I passed the matriculation examination in 1887. It
then used to be held at two centres, Ahmedabad and
Bombay. The general poverty of the country naturally led
Kathiawad students to prefer the nearer and the cheaper
centre. The poverty of my family likewise dictated to me
the same choice. This was my first journey from Rajkot to
Ahmedabad and that too without a companion.
My elders wanted me to pursue my studies at college
after the matriculation. There was a college in Bhavnagar
as well as in Bombay, and as the former was cheaper, I
decided to go there and join the Samaldas College. I
went, but found myself entirely at sea. Everything was
difficult. I could not follow, let alone taking interest
in, the professors' lectures. It was no fault of theirs.
The professors in that College were regarded as
first-rate. But I was so raw. At the end of the first
term, I returned home.
We had in Mavji Dave, who was a shrewd and learned
Brahman an old friend and adviser of the family. He had
kept up his connection with the family even after my
father's death. He happened to visit us during my
vacation. In conversation with my mother and elder
brother, he inquired about my studies. Learning that I
was at Samaldas College, he said: 'The times are changed.
And none of you can expect to succeed to your father's gadi
without having a proper education. Now as this boy is
still pursuing his studies, you should all look to him to
keep the gadi. It will take him four or five
years to get his B.A. degree, which will at best qualify
him for a sixty