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STUDENTS' PROJECTS > THE STORY OF MY LIFE > PART I : CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH > Stealing
 

05. Stealing

I have still to relate some of my failings during this meat-eating period and also previous to it, which date from before my marriage or soon after.

A relative and I became fond of smoking. Not that we saw any good in smoking, or liked the smell of a cigarette. We simply imagined a sort of pleasure in sending out clouds of smoke from our mouths. My uncle had the habit, and we should copy his example. But we had no money. So we began stealing stumps of cigarettes thrown away by my uncle.

The stumps, however, were not always available, and could not give out much smoke either. So we began to steal coppers from the servantís pocket-money in order to purchase Indian cigarettes. But the question was where to keep them. We could not of course smoke in the presence of elders. We managed somehow for a few weeks on these stolen coppers. In the meantime we heard that the stalks of a certain plant could be smoked like cigarettes. We got them and began this kind of smoking.

But we were far from being satisfied with such things as these. Our want of independence began to be painful. It was unbearable that we should be unable to do anything without the eldersí permission. At last, in sheer disgust, we decided to commit suicide !

But how were we to do it? From where were we to get the poison? We heard that dhatura seeds were an effective poison. Off we went to the jungle in search of these seeds and got them. Evening was thought to be the auspicious hour. We went to Kedarji Mandir, put ghee in the temple-lamp, had the darshan and then looked for a lonely corner. But our courage failed us. Supposing we were not at once killed ? And what was the good of killing ourselves ? Why not rather put up with the lack of independence ? But we swallowed two or three seeds nevertheless. We dared not take more. Both of us did not like to die, and decided to go to Ramji Mandir to calm ourselves, and to dismiss the thought of suicide.

I realized that it was not easy to commit suicide.

The thought of suicide ultimately resulted in both of us bidding goodbye to the habit of smoking and of stealing the servantís coppers for the purpose.

Ever since I have grown up, I have never desired to smoke and have always regarded the habit of smoking as barbarous, dirty and harmful. I have never understood why there is such a desire for smoking throughout the world. I cannot bear to travel in a compartment full of people smoking. I become choked.

But much more serious than this theft was the one I was guilty of a little later. I stole the coppers when I was twelve or thirteen, possibly less. The other theft was committed when I was fifteen. In this case I stole a bit of gold out of my meat-eating brotherís armlet. This brother had run into a debt of about twenty-five rupees. He had on his arm an armlet of solid gold. It was not difficult to clip a bit out of it.

Well, it was done, and the debt cleared. But this became more than I could bear. I resolved never to steal again. I also made up my mind to confess it to my father. But I did not dare to speak. Not that I was afraid of my father beating me. No. I do not recall his ever having beaten any of us. I was afraid of the pain that I should cause him. But I felt that the risk should be taken; that there could not be cleansing without a clean confession.

I decided at last to write out the confession to submit it to my father, and ask his forgiveness. I wrote it on a slip of paper and handed it to him myself. In this note not only did I confess my guilt, but I asked adequate punishment for it, and closed with a request to him not to punish himself for my offence. I also pledged myself never to steal in future.

I was trembling as I handed the confession to my father. He was then confined to bed. His bed was a plain wooden plank. I handed him the note and sat opposite the plank.

He read it through, and tears trickled down his cheeks, wetting the paper. For a moment he closed his eyes in thought and then tore up the note. He had sat up to read it. He again lay down. I also cried. I could see my fatherís agony. If I were a painter I could draw a picture of the whole scene today. It is still so vivid in my mind.

Those tears of love cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. Only he who has experienced such love can know what it is.

This sort of forgiveness was not natural to my father. I had thought that he would be angry, say hard things, and strike his forehead. But he was so wonderfully peaceful, and I believe this was due to my clean confession. A clean confession, combined with a promise never to commit the sin again, when offered before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type of repentance. I know that my confession made my father feel absolutely safe about me, and increased greatly his affection for me.