In the Phoenix ashram, everyone, big and small, observed food restraints. No spices were used in the food and some even observed the vow of eating food without salt.
Once, a student found one shilling on his way to the station and some other
person found a coin of three penny from a party he attended. Then some day,
Gandhiji happened to go to Johannesburg for some work. At that time, a class
teacher ordered Pakoda (fried snacks) for one shilling, and paintings for three
pennies, and distributed to all to eat and enjoy.
When Gandhiji arrived, he came to know about this. He talked to that lady
teacher. Then he started strolling between the house and the press, while
talking to one student on this matter. Similarly, he also talked to other
students. At last, he took his son Devadas with him to talk.
Ashramites were very anxious and were standing around, waiting for them to come
back. After a while news arrived that Bapu slapped. First, it seemed that he
would have slapped Devadas. But, later it was clarified that he had given five
slaps to himself.
He ate in the afternoon. But, in the evening he did not. He gave up even water.
After the evening prayer, he started talking in a very painful voice: “Even the
water has become like poison to me. It is extremely heart breaking to know that
even children can deceive their father to such an extent. When I could not
control myself, I have inflicted five slaps on myself. It is better to beat
myself than others. Without that, it will not be realised that, how this kind of
behavior pains me.
Then Bapu told about Devadas’s confession and consolation of not repeating his
mistake again. However, he added that the children are still hiding the truth.
They all tell different things. No one is ready to tell the truth. His life
would be totally useless, if the lie still persists. Then he announced his
decision that, he would not even have a grain of food or a drop of water unless
the children reveal the truth on their own. What is better than to die in the
pursuit of truth! And he told everybody that, they should celebrate the day, if
his death comes in this manner.
The next day Bapu had to go out of station. Thirsty and hungry, he walked all
the way to the station. They all accompanied him silently. The anxious lady
teacher finally confessed everything at the station.
The train arrived. They all requested Bapu: Now, after reaching there, please go
straight to Sheth Rustamji’s place to have a meal there and only thereafter
Bapuji said with peaceful and cheerful mind, “The truth has been found and that
is my food.”