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My Life
The following from its Allahabad Correspondent appears in The Bombay Chronicle: "Starting revelations have come to light regarding what has been going round the House of Commons about Gandhiji. It is reported that Mr. Edward Thompson, the British historian who visited Allahabad recently, threw some light on the curious mentality prevailing in England. Mr. Thompson, who met some political leaders here, is reported to have told them three things going round the House of Commons regarding Gandhiji:
1. Gandhiji was for unconditional co-operation with the British Government.
2. Gandhiji could still influence the Congress.
3. There were various stories about Gandhiji’s sensual life it being the impression that Gandhiji had ceased to be saint.
Impressions about Gandhiji's 'sensual life’, Thompson, were based on some Marathi papers. He spoke about them, I understand to Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, who repudiated them. He spoke about them to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mr. P.N. Sapru also, who strongly repudiated them.
It appears Mr. Thompson, before leaving England, had seen several members of the House of Commons. Mr. Thompson, before leaving Allahabad, sent a letter to Mr. Greenwood, M. P., on the suggestion of Pandit Nehru pointing out that the stories regarding Gandhiji were absolutely baseless."
Mr. Thompson was good enough to visit Segaon. He confirmed the report as substantially correct.
The 'unconditional co-operation' is dealt with in another note.
The country will presently know the influence I have over the Congress.
The third charge needs clearing. Two days ago I received a letter signed by four or five Gujaratis sending me mission seems to be to paint me as black as it to be painted. According to its headline it is a paper devoted to 'the organisation of Hindus'. The charges against me are mostly taken from my confessions and distorted from their setting. Among many other charges, the charge of sensuality is most marked. My brahmacharya is said to be a cloak to hide my sensuality. Poor Dr. Sushila Nayar has been dragged before the public gaze for the crime of giving me massage and medicated baths, the two things for which she is the best qualified among those who surround me. The curious may be informed that there is no privacy about these operations which take over 1 ½ hours and during which I often go off to sleep but during which I also transact business with Mahadev, Pyarelal or other co-workers.
The charges, to my knowledge, began with my active campaign against untouchability. This was when it was included in the congress programme and I began to address crowds on the subject and insisted on having Harijans at meetings and in the Ashram. It was then that some Sanatanists, who used to help me and befriend me, broke with me and began a campaign of vilification. Later, a very high-placed Englishman joined the Chorus. He picked out my freedom with women and showed up my 'saintliness' as sinfulness. In this chorus there were also one or two well-known Indians. During the Round Table Conference American Journals indulged in cruel caricatures of me. Mirabai who used to look after me was the target of their attack. As far as I could understand Mr. Thompson, who knows the gentlemen who have been behind these charges, my letters to Premaben Kantak, who is a member of the Sabarmati Ashram, have also been used to prove my depravity. She is a graduate and worker of proved merit. She used to ask questions relating to brahmacharya and other topics. I sent her full replies. She thought they might be of general use and she published them with my permission. I hold them to be absolutely innocent and pure.
Hitherto I have ignored these charges. But Mr. Thompson's talks about them and the importunity of the Gujarati correspondents, who say the indictment sent by them is but a sample of what is being said about me, impel me to repudiate them. I have no secrets of my own in this life. I have owned my weaknesses. If I were sensually inclined, I would have the courage to make the confession. It was when I developed detestation of sensual connection even with my own wife and had sufficiently tested myself that I took the vow of Brahmacharya in 1906, and that for the sake of better dedication to the service of the country. From that day began my open life. I do not remember having ever slept or remained with my own wife or other women with closed doors except for the occasions referred to in my writings in Young India and Navajivan. Those were black nights with me. But as I have said repeatedly God has saved me in spite of myself. I claim no credit for any virtue that I may possess. He is for me the Giver of all good and has saved me for His service.
From that day when I began brahmacharya, our freedom began. My wife became a free woman, free from my authority as her lord and master, and I became free from my slavery to my own appetite which she had to satisfy. No other woman had any attraction for me in the same sense that my wife had. I was too loyal to her as husband and too loyal to the vow I had taken before my mother to be slave to any other woman. But the manner in which my brahmacharya came to me irresistibly drew me to woman as the mother of man. She became too sacred for sexual love. And so every woman at once became sister or daughter to me. I had enough women about me at Phoenix. Several of them were my own relations whom enticed to South Africa. Others were co-workers wives or relatives. Among these were the Wests and other Englishmen. The Wests included West, his sister, his wife, and his mother-in-law who had become the Granny of the little settlement. As has been my wont, I could not keep the new good thing to myself. So I presented Brahmacharya for the acceptance of all the settlers. All approved of it. And some took it up and remained true to the ideal. My brahmacharya knew nothing of the orthodox laws governing its observance. I framed my own rules as occasion necessitated. But I have never believed that all contact with woman was to be shunned for the due observance of brahmacharya. That restraint which demands abstention from all contact, no matter how innocent, with the opposite sex is a forced growth, having little or no vital value. Therefore, natural contacts for service were never restrained. And I found myself enjoying the confidences of many sisters, European and Indian, in South Africa. And when I invited the Indian sisters in South Africa to join the civil resistance movement. I found myself one of them. I discovered that I was specially fitted to serve womankind. To cut the (for me enthralling) story short, my return to India found me in no time one with India's women. The easy access I had to their hearts was an agreeable revelation to me. Muslim sister never kept purdah before me here even as they did not in South Africa. I sleep in the Ashram surrounded by women for they feel safe with me in every respect. It should be remembered that there is no privacy in the Segaon Ashram.
It I were sexually attracted towards women, I have courage enough, even at this time of life, to become a polygamist. I do not believe in free love-secret or open. Free open love I have looked upon as dog's love. Secret love is besides cowardly.
Santanist Hindus may abhor my nonviolence. I know many of them think that Hindus will became cowards if they remain under my influence. I know of no man having become a coward under my influence. They may decry my nonviolence as much as they like. But they ill serve themselves or Hinduism by indulging in palpable lies.
Harijan 30-10-1939