Gandhi's father was not in good health, and was growing old. He was keen to see his two young sons married before he passed away. So he decided that the younger son, Mohan's marriage should also take place at the same time as that of the elder son.
Gandhi's marriage took
place when he was thirteen years of age. He was still a student in the
Alfred High School at Rajkot. Kasturba to whom he was married was also of
the same age. She had never been to school. Both of them were too young to
understand or take up the responsibilities of married life. In later years,
Gandhi saw this, and spoke of how thoughtless and dangerous it was to push
young children into marriage or for young children to enter into marital
life. But at the time Gandhi married, he only knew that his father wanted
him to marry, that there would be much pomp and many festivities; that he
would be at the centre of all these, and would have an enjoyable experience
that he would remember all his life. He also knew that he would, acquire a
new playmate or companion, a companion of the other sex with all the
mysteries, attractions and social prestige that it held.
On the very first night
that he spent with his young bride he experienced the stirrings and
attractions of the body. In later years, he wondered who had coached whom in
how to cope with what happens to the mind and the body when a young bride
and bridegroom are thrown together at a tender age. He realised that he was
greatly attracted by the pleasures that the body could give. He found that
he was in the grip of lust, and would eagerly wait for nightfall and seek
joy in the company of his young wife.
Sheikh Mahtab, who was
still close to Gandhi, perhaps divined these new stirrings in Gandhi. He
nearly got Gandhi to embark on a life of lust. He took him to visit the
lodgings of prostitutes. But Gandhi was saved by something within him. He
sat dumb and frozen on the bed till the prostitute herself rained abuses on
him and drove him out. Gandhi was saved. Yet later in life he confessed that
even though there was no action on his part, the intention to sin was
present, and so he should confess that he was guilty in terms of morality.
However, he decided that he would never betray or deceive his wife.
Gandhi was devoted to
his wife, Kasturba. But he also believed that as her husband, he had
unquestioned authority over her. He would take decisions for her. She could
not go anywhere, not even to the temple, without his permission. He was her
master. But Kasturba showed that she also had a mind and will of her own.
She would go to the temple and visit her friends without seeking Gandhi's
permission. Gandhi was jealous, and therefore suspicious. It was only much
later in life, after he ceased to be a slave of the body and bodily
attractions, that he realised that a wife was not a piece of property to be
possessed by him. He then realised that a woman had all the rights that a
man had. She was, therefore, entitled to a personality and will of her own.
The wife was a companion and an equal partner of the husband, and not a toy
or slave. Later in life, Gandhi even said that he had learnt many lessons
from his wife, Kasturba — especially in Ahimsa (non-violence) and the way to
resist with love.
But that was where
Gandhi reached many years later. While in school, and in the years
immediately after his marriage, Gandhi was attracted to the bodily pleasures
of married life. He would wait for classes to end to run back to his wife.
This affected his studies. Worse still, it began to distract his mind even
when he was serving his sick father, keeping vigil at his bedside or
massaging his feet, before he fell asleep.
One night, the
inevitable happened. Gandhi was massaging the feet of his ailing father
while his mind was full of the thoughts of Kasturba and the pleasures of
their bed. Karamchand's brother, young Gandhi's uncle, offered to massage
Karamchand's feet so that Gandhi could go and sleep. Gandhi agreed and ran
to his room. He had hardly bolted the room when someone knocked on the door
and asked Gandhi to hurry back to his father's bed since he was 'seriously'
He knew what it meant,
and hurried back into his father's room only to find that his father had
breathed his last during the few minutes that had taken him to go to the
side of his wife. Gandhi was overcome with remorse and shame. There was no
way of making amends. He had hoped that he would be serving his father even
when his breath departed from the body. He had missed the opportunity
because of his desire for bodily pleasures. He let the bitter lesson sink
His father's death
raised many questions for the family. Gandhi had completed his education in
the High School at Rajkot. There was no college in Rajkot then. So he had
moved on to the Samaldas College at Bhavnagar. But there he found studies
very difficult. All subjects were taught in English. He found that his
knowledge of English was not adequate. He did not know what to do. The
family needed his support. He had his own wife. One suggestion was that he
should look for work or go to Bombay to study. Some friends of the family
had a different idea. It would be good if someone from the family could
maintain the tradition of serving as the Diwan of Rajkot or Porbandar. Only
young Gandhi could attempt this. But times had changed. No one could aspire
to be Diwan unless he had sound education. So why should not Gandhi go to
England and qualify for the Bar ? It would be a prestigious qualification,
and would open new avenues. The idea appealed to Gandhi. It was an
opportunity and an escape. England had its own attractions at that time. To
be educated in England was to receive a passport to the circles of the
But there were many
hurdles. The money had to be found. Elders, particularly Gandhi's mother,
had to give her consent. His uncle said he would not stand in the way if his
mother agreed. His brother agreed to make the money available, if necessary
by raising a loan.
The harder task was to
get his mother's consent. After much persuasion from many well-wishers and
friends of the family Gandhi's mother agreed to let Mohandas go to England,
provided he took three solemn vows — to keep away from meat, wine and women.
Gandhi took these vows in all solemnity, and went to Bombay on his way to
Gandhi's troubles were
not over. At Bombay, he was summoned by the elders of the caste. He was
about to cross the seas and go abroad. This was forbidden by tradition. So
he should desist or face being expelled from the caste and made an outcaste
(denied all social contact with members of his own caste, including his own
family). Gandhi was hardly 18. But he discovered that he was not the man to
be cowed down. He did not reply with anger or bitterness. He remained calm,
and told the elders of the caste that he had made up his mind to go. He
respected them. But he would not obey their order, and would readily face
the consequences of his disobedience. In later years, Gandhi cited this as
the first occasion on which he resorted to Satyagraha, though he did not
know then his was an act of Satyagraha.