Back | Next
STUDENTS' PROJECTS > GANDHI - A BIOGRAPHY FOR CHILDREN AND BEGINNERS > Chapter 04
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' ill.
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 in.
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 elite.
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 England.
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.