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
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