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HEALTH > NATURE CURE > PART III > Nature Cure Experiments > Near Death's Door
Near Death's Door
I very nearly ruined my constitution during the recruiting campaign. In those days my food principally consisted of groundnut butter and lemons. I knew that it was possible to eat too much butter and injure one's health, and yet I allowed myself to do so. This gave me a slight attack of dysentery. I did not take serious notice of this, and went that evening to the Ashram, as was my wont every now and then. I scarcely took any medicine those days. I thought I should get well if I skipped a meal, and indeed I felt fairly free from trouble as I omitted the morning meal the next day. I knew, however, that to be entirely free I must prolong my fast and, if I ate any thing at all, I should have nothing but fruit juices.
There was some festival that day, and although I had told Kasturba that I should have nothing for my midday meal, she tempted me and I succumbed. As I was under a vow of taking no milk or milk products, she had specially prepared for me a sweet wheaten porridge with oil added to it instead of ghee. She had reserved too a bowlful of mung for me. I was fond of these things, and I readily took them, hoping that without coming to grief I should eat just enough to please Kasturba and to satisfy my palate. But the devil had been only waiting for an opportunity. Instead of eating very little I had my fill of the meal. This was sufficient invitation to the angel of death. Within an hour the dysentery appeared in acute form.
All the friends surrounded me deeply concerned. They were all love and attention, but they could not relieve my pain. And my obstinacy added to their helplessness. I refused all medical aid. I would take no medicine, but preferred to suffer the penalty for my folly. So they looked on in helpless dismay. I must have had thirty to forty motions in twenty- four hours. I fasted, not taking even fruit juices in the beginn­ing. The appetite had all gone. I had thought all along that I had an iron frame, but I found that my body had now become a lump of clay. It had lost all power of resistance. The motions still continued, leaving me completely exhausted. The exhaustion brought on a delirious fever. The friends got more nervous, and called in more doctors. But what could they do with a patient who would not listen to them?
I had now been trying hydropathy which gave some relief, but it was a hard job to build up the body. The many medical advisers overwhelmed me with advice, but I could not per­suade myself to take anything. One night, I gave myself up to despair. I felt that I was at death's door.
Whilst I lay thus ever expectant of death, Dr. Talvalkar came one day with a strange creature. He hailed from Maharashtra. He was not known to fame, but the moment I saw him I found that he was a crank like myself. He had come to try his treatment on me. He swears by the ice treatment, which he wanted to try on me. We gave him the name of 'Ice Doctor'. He is quite confident that he has discovered certain things which have escaped qualified doctors. It is a pity both for him and me that he has not been able to infect me with his faith in his system. I believe in his system up to a certain point, but 1 am afraid he has been hasty in arriving at certain conclusions.
But whatever may be the merits of his discoveries, I allow­ed him to experiment on my body. I did not mind external treatment. The treatment consisted in the application of ice all over the body. Whilst I am unable to endorse his claim about the effect his treatment had on me, it certainly infused in me a new hope and a new energy, and the mind naturally reacted on the body. I began to have an appetite and to have a gentle walk for five to ten minutes. The improvement was enough to give me interest in public activities.
Autobiography, pp. 551 to 555