I passed my childhood in Porbandar. I remember having been put to school. It was with some difficulty that I got through the multiplication tables. I recollect nothing more of those days than having learnt, in company with other boys, to call our teacher all kinds of names.
I must have been about seven when my father left
Porbandar for Rajkot. There I was put into a primary
school, and I can well remember those days. As at
Porbandar, so here, there is hardly anything to note
about my studies.
From this school I went to the suburban school and
thence to the high school, having already reached
my twelfth year. I do not remember having ever told a
lie, during this short period, either to my
teachers or to my schoolmates. I used to be very shy and
avoided all company. My books and my lessons were my
sole companions. To be at school at the stroke of the
hour and to run back home as soon as the school
closed, that was my daily habit. I literally ran
back, because I could not bear to talk to anybody. I
was even afraid lest
anyone should poke fun at me.
There is an incident which occurred at the
examination during my first year at the high
school and which is worth recording. Mr. Giles, the
Educational Inspector, had come on a visit of
inspection. He had set us five words to write as a
spelling exercise. One of the words was ‘kettle’. I had
misspell it. The teacher tried to prompt me with the
point of his boot, but I would not be prompted. It was
beyond me to see that he wanted me to copy the
spelling from my neighbour’s slate, for I had thought
that the teacher was there to super- vise us against
copying. The result was that all the boys, except myself, were found to have spelt every word correctly.
Only I had been stupid. The teacher tried later to
tell me that I should not have been so stupid, but
without effect. I never could learn the art
Yet the incident did not in the least lessen my respect
for my teacher. I was, by nature, blind to the faults of
elders. Later I came to know of many other failings
of this teacher, but my regard for him remained the
same. For I had learnt to carry out the orders of
to look critically at their actions.
Two other incidents belonging to the same period have
always clung to my memory. As a rule I did not like any
reading beyond my school books. The daily lessons had to
be done, because I did not want to be taken to task by
my teacher, nor to deceive him. Therefore, I would do
the lessons, but often without my mind in them. Thus
when even the lessons could not be done properly, there
was of course no question of any extra reading. But
somehow my eyes fell on a book purchased by my father.
It was Shravana* Pitribhakti Nataka (a play about
Shravana’s devotion to his parents). I read it with
intense interest. There came to our place about the same
time wandering showmen. One of the pictures I was
shown was of Shravana carrying, by means of slings
fitted for his shoulders, his blind parents on a
pilgrimage. The book and the picture left a permanent
impression on my mind. “Here is an example for you to
copy,” I said to myself.
Just about this time, I had se- cured my father’s
permission to see a play performed by a certain
dramatic company. This play – Harishchandra+ captured my heart. I could never be tired of seeing it.
But how often should I be permitted to go? I kept
thinking about it all the time and I must have
acted Harishchandra to myself times without number.
“Why should not all be truthful like Harishchandra ?”
was the question I asked myself day and night. To follow
truth and to go through all the ordeals Harishchandra
went through was the one ideal it inspired in me. I
literally believed in the story of Harishchandra. The
thought of it all often made me weep.
I was not regarded as a dunce at the high school. I
always enjoyed the affection of my teachers.
Certificates of progress and character used to be sent
to the parents every year. I never had a bad
certificate. In fact I even won prizes after I passed
out of the second standard. In the fifth and sixth I
obtained scholarships of rupees four and ten
respectively, an achievement for which I have to
thank good luck more than my merit. For the scholarships
were not open to all, but reserved for the best boys
amongst those coming from the Sorath Division of
Kathiawad. And in those days there could not have been
many boys from Sorath in a class of forty to fifty.
My own recollection is that I had not any high
regard for my ability. I used to be astonished whenever
I won prizes and scholarships. But I very jealously
guarded my character. The least little fault drew
tears from my eyes. When I merited, or seemed to
the teacher to merit, a rebuke, it was unbearable for
me. I remember having once received a beating. I did
not so much mind the punishment, as the fact that it was
considered my deserts. I wept piteously. That was when I
was in the first or second standard. There was another
such incident during the time when I was in the seventh
standard. Dorabji Edulji Gimi was the headmaster then.
He was popular among boys, as he was a disciplinarian, a
man of method and a good teacher. He had made gymnastics
and cricket compulsory for boys of the upper standards.
