Though I had hired chambers in the Fort and a house in Girgaum, God would not let me settle down. Scarcely had I moved into my new house when my second son Manilal, who had already been through an acute attack of smallpox some years back, had a severe attack of typhoid, combined with pneumonia and signs of delirium at night.
The doctor was called in. He said medicine would have little effect, but eggs
and chicken broth might be given with profit.
Manilal was only ten years old. To consult his wishes was out of the
question. Being his guardian I had to decide. The doctor was a very
good Parsi. I told him that we were all vegetarians and that I could
not possibly give either of the two things to my son. Would he
therefore recommend something else?
'Your son's life is in danger,' said the good doctor. 'We could give
him milk diluted with water, but that will not give him enough
nourishment. As you know, I am called in by many Hindu families, and
they do not object to anything I prescribe. I think you will be well
advised not to be so hard on your son.'
'What you say is quite right,' said I. 'As a doctor you could not do
otherwise. But my responsibility is very great. If the boy had been
grown up, I should certainly have tried to ascertain his wishes and
respected them. But here I have to think and decide for him. To my
mind it is only on such occasions that a man's faith is truly
tested. Rightly or wrongly it is part of my religious conviction that
man may not eat meat, eggs, and the like. There should be a limit
even to the means of keeping ourselves alive. Even for itself we may not so
certain things. Religion, as I understand it, does not permit me to
use meat or eggs for me or mine even on occasions like this, and I
must therefore take the risk that you say is likely. But I beg of
you one thing. As I cannot avail myself of your treatment, I propose
to try some hydropathic remedies which I happen to know. But I shall
not know how to examine the boy's pulse, chest, lungs, etc. If you
will kindly look in from time to time to examine him and keep me
informed of his condition, I shall be grateful to you.'
The good doctor appreciated my difficulty and agreed to my request.
Though Manilal could not have made his choice, I told him what had
passed between the doctor and myself and asked him his opinion.
'Do try your hydropathic treatment,' he said. 'I will not have eggs
or chicken broth.'
This made me glad, though I realized that, if I had given him either
of these, he would have taken it.
I knew Kuhne's treatment and had tried it too. I knew as well that
fasting also could be tried with profit. So I began to give Manilal
hip baths according to Kuhne, never keeping him in the tub for more
than three minutes, and kept him on orange juice mixed with water
for three days.
But the temperature persisted, going up to 104. At night he would be
delirious. I began to get anxious. What would people say of me? What
would my elder brother think of me? Could we not call in another
doctor? Why not have an Ayurvedic physician? What right had the
parents to inflict their fads on their children?
I was haunted by thoughts like these. Then a contrary current would
start. God would surely be pleased to see that I was giving the same
treatment to my son as I would give myself. I had faith in
hydropathy, and little faith in allopathy. The doctors could not
guarantee recovery. At best they could experiment. The thread of life
was in the hands of God. Why not trust it to Him and in His name go
on with what I thought was the right treatment?
My mind was torn between these conflicting thoughts. It was night. I
was in Manilal's bed lying by his side. I decided to give him a wet
sheet pack. I got up, wetted a sheet, wrung the water out of it and
wrapped it about Manilal, keeping only his head out, and then covered
him with two blankets. To the head I applied a wet towel. The whole
body was burning like hot iron, and quite parched. There was
absolutely no perspiration.
I was sorely tired. I left Manilal in
the charge of his mother, and went out for a walk on Chaupati to
refresh myself. It was about ten o'clock. Very few pedestrians were
out. Plunged in deep thought, I scarcely looked at them. 'My honour
is in Thy keeping, oh Lord, in this hour of trial,' I repeated to
myself. Ramanama was on my lips. After a short time I returned, my
heart beating within my breast.
No sooner had I entered the room than Manilal said, 'You have
'Do please pull me out. I am burning.'
'Are you perspiring, my boy?'
'I am simply soaked. Do please take me out.'
I felt his forehead. It was covered with beads of perspiration. The
temperature was going down. I thanked God.
'Manilal, your fever is sure to go now. A little more perspiration
and then I will take you out.'
'Pray, no. Do deliver me from this furnace. Wrap me some other time
if you like.'
I just managed to keep him under the pack for a few minutes more by
diverting him. The perspiration streamed down his forehead. I undid
the pack and dried his body. Father and son fell asleep in the same
And each slept like a log. Next morning Manilal had much less fever.
He went on thus for forty days on diluted milk and fruit juices. I
had no fear now. It was an obstinate type of fever, but it had been
got under control.
Today Manilal is the healthiest of my boys. Who can say whether his
recovery was due to God's grace, or to hydropathy, or to careful
dietary and nursing? Let everyone decide according to his own faith.
For my part I was sure that God had saved my honour, and that belief
remains unaltered to this day.