Amongst my few friends at the high school I had, at different times, two who might be called intimate. One of these friendships did not last long, though I never gave up my friend. He gave me up, because I made friends with the other. This latter friendship I regard as a tragedy in my life. It lasted long. I formed it in the spirit of a reformer.
This companion was
originally my elder brother’s friend. They were
classmates. I knew his weaknesses, but I regarded him as
a faithful friend. My mother, my eldest brother, and my
wife warned me that I was in bad company. I was too
proud to heed my wife’s warning. But I dared not go
against the opinion of my mother and my eldest brother.
Nevertheless I pleaded with them saying, “I know he has
the weakness you attribute to him but you do not know
his virtues. He cannot lead me astray, as my association
with him is meant to reform him. For I am sure that if
he reforms his ways, he will be a splendid man. I beg
you not to be anxious on my account.”
I do not think this
satisfied them, but they accepted my explanation and let
me go my way.
A wave of ‘reform’ was
sweeping over Rajkot at the time when I first came
across this friend. He informed me that many of our
teachers were secretly taking meat and wine. He also
named many well-known people of Rajkot as belonging to
the same company. There were also, I was told, some
highschool boys among them.
I was surprised and
pained. I asked my friend the reason and he explained it
thus: “We are a weak people because we do not eat meat.
The English are able to rule over us, because they are
meat-eaters. You know how hardy I am, and how great a
runner too. It is because I am meat-eater. Meat-eaters
eaters do not have boils, and even if they sometimes
happen to have any, these heal quickly. Our teachers and
other distinguished people who eat meat are no fools.
They know its virtues. You should do likewise. There is
nothing like trying. Try, and see what strength it
All these pleas on behalf
of meat-eating were not made at a single sitting. They
represent the substance of a long and elaborate argument
which my friend was trying to impress upon me from time
to time. My elder brother had already fallen. He
therefore supported my friend’s argument. I certainly
looked feeble-bodied by the side of my brother and this
friend. They were both hardier, physically stronger, and
more daring. This friend’s exploits cast a spell over
me. He could run long distances and extraordinarily
fast. He was an adept in high and long jumping. He could
put up with any amount of physical punishment. He would
often display his exploits to me and, as one is always
dazzled when he sees in others the qualities that he
lacks himself, I was dazzled by this friend’s exploits.
This was followed by a strong desire to be like him. I
could hardly jump or run. Why should not I also be as
strong as he ?
Moreover, I was a coward.
I used to be afraid of thieves, ghosts and serpents. I
did not dare to stir out of doors at night. Darkness was
a terror to me. It was almost impossible for me to sleep
in the dark, as I would imagine ghosts coming from one
direction, thieves from another and serpents from a
third. I could not therefore bear to sleep without a
light in the room. My friend knew all these weaknesses
of mine. He would tell me that he could hold in his hand
live serpents, could defy thieves and did not believe in
All these had its due
effect on me. I was beaten. It began to grow on me that
meat-eating was good, that it would make me strong and
daring, and that, if the whole country took to
meat-eating, the English could be overcome.
A day was thereupon fixed
for beginning the experiment. It had to be done in
secret as my parents were orthodox Vaishnavas, and I was
extremely devoted to them. I cannot say that I did not
know then that I should have to deceive my parents if I
began eating meat. But my mind was bent on the ‘reform’.
It was not a question of having something tasty to eat.
I did not know that it had a particularly good taste. I
wished to be strong and daring and wanted my countrymen
also to be such. The zeal for the ‘reform’ blinded me.
And having ensured secrecy, I persuaded myself that mere
hiding the deed from parents was no departure from
So the day came. We went
in search of a lonely spot by the river, and there I
saw, for the first time in my life, meat. There was
baker's bread also. I did not like either. The goat's
meat was as tough as leather. I simply could not eat it.
I was sick and had to leave off eating.
I had a very bad night
afterwards. A horrible dream haunted me. Every time I
dropped off to sleep it would seem as though a live goat
were crying inside me, and I would jump up sorry for
what I had done. But then I would remind myself that
meat-eating was a duty and so become more cheerful.
My friend was not a man to
give in easily. He now began to cook various delicacies
with meat. And for dining, no longer was the quiet spot
on the river chosen, but a State house, with its dining
hall and tables and chairs, about which my friend had
made arrangements with the chief cook there.
Gradually I got over my
dislike for bread, gave up my pity for the goats, and
began to enjoy meat-dishes, if not meat itself. This
went on for about a year. But not more than half a dozen
meat-feasts were enjoyed in all. I had no money to pay
for this ‘reform’. My friend had therefore always to
find the money. I had no knowledge where he found it.
But find it he did, because he was bent on turning me
into a meat-eater. But even his means must have been
limited, and hence these feasts had necessarily to be
few and far between.
Whenever I had occasion to
indulge in these secret feasts, eating at home was
impossible. My mother would naturally ask me to come and
take my food and want to know the reason why I did not
wish to eat. I would say to her, “I have no appetite
today; there is something wrong with my digestion.” I
knew I was lying, and lying to my mother. I also knew
that, if my mother and father came to know of my having
become a meat-eater, they would be deeply shocked. This
knowledge was making me feel uneasy.
Therefore I said to myself
: “Though it is essential to eat meat, and also
essential to take up food ‘reform’ in the country, yet
deceiving and lying to one’s father and mother is worse
than not eating meat. In their lifetime, therefore,
meat-eating must be given up. When they are no more and
I have found my freedom, I will eat meat openly, but
until that moment arrives I will keep away from it.”
This decision I told to my
friend, and I have never since gone back to meat.