. The impressions of the former birth are potent enough to
make all coaching superfluous. We gradually began to know each other,
and to speak freely together. We were the same age. but I took no time
in assuming the authority of a husband.