I passed the matriculation examination in 1887. It then used to be held at two centres, Ahmedabad and Bombay. The general poverty of the country naturally led Kathiawad students to prefer the nearer and the cheaper centre. The poverty of my family likewise dictated to me the same choice. This was my first journey from Rajkot to Ahmedabad and that too without a companion.
My elders wanted me to pursue my studies at college after the matriculation. There
was a college in Bhavnagar as well as in Bombay, and as the former was
cheaper, I decided to go there and join the Samaldas College. I went,
but found myself entirely at sea. Everything was difficult. I could not
follow, let alone taking 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 the first term, I returned
We had, in Mavji Dave, who was a shrewd and learned Brahman an old friend and
adviser of the family. He had kept up his connection with the family
even after my father's death. He happened to visit us during my
vacation. In conversation with my mother and elder brother, he inquired
about my studies. Learning that I was at Samaldas College, he said: 'The
times are changed. And none of you can expect to succeed to your
father's gadi without having had a proper education. Now as this boy is still pursuing his
studies, you should all look to him to keep the gadi.
It will take him 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. If
like my son he went in for law, it would take him longer still, by which
time there would be a host of lawyers aspiring for a Diwan's post. I
would far rather that you sent him to England. My son Kevalram says it
is very easy to become a barrister. In three years' time he will return.
Also expenses will not exceed four to five thousand rupees. Think of
that barrister who has just come back from England. How stylishly he
lives! He could get the Diwanship for the asking. I would strongly
advise you to send Mohandas to England this very year. Kevalram has
numerous friends in England. He will give notes of introduction to them,
and Mohandas will have an easy time of it there.'
Joshiji – that is how we used to call old Mavji Dave – turned to me with
complete assurance, and asked: 'Would you not rather go to England than
study here?' Nothing could have been more welcome to me. I was fighting
shy of my difficult studies. So I jumped at the proposal and said that
the sooner I was sent the better. It was no easy business to pass
examinations quickly. Could I not be sent to qualify for the medical
My brother interrupted me: 'Father never liked it. He had you in mind when he said
that we Vaishnavas should have nothing to do with dissection of dead
bodies. Father intended you for the bar.'
Joshiji chimed in: 'I am not opposed to the medical profession as was Gandhiji.
Our Shastras are not against it. But a medical degree will not make a Diwan of you, and I
want you to be Diwan, or if possible something better. Only in that way
could you take under your protecting care your large family. The times
are fast changing and getting harder every day. It is the wisest thing
therefore to become a barrister.' Turning to my mother he said: 'Now, I
must leave. Pray ponder over what I have said. When I come here next I
shall expect to hear of preparations for England. Be sure to let me know
if I can assist in any way.'
Joshiji went away, and I began building castles in the air.
My elder brother was greatly exercised in his mind. How was he to find the
wherewithal to send me? And was it proper to trust a young man like me
to go abroad alone?
My mother was sorely perplexed. She did not like the idea of parting with me. This is
how she tried to put me off: 'Uncle,' she said, 'is now the eldest
member of the family. He should first be consulted. If he consents we
will consider the matter.'
My brother had another idea. He said to me: 'We have a certain claim on the
Porbandar State. Mr. Lely is the Administrator. He thinks highly of our
family and uncle is in his good books. It is just possible that he might
recommend you for some State help for your education in England.'
I liked all this and got ready to start off for Porbandar. There was no railway in
those days. It was a five days' bullock-cart journey. I have already
said that I was a coward. But at that moment my cowardice vanished
before the desire to go to England, which completely possessed me. I
hired a bullock-cart as far as Dhoraji, and from Dhoraji I took a camel
in order to get to Porbandar a day quicker. This was my first
I arrived at last, did obeisance to my uncle, and told him everything. He thought it
over and said: 'I am not sure whether it is possible for one to stay in
England without prejudice to one's own religion. From all I have heard,
I have my doubts. When I meet these big barristers, I see no difference
between their life and that of Europeans. They know no scruples
regarding food. Cigars are never out of their mouths. They dress as
shamelessly as Englishmen. All that would not be in keeping with our
family tradition. I am shortly going on a pilgrimage and have not many
years to live. At the threshold of death, how dare I give you permission
to go to England, to cross the seas? But I will not stand in your way.
It is your mother's permission which really matters. If she permits you,
then godspeed! Tell her I will not interfere. You will go with my
'I could expect nothing more from you,' said I. 'I shall now try to win mother
over. But would you not recommend me to Mr. Lely?'
'How can I do that?' said he. 'But he is a good man. You ask for an appointment
telling him how you are connected. He will certainly give you one and
may even help you.'
I cannot say why my uncle did not give me a note of recommendation. I have a faint
idea that he hesitated to co-operate directly in my going to England,
which was in his opinion an irreligious act.
I wrote to Mr. Lely, who asked me to see him at his residence. He saw me as he was
ascending the staircase; and saying curtly, 'Pass your B.A. fist and
then see me. No help can be given to you now,' he hurried upstairs. I
had made elaborate preparations to meet him. I had carefully learnt up a
few sentences and had bowed low and saluted him with both hands. But all
to no purpose!
I thought of my wife's ornaments. I thought of my elder brother, in whom I had the
utmost faith. He was generous to a fault, and he loved me as his own
I returned to Rajkot from Porbandar and reported all that had happened. I consulted
Joshiji, who of course advised even incurring a debt if necessary. I
suggested the disposal of my wife's ornaments, which could fetch about
two or three thousand rupees. My brother promised to find the money
My mother, however, was still unwilling. She had begun making minute inquiries.
Someone had told her that young men got lost in England. Someone else
had said that they took to meat; and yet another that they could not
live there without liquor. 'How about all this?' she asked me. I said:
'Will you not trust me? I shall not lie to you. I swear that I shall not
touch any of those things. If there were any such danger, would Joshiji
let me go?'
'I can trust you,' she said. 'But how can I trust you in a distant land? I am dazed
and know not what to do. I will ask Becharji Swami.'
Becharji Swami was originally a Modh Bania, but had now become a Jain monk. He
too was a family adviser like Joshiji. He came to my help, and said: 'I
shall get the boy solemnly to take the three vows, and then he can be
allowed to go.' He administered the oath and I vowed not to touch wine,
woman and meat. This done, my mother gave her permission.
The high school had a send-off in my honour. It was an uncommon thing for a young
man of Rajkot to go to England. I had written out a few words of thanks.
But I could scarcely stammer them out. I remember how my head reeled and
how my whole frame shook as I stood up to read them.
With the blessings of my elders, I started for Bombay. This was my first journey
from Rajkot to Bombay. My brother accompanied me. But there is many a
slip, 'twixt the cup and the lip. There were difficulties to be faced in