"Mohandas passed his Matriculation in 1887 at the age of eighteen and on the advice of an old family friend, his elder brother sent him to England to study law. People in our country then used to think that there in England, one could not be as religious or as pious as one could in India. And it was with great difficulty that Mohandas's people agreed to send him abroad. But before allowing him finally to go to England, his mother made him promise three things-firstly, that he would not eat meat, secondly, that he would not drink, and thirdly, that he would not make friends with girls. Mohandas gave his solemn word that he would do as his mother wished, and then, with the blessings of his people, he left for England, alone.
Before he left India, Mohandas had plenty of English clothes made for himself. He bought shining shoes and bright ties. At first he found it difficult to knot his tie, but once he had learnt how to do it, he liked ties more than anything else in the English dress.
When the ship touched the shores of England, Mohandas thought that he should set foot on English soil, dressed in his best suit. He took out a white flannel suit and wore it and walked down the ship's gangway17 in great style. But when he looked around he noticed that the others were wearing dark-coloured suits, and were staring at his white suit in amazement. He felt so uneasy mat he did not know where to turn. With the greatest difficulty he managed to reach his hotel. The next day happened to be a Sunday, and his luggage could not be brought from the docks. So for three days poor Mohandas had to wear his white suit, but he kept to his room most of the time and hardly stirred out.
He saw that fashionable people in England wore top hats, and he too wanted to buy one. So one day he walked into a hat shop, but being very shy, he bought the first top hat that caught his eye, without even trying it on. When he came home and tried it, he found that the hat was too big for him. Luckily, his large ears prevented the hat from slipping down and covering his eyes."
"How funny he must have looked with his huge hat covering his small face! I wish I was there, mother. I would have taken a snap of him."
"I am quite sure, too, he must have looked very funny. Most Indian boys, when they get to England spend money quite freely. Mohandas was no exception. He learned to dance and play on the violin; he went to the finest tailoring shops and had some very expensive suits made; he even bought a gold watch for himself. In short, he spent money as he had never done before. He had, however, one very good habit; he would keep an account of every penny that he spent. And one day it occurred to him that if he continued to waste his time and money in idle pleasures, he would never be able to study, and surely he could not expect his brother to be sending him money indefinitely. He at once took out his account-book and carefully examined it. He marked those items which appeared to him useless and unnecessary, and made up his mind not to spend money on them again. He gave up his two-roomed flat and moved into a small room. He learnt to cook cheap and wholesome meals for himself and even avoided traveling by bus whenever he could.
Along with his legal studies, he read books about the world's great religions. As a child he had seen Jains, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians coming to his father and having long discussions about religion. He would sit quietly and listen to these talks with attention, and he had thus learnt to respect all religions. Quite early in his life he had come to the conclusion that being good was the basis of all religions, and that no man could be good unless he was truthful.
It was in England too that he began to take a keen interest in nursing the sick. With the help of a doctor friend he even learnt to nurse those suffering from leprosy, and within a short while he acquired very great skill in this work."
"But, mother, how could he pick up this work so quickly ?"
"You see, Hari, once you put your heart into a work, it comes to you very easily. Mohandas found great happiness in serving the sick and needy.
Visit to Paris
He had heard several of his friends speak very highly of the city of Paris. They had told him that Paris was a very beautiful and well laid-out city. Shortly before he was due to return to India a great exhibition was to be held in Paris. He thought this was a great opportunity for seeing the exhibition as well as the city of Paris at the same time. A very tall tower of steel had been built in the middle of the exhibition grounds. This tower was nearly three times as high as the Qutub Minar in Delhi. Every visitor to the exhibition made a point of climbing to the top of this tower. They would sit down and have refreshments in a restaurant specially built on the top of the tower, and would survey the exhibition from that height. Mohandas too bought a ticket to go to the top of the tower and he went to the restaurant and had a meal there.
After he had gone round the exhibition, he went out sight-seeing and visited all the important places in Paris. What impressed him most were the old churches of the city, particularly the church of Notre Dame."
"And wasn't he quite thrilled with the tower too? "
"Strange to say, he did not much care for that tower, but he liked very much the old buildings of Paris.
Mohandas was soon called to the bar and in June 1891 he got ready to return to India. June and July are usually rough months on the ocean, and so it was after a rather uncomfortable voyage that he at last reached Bombay. His elder brother came to the port to meet him. He had all along been very anxious to meet his mother, but when he learnt from his brother that his mother had died, his heart sank within him and tears rose to his eyes at the bought that when he got home, he would not find his beloved mother waiting at the doorstep to greet him. But he checked his tears, and not even a sigh escaped his lips."
"How could he possibly keep back his tears, mother ? Anyone else would have cried his heart out at such a blow."
"But he was not like any other
ordinary person. Mohandas Gandhi was different from the rest."
17. Passage on ship.