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Gandhi: the Teenager!

Like all teenagers Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was curious and loved to dabble with new experiences. While he was in High School he had a number of experiences - not always pleasant - from which he learned much.

Mohan had a friend in school who had rather a bad reputation. Both Putlibai (Gandhi's mother) and Kasturba (Gandhi's wife) disliked him, but Mohan said, "Let me be his friend; I know he has weaknesses but he also has virtues". This friend had told Mohan many stories about the benefits of eating meat. "Some of our teachers eat meat secretly," he said. "So do some of our leading men." "I did not know that," said Mohan. "Why do they do it?"  "Meat eaters grow strong and healthy", said his friend. "Look at me! I can run long distances. I can do any hard work. And look at you! You are weak, you have no courage."

"That is true" thought Mohan. "I am a coward. I am afraid of darkness and ghosts and thieves. Even Kasturba is bolder than I am."

"Do you know why the English rule over us? his friend went on. "It's because they are meat-eaters. If we want to fight them and drive them out we too must eat meat and grow strong."

Mohan's mind was divided. If he ate meat, he would have to hide it from his parents. They were Vaishnavas and would be greatly shocked and grieved. Surely it was wrong to deceive them. Yet, on the other hand, it was his duty to help drive the British out of India. Finally he agreed that he would try meat-eating and his friend secretly brought some goat's meat for him. How terrible it tasted! He could not sleep that night; he felt as if a live goat was bleating inside him. But he did not give up. His friend brought good tasty meat dishes and soon he began to enjoy them. So it went on for a year.

But there was a difficulty. After eating meat secretly Mohan did not feel hungry when he got home. His mother noticed it. "Why don't you eat well, Mohan?" she asked. "I don't feel like it, mother," he replied. "My stomach is bad," As he said the words, his conscience pricked him: "I am lying to my mother - No, I can't do it. I won't lie to my parents. I will take no more meat while they are alive."

Another school friend encouraged Mohan to smoke. They enjoyed the experience and saw nothing wrong in it. Adult men smoked, why not we do the same? But soon they were not satisfied to collect half-smoked cigarettes which other people threw away. They wanted their own, and cigarettes cost money. They began to steal coppers from servants pockets, but that was not sufficient. Mohan was too proud to ask his wife for money. Finally he stole a bit of gold from his brother's armlet and sold it.

Once more his conscience prickled him. Stealing was wrong, he knew it. He decided he must confess to his father, but he could not speak out openly. He wrote on a piece of paper all that he had done, and asked for punishment. His father was sick, lying in bed, and Mohan went to him and gave him the paper. Kaba Gandhi read it; tears of love and compassion flowed from his eyes, then he tore up the paper and lay down. His father's tears were Mohan's first lesson in the meaning of Ahimsa. The father's tears were Mohan's first lesson in the meaning of Ahimsa. The father suffered because the son had done wrong, and the father was happy because the son had confessed.