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STUDENTS' PROJECTS > THE STORY OF MY LIFE > PART I : CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH >Preparation for England
08. Preparation for England
My elders wanted me to continue my studies at college after school. There was a college in Bhavnagar as well as in Bombay, and as the former was cheaper, I decided to go there and join the Samaldas College. I went, but found everything very difficult. At the end of the first term, I returned home.
We had in Mavji Dave, who was a shrewd and learned Brahman, an old friend and adviser of the family. He had kept up his connection with the family even after my father's death. He happened to visit us during my holidays.
In conversation with my mother and elder brother, he inquired about my studies. Learning that I was at Samaldas College, he said: “The times are changed. And none of you can expect to succeed to your father’s gadi (official work) without having had a proper education. Now as this boy is still pursuing his studies, you should all look to him to keep the gadi. It will take him four or five years to get his B. A. degree, which will at best qualify him for a sixty rupees’ post, not for a Diwanship. If like my son he went in for law, it would take him still longer, by which time there would be a host of lawyers aspiring for a Diwan's post. I would far rather that you sent him to England. Think of that barrister who has just come back from England. How stylishly he lives ! He could get the Diwanship for the asking. I would strongly advise you to send Mohandas to England this very year. Kevalram has numerous friends in England. He will give notes of introduction to them, and Mohandas will have an easy time of it there.”
Joshiji – that is how we used to call old Mavji Dave – turned to me and asked : “Would you not rather go to England than study here ?” Nothing could have been more welcome to me. I was finding my studies difficult. So I jumped at the proposal and said that the sooner I was sent the better. My elder brother was greatly troubled in his mind. How was he to find the money to send me?
And was it proper to trust a young man like me to go abroad alone? My mother was very worried. She did not like the idea of parting with me. She had begun making minute inquiries. Someone had told her that young men got lost in England. Someone else had said that they took to meat; and yet another that they could not live there without liquor. “How about all this ?” she asked me. I said : “Will you not trust me? I shall not lie to you. I promise that I shall not touch any of those things. If there were any such danger, would Joshiji let me go ?”
“I can trust you,” she said. “But how can I trust you in a distant land? I am confused and know not what to do. I will ask Becharji Swami.”
Becharji Swami was originally a Modh Bania, but had now become a Jain monk. He too was a family adviser like Joshiji. He came to my help, and said : “I shall get the boy solemnly to take the three vows, and then he can be allowed to go.” I vowed not to touch wine, woman and meat. This done, my mother gave her permission.
The high school had a send-off in my honour. It was an uncommon thing for a young man of Rajkot to go to England. I had written out a few words of thanks. But I could scarcely read them out. I remember how my head reeled and how my whole frame shook as I stood up to read them. With my mother’s permission and blessings, I set off happily for Bombay, leaving my wife with a baby of a few months. But on arrival there friends told my brother that the Indian Ocean was rough in June and July, and as this was my first voyage, I should not be allowed to sail until November.
Meanwhile my caste-people were agitated over my going abroad. A general meeting of the caste was called and I was summoned to appear before it. I went. How I suddenly managed to gather up courage I do not know. Fearless, and without the slightest hesitation, I came before the meeting.
The Sheth – the headman of the community – who was distantly related to me and had been on very good terms with my father, thus spoke to me :
“In the opinion of the caste your proposal to go to England is not proper. Our religion forbids voyages abroad. We have also heard that it is not possible to live there and keep to our religion. One is obliged to eat and drink with Europeans !” To which I replied : “I do not think it is at all against our religion to go to England. I intend going there for further studies. And I have already solemnly promised to my mother to keep away from three things you fear most. I am sure the vow will keep me safe.”
“But we tell you,” replied the Sheth, “that it is not possible to keep our religion there. You know my relations with your father and you ought to listen to my advice.” “I know those relations”, said I. “And you are as an elder to me. But I am helpless in this matter. I cannot change my decision to go to England. My father’s friend and adviser who is a learned Brahman sees no objection to my going to England, and my mother and brother have also given me their permission.”
“But will you disregard the orders of the caste ?”
“I am really helpless. I think the caste should not interfere in the matter.”
This made the Sheth very angry. He swore at me. I sat unmoved. So the Sheth ordered : “This boy shall be treated as an outcaste from today. Whoever helps him or goes to see him off at dock shall be punishable with a fine of one rupee four annas.”
The order had no effect on me, and I took my leave of the Sheth. But I wondered how my brother would take it. Fortunately he remained firm and wrote to assure me that I had his permission to go, in spite of the Sheth's order.
A berth was reserved for me by my friends in the same cabin as that of Shri Tryambakrai Mazmudar, the Junagadh Vakil.
They also asked him to help me. He was an experienced man of mature age and knew the world. I was yet a youth of eighteen without any experience of the world. Shri Mazmudar told my friends not to worry about me.
I sailed at last from Bombay on the 4th of September.