I disliked both. I never took part in any exercise,
cricket or football, before they were made compulsory.
My shyness was one of the reasons for this aloofness,
which I now see was wrong. I then had the false
notion that gymnastics had nothing to do with education.
I may mention, however, that I was none the worse for
keeping away from exercise. That was because I had
read in booksa bout the benefits of long walks in the
open air, and having liked the advice, I had formed a
habit of taking walks, which has still remained with me.
These walks gave me a fairly hardy constitution.
The reason of my dislike for gymnastics was my keen
desire to serve as nurse to my father. As soon as
the school closed, I would hurry home and begin serving
him. Compulsory exercise came directly in the way of
this service. I requested Mr. Gimi to exempt me from
gymnastics so that I might be free to serve my father.
But he would not listen to me. Now it so happened that
one Saturday, when we had school in the morning, I
had to go from home to the school for gymnastics at 4
o'clock in the afternoon. I had no watch, and the clouds
deceived me. Before I reached the school the boys had
all left. The next day Mr. Gimi, examining the roll,
found me marked absent. Being asked the reason for
absence, I told him what had happened. He refused to
believe me and ordered me to pay a fine of one
or two annas (I cannot now recall how much).
I was convicted of lying! That deeply pained me. How
was I to prove my innocence? There was no way. I
cried in deep anguish. I saw that a man of truth must
also be a man of care.This was the first and
last instance of my carelessness in school. I have a
faint recollection that I finally succeeded in getting
the fine refunded. The exemption from exercise was of
course obtained, as my father wrote himself to the
headmaster saying that he wanted me at home after
But though I was none the worse for having
neglected exercise, I am still paying the penalty of
another neglect. I do not know whence I got the notion
that good handwriting was not a necessary part of
education, but I retained it until I went to England.
Bad handwriting should be regarded as a sign of
an imperfect education. I tried later to improve mine,
but it was too late. I could never repair the neglect of
Two more incidents of my
school days are worth recording. I had lost one year
because of my marriage, and the teacher wanted me to
make good the loss by skipping the class – a privilege
usually allowed to hard-working boys. I therefore had
only six months in the third standard and was
promoted to the fourth after the examinations which are
followed by the summer vacation. Most subjects were
taught in English from the fourth standard. I found it
very hard. Geometry was a new subject in which I was not
particularly strong, and the English medium made it
still more difficult for me. The teacher taught the
subject very well but I could not follow him. Often I
would lose heart and think of going back to the third
standard, feeling that the packing of two years’
studies into a single year was too much. But this
would discredit not only me, but also the teacher;
because, counting on my ability, he had recommended my
promotion. So the fear of the double
discredit kept me at my post. When, however, with
much effort I reached the thirteenth proposition of
Euclid, the utter simplicity of the subject became clear
to me. A subject which only required a pure and simple
use of one’s reasoning powers could not be
difficult. Ever since that time geometry has been both
easy and interesting for me.
Sanskrit, however, proved a
harder task. In geometry there was nothing to memorize,
whereas in Sanskrit, I thought, everything had to be
learnt by heart. This subject also began from the fourth
standard. As soon as I entered the sixth I became
disheartened. The teacher was a hard task-master,
anxious, as I thought, to force the boys. There was a
sort of rivalry going on between the Sanskrit and the
Persian teachers. The Persian teacher was lenient. The
boys used to talk among themselves that Persian was very
easy and the Persian teacher very good and considerate
to the students. The ‘easiness’ tempted me and
one day I sat in the Persian class. the Sanskrit teacher
was grieved. He called me to his side and said:
“Howcan you forget that you are the son of a Vaishnava
father ? Won't you learn the language of your own
religion ? If you have any difficulty, why not come to
me ? I want to teach you students Sanskrit to the best
of my ability. As you proceed further, you will find in
it things of great interest. You should not lose heart.
Come and sit again in the Sanskrit class.”
This kindness put me to shame. I could not disregard my
teacher’s affection. If I had not acquired the little
Sanskrit that I learnt then, I should have found it
difficult to take any interest in our sacred books. In
fact I am sorry now that I was not able to acquire a
more thorough knowledge of the language, because I
have since realized that every Hindu boy and girl should
possess sound Sanskrit learning.