Two or three days after Ba had been operated upon successfully in Durban, the doctor let Bapu return to Johannesburg. And both he and his wife looked after Ba, as if she were a member of the family. But soon afterwards he was informed that she was not at all progressing satisfactorily, on the contrary, gradually becoming weaker, at times even becoming unconscious. So the doctor telephoned to Bapu for his permission to let him give her beef tea. Bapu replied that the doctor had better ask Ba herself, and if she wished to have it she could. The doctor, however, asked Bapu to come over, adding that he would not in any way hold himself responsible for the safety of his wife, if he would not permit him to give her the aforesaid foods. Accordingly, Bapu went down the same day to Durban. When he reached there, however, he learnt, to his great dismay, that the doctor had already given meat soup to Ba to drink. "This is downright fraud," said Bapu. Then a heated argument followed between the two. To quote from the Autobiography again:
" 'No question of fraud in prescribing medicine or diet for a patient. In fact, we
doctors consider it a virtue to deceive patients or their relatives, if thereby
we can save our patients,' said the doctor with determination.
I was deeply pained, but kept cool. The doctor was a good man and a personal friend.
He and his wife had laid me under a debt of gratitude, but I was not prepared to
put up with his medical morals.
'Doctor, tell me what you propose to do now. I would never allow my wife to be given meat
or beef, even if the denial meant her death, unless, of course, she desired to
'You are welcome to your philosophy. I tell you that, so long as you keep your wife under
my treatment, I must have the option to give her anything I wish. If you don't
like this, I must regretfully ask you to remove her. I can't see her die under
'Do you mean to say that T must remove her at once?'
'Whenever did I ask you to remove her? I only want to be left entirely free. If you do so,
my wife and I will do all that is possible for her, and you may go back without
the least anxiety on her score. But if you will not understand this simple
thing, you will compel me to ask you to remove your wife from my place.'
I think one of my sons was with me at the time. He entirely agreed with me and said his
mother should not be given beef tea. I next spoke to Kasturbai herself. She was
really too weak to be consulted in this matter. But I thought it my painful duty
to do so. I told her what had passed between the doctor and myself. She gave a
resolute reply: 'I will not take beef tea. It is a rare thing in this world to
be born as a human being, and I would far rather die in your arms than pollute
my body with such abominations.'
I pleaded with her. I told her that she was not bound to follow me. I cited to her the
instances of Hindu friends and acquaintances, who had no scruples about taking
meat or wine as medicine. But she was adamant. 'No,' said she, 'pray remove me
I was delighted. Not without some agitation I decided to take her away. I informed
the doctor of her resolve. He exclaimed in a rage: 'What a callous man you are!
You should have been ashamed to broach the matter to her in her present
condition. I tell you your wife is not in a fit state to be removed. She cannot
stand the least little hustling. I shouldn't be surprised if she were to die on
the way. But if you must persist, you are free to do so. If you will not give
her beef tea, I will not take the risk of keeping her under my roof even for a
So we decided to leave the place at once. It was drizzling and the station was some
distance. We had to take the train from Durban for Phoenix, whence our
Settlement was reached by a road of two miles and a half. I was undoubtedly
taking a very great risk, but I trusted in God, and proceeded with my task. I
sent a messenger to Phoenix in advance, with a message to Mr. West to receive
us at the station with a hammock, a bottle of hot milk and one of hot water, and
six men to carry Kasturbai in the hammock. I got a rickshaw to enable me to take
her by the next available train, put her into it in that dangerous condition,
and marched away.
Kasturbai needed no cheering up. On the contrary, she comforted me, saying: 'Nothing will
happen to me. Don't worry.'
She was mere skin and bone, having had no nourishment for days. The station platform was
very large, and as the rickshaw could not be taken inside, one had to walk some
distance before one could reach the train. So I carried her in my arms, and put
her into the compartment. From Phoenix we carried her in the hammock, and there
she slowly picked up strength under hydropathic treatment."
Within two or three days of their arrival at Phoenix a Swami visited them. He pleaded
with Ba to take meat. He held forth on the religious harmlessness of taking
meat, citing authorities from Manu. Ba's faith was, however, unshakable.
Therefore she said to the Swami, to quote again from Bapu's Autobiography:
" 'Swamiji, whatever you may say, I do not want to recover by means of beef tea.
Pray don't worry me anymore. You may discuss the thing with my husband and
children, if you like. But my mind is made up.'"