Next

STUDENTS' PROJECTS > THE STORY OF GANDHI > In England
 

In England

On landing at Southampton he looked around. He saw that all the people were in dark clothes, wearing bowler hats and carrying overcoats flung over their arms. Mohandas was embarrassed to find that he was the only one wearing white flannels.

In London he stayed at first at the Victoria Hotel. Dr. P.J. Mehta, a friend of the Gandhi family, was the first to meet him. Mohandas was impressed with Dr. Mehta's silk top hat. Out of curiosity, he passed his hand over it and disturbed the pile of the silk. Dr. Mehta then gave him his first lesson in European manners.

'Do not touch other people's things,' he said. 'Do not ask questions as we do in India when we meet someone for the first time. Do not talk loudly. Never address people as "sir" whilst speaking to them, as we do in India. Only servants and subordinates address their masters in that way.'

Young Gandhi found everything around him strange. He was homesick. He almost starved until he discovered a vegetarian restaurant. Struggling to learn westerners and customs, he rented a suite of rooms. He bought well-tailored clothes and a top hat. He spent a lot of time before the mirror, parting his straight hair and fixing his tie. He took lessons in dancing, but soon gave it up as he had no sense of rhythm. He tried his hand at playing the violin, but failed. He took lessons in French and elocution, but went to sleep.

His attempt to be an Englishman lasted about three months. Then he gave up the idea. He converted himself into a serious student.

'I have changed my way of life,' he told a friend. 'All this foolishness is at an end. I am living in one room and cooking my own food. Hereafter I shall devote all my time to study.'

His meals were simple. He avoided expenditure on transport and went on foot everywhere in London. He started to keep an account of every penny he spent.

Mohandas joined the London Vegetarian Society and soon found himself in its executive council. He wrote articles for the magazine Vegetarian.

The bar examination did not require much study and Gandhi had ample time to spare. Oxford or Cambridge was out of the question because it meant a long course and much expense.

He therefore decided to appear for the London matriculation examination. It meant hard work, but he liked hard work. He passed in French, English, and chemistry but failed in Latin. He tried again, and this time passed in Latin too. Meanwhile he progressed in his study of law; and in November 1888 was admitted to the Inner temple.

It was the tradition of the Inns of Court for the students to dine together at least six times each year. The first time Gandhi dinned with his fellow students, he felt shy and nervous. He was sure that the boys would make fun of him for refusing meat and wine. When wine was offered, he said,' No, thank you.'

When Gandhi replied that he never touched wine, the boy shouted to his friends,' By Jove, fellows, we are in luck to have this chap sitting with us. That gives us an extra half bottle.'

'You can have my share of roast, too,' Gandhi told them, looking quite content with his bread, boiled potatoes, and cabbage. He was pleasantly surprised to find that his queer habits did not make him unpopular. The next time he went for the dinner, he had a pile of law books with him. He was taking the books to his room to study.

'Gandhi,' said the student, 'you are not really going through this stuff, are you?'

'Look, you chaps,' he cried he is

Actually reading Roman law in Latin!

The students laughed. One of them said,' Let me tell you, Gandhi, I passed the last examination in Roman law by spending two weeks on a printed summary. Why do you slave at it like this?'

Gandhi explained to his light-hearted friends that he worked so hard for sheer interest in the subject, and that he wanted to acquire knowledge for its own sake.

After a short trip to France, he prepared for the final law examination. The results were soon declared. He had passed with high marks. On June 10, 1891, he was called to the bar. He was admitted as a barrister and the next day was formally enrolled in the High Court. The following day, June 12, he sailed for India.

Gandhi's three-year stay in England was eventful. Those were days of great intellectual activity, and there was tolerance for every school of thought. The country as a whole was a living university. As Gandhi sailed for home on the s.s. Assam, he felt that, next to India, he would rather live in England than in any other place in the world.