In those days my food principally consisted of groundnut butter and lemons. I knew that it was possible to eat too much butter and injure one's health, and yet I allowed myself to do so. This gave me a slight attack of dysentery. There was some festival that day, and although I had told Kasturba that I should have nothing for my midday meal, she tempted me and I yielded. As I was under a vow of taking no milk or milk products, she had specially prepared for me a sweet wheat porridge with oil added to it instead of ghee. She had reserved too a bowlful of mung for me. I was fond of these things, and I readily took them, hoping that without coming to grief I should eat just enough to please Kasturba and to satisfy my palate. But the devil had been only waiting for an opportunity. Instead of eating very little I had my fill of the meal. This was sufficient invitation to the angel of death. Within an hour the dysentery appeared in acute form.
I would take no medicine, but
preferred to suffer the penalty for
my folly. I must have had thirty to
forty motions in twenty-four hours.
I fasted, not taking even fruit
juices in the beginning. The appetite
had all gone, I felt that I was
at death's door.
Whilst I lay thus ever expectant
of death, Shankerlal Bankar constituted
himself the guardian of my
health, and pressed me to consult
Dr. Dalal. Dr. Dalal was called accordingly.
His capacity for taking
instantaneous decisions captured
He said : “I cannot rebuild your
body unless you take milk. If in
addition you would take iron and
arsenic injections, I would guarantee
fully to make you well.”
“You can give me the injections,”
I replied, “but milk is a different
question; I have a vow
“What exactly is the nature of
your vow ?” the doctor inquired.
I told him the whole history and
the reasons behind my vow, how,
since I had come to know that the
cow and the buffalo were subjected
to the process of phuka, I
had taken a strong disgust for
milk. Moreover, I had always held
that milk is not the natural diet of
man. I had therefore given up its
use altogether. Kasturba was standing
near my bed listening all the
time to this conversation.
“But surely you cannot have any
objection to goat's milk then,” she
The doctor added : “If you will
take goat's milk, it will be enough
I gave in. My intense eagerness
to take up the Satyagraha fight had
created in me a strong desire to
live, and so I contended myself
with adhering to the letter of my
vow only, and sacrificed its spirit.
For although I had only the milk
of the cow and the she-buffalo in
mind when I took the vow, by
natural implication it covered the
milk of all animals. Nor could it
be right for me to use milk at all,
so long as I held that milk is not
the natural diet of man. Yet knowing
all this I agreed to take goat's
milk. The memory of this action
even now fills me with remorse, and I am constantly
to give up goat's milk. But I cannot
yet free myself from that subtlest
of temptations, the desire to
serve, which still holds me.
Soon after I began taking goat's
milk, Dr. Dalal performed on me a
successful operation. As I was getting
better, my desire to live revived,
especially because God had
kept work in store for me.