Let no one imagine that my experiments in dancing and the like marked a stage of indulgence in my life. The reader will have noticed that even then I knew what I was doing and my expenses were carefully calculated.
As I kept strict watch
over my way of living, I could see that it was necessary
to economize. So I decided to take rooms on my own
account, instead of living any longer in a family, and
also to remove from place to place according to the work
I had to do, thus gaining expereince at the same time.
The rooms were so selected as to enable me to reach the
place of business on foot in half an hour, and so save
fares. Before this I had always taken some kind of
conveyance whenever I went anywhere, and had to find
extra time for walks. The new arrangement combined walks
and economy, as it meant a saving of fares and gave me
walks of eight or ten miles a day. It was mainly this
habit of long walks that kept me practically free from
illness throughout my stay in England and gave me a
fairly strong body.
Thus I rented a suite of
rooms; one for a sitting room and another for a bedroom.
This was the second stage. The third was yet to come.
These changes saved me
half the expenses. But how was I to utilize the time? I
knew that Bar examinations did not require much study,
and I therefore did not feel pressed
for time. My weak English was a perpetual worry to me. I
should, I thought, not only be called to the Bar, but
have some literary degree as well. I inquired about the
and Cambridge University courses, consulted a few
friends, and found that, if I elected to go to either of
these places, that would mean greater expense and a much
longer stay in England than I was prepared for. A friend
suggested that, if I really wanted to have the
satisfaction of taking a difficult examination, I should
pass the London Matriculation. It meant a good deal of
labour and much addition to my stock of general
knowledge, without any extra expense worth the name. I
welcomed the suggestion.
But the syllabus
frightened me. Latin and a modern language were
compulsory ! How was I to manage Latin? But the friend
entered a strong plea for it : “Latin is very valuable
to lawyers. Knowledge of Latin is very useful in
understanding law-books. And one paper in Roman Law is
entirely in Latin. Besides a knowledge of Latin means
greater command over the English Language.” This
appealed to me and I decided to learn Latin, no matter
how difficult it might be. French I had already begun,
so I thought that should be the modern language. I
joined a private Matriculation class. Examinations were
held every six months and I had only five months at my
It was an almost
impossible task for me. I converted myself into a
serious student. I framed my own timetable to the
minute; but neither my intelligence nor memory promised
to enable me to tackle Latin and French besides other
subjects within the given period.
The result was that I
failed in Latin. I was sorry but did not lose heart. I
had acquired a taste for Latin; also I thought my French
would be all the better for another trial and I would
select a new subject in the science group. Chemistry
which was my subject in science had no attraction for
want of experiments, whereas it ought to have been a
deeply interesting study. It was one of the compulsory
subjects in India and so I had selected it for the
London Matriculation. This time, however, I chose Heat
and Light instead of Chemistry.
It was said to be easy and
I found it to be so.
With my preparation for
another trial, I made an effort to simplify my life
still further. I felt that my way of living was still
beyond the modest means of my family. The thought of my
struggling brother, who nobly responded to my regular
calls for monetary help, deeply pained me. I saw that
most of those who were spending from eight to fifteen
pounds monthly had the advantage of scholarships. I had
before me examples of much simpler living. I came across
a fair number of poor students living more humbly than
I. One of them was staying in the slums in a room at two
shillings a week and living on two pence worth of cocoa
and bread per meal from Lockhart’s cheap Cocoa Rooms. It
was far from me to think of copying him, but I felt I
could surely have one room instead of two and cook some
of my meals at home. That would be a saving of four to
five pounds each month. I also came across books
on simple living. I gave up the suite of rooms and
rented one instead, invested in a stove, and began
cooking my break-fast at home. The process scarcely took
me more than twenty minutes for there was only oatmeal
porridge to cook and water to boil for cocoa. I had
lunch out, and for dinner bread and cocoa at home. Thus
I managed to live on a shilling and three pence a day.
This was also a period of intensive study. Plain living
saved me plenty of time and I passed my examination.
Let not the reader think
that this living made my life by any means a dreary
affair. On the contrary the change suited me
beautifully. It was also more in keeping with the
means of my family. My life was certainly more truthful
and my soul knew no bounds of joy.
As soon as, or even
before, I made alterations in my expenses and my way of
living, I began to make changes in my diet. I stopped
taking the sweets and spices I had got from home. The
mind having taken a different turn, the fondness for
spices wore away, and I now relished the boiled spinach
which in Richmond tasted insipid, cooked without spices.
Many such experiments taught me that taste depended much
on one’s attitude of mind rather than on the tongue.
The economic consideration
was of course constantly before me.
There was in those days a
body of opinion which regarded tea and coffee as harmful
and favoured cocoa. And as I was convinced that one
should eat only articles that nourished the body, I gave
up tea and coffee as a rule and took cocoa instead.
There were many minor
experiments going on along with the main one : as for
example, giving up starchy foods at one time, living on
bread and fruit alone at another, and once living on
cheese, milk and eggs. This last experiment is worth
noting. It lasted not even a fortnight. The reformer who
advocated starchless food had spoken highly of eggs and
held that eggs were not meat. It was apparent that there
was no injury done to living creatures in taking eggs.
So I took eggs in spite of my vow. But the lapse was
momentary. I had no business to put a new interpretation
on the vow. The interpretation of my mother who
administered the vow was there for me. I knew that her
definition of meat included eggs. And as soon as I saw
the true import of the vow I gave up eggs and the
Full of a new convert’s
zeal for vegetarianism, I decided to start a vegetarian
club in my locality. The club went well for a while, but
came to an end in the course of a few months. For I left
the locality, according to my custom of moving from
place to place periodically.
But this brief and modest
experience gave me some little training in organizing
and conducting institutions.