I was not used to talking English, and except for Shri Mazmudar all the other passengers in the second saloon were English. I could not speak to them. For I could rarely follow their remarks when they came up to speak to me, and even when I understood I could not reply. I had to frame every sentence in my mind before I could bring it out. I was innocent of the use of knives and forks and had not the boldness to inquire what dishes on the menu were free of meat. I therefore never took meals at table but always had them in my cabin, and they consisted principally of sweets and fruits which I had brought with me. Shri Mazmudar had no difficulty, and he mixed with everybody. He would move about freely on deck, while I hid myself in the cabin the whole day, only going up on deck when there were but few people. Shri Mazmudar kept pleading with me to associate with the passengers and to talk with them freely.
He told me that lawyers
should have a long tongue, and related to me his legal
experience. He advised me to take every possible
opportunity of talking English and not to mind making
mistakes which were obviously unavoidable with a foreign
tongue. But nothing could make me conquer my shyness. An
English passenger, wanting to be nice to me, drew me
into conversation. He was older than I. He asked me what
I ate, what I was, where I was going, why I was shy, and
so on. He also advised me to come to table. He laughed
at my insistence on not eating meat, and said in a
friendly way when we were in the Red Sea : “It is all
very well so far but you will have to change your
decision in the Bay of Biscay. And it is so cold in
England that one cannot possibly live there without
“But I have heard that
people can live there without eating meat,” I said.
“Rest assured it is a
lie,” said he. “No one, to my knowledge, lives there
without being a meateater.
Don’t you see that I am
not asking you to take liquor, though I do so? But I do
think you should eat meat, for you cannot live without
“I thank you for your kind
advice, but I have solemnly promised to my mother not to
touch meat, and therefore I cannot think of taking it.
If it be found impossible to get on without it, I will
far rather go back to India than eat meat in order to
We entered the Bay of
Biscay, but I did not begin to feel the need either of
meat or liquor.
We reached Southampton, as
far as I remember, on a Saturday. On the boat I had worn
a black suit, the white flannel one, which my friends
had got me, having been kept especially for wearing when
I landed. I had thought that white clothes would suit me
better when I stepped ashore, and therefore, I did so in
white flannels. Those were the last days of September,
and I found I was the only person wearing such clothes.
I left in charge of an agent of Grindlay and Co. all my
luggage including the keys, seeing that many others had
done the same and I thought I must do like them.
Someone on board had
advised us to put up at the Victoria Hotel in London.
Shri Mazmudar and I accordingly went there. The shame of
being the only person in white clothes was already too
much for me. And when at the Hotel I was told that I
should not get my things from Grindlay’s the next day,
it being a Sunday, I felt very bad.
Dr. Mehta to whom I had
wired from Southampton, called at about eight o’clock
the same evening. He gave me a hearty greeting. He
smiled at my being in white flannels. As we were
talking, I casually picked up his top-hat, and trying to
see how smooth it was, passed my hand over it the wrong
way and disturbed the fur. Dr. Mehta looked somewhat
angrily at what I was doing and stopped me. But the
mischief had been done.
The incident was a warning
for the future, and Dr. Mehta gave me my first lesson in
“Do not touch other
people’s things,” he said. “Do not ask questions as we
usually do in India on first acquaintance; 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 that way.'' And so on and so
forth. He also told me that it was very expensive to
live in a hotel and recommended that I should live with
a private family.
Shri Mazmudar and I found
the hotel to be a trying affair. It was also very
expensive. There was, however, a Sindhi fellow-passenger
from Malta who had become friends with Shri Mazmudar,
and as he was not a stranger to London, he offered to
find rooms for us. We agreed, and on Monday, as soon as
we got our baggage, we paid up our bills and went to the
rooms rented for us by the Sindhi friend. I remember my
hotel bill came to £ 3, an amount which shocked me. And
I had practically starved in spite of this heavy bill!
For I could relish nothing. When I did not like one
thing, I asked for another, but had to pay for both just
the same. The fact is that all this while I had depended
on the foodstuffs which I had brought with me from
I was very uneasy even in
the new rooms. I would continually think of my home and
country, and of my mother’s love. At night the tears
would stream down my cheeks, and home memories of all
sorts made sleep out of the question. It was impossible
to share my misery with anyone. And even if I could have
done so, where was the use? I knew of nothing that would
soothe me. Everything was strange – the people, their
ways, and even their dwellings. I was a complete
stranger to English etiquette and continually had to be
on my guard.
There was the additional
inconvenience of the vegetarian vow. Even the dishes
that I could eat were tasteless. I thus found myself
between Scylla and Charybdis*. England I could not bear,
but to return to India was not to be thought of. Now
that I had come, I must finish the three years, said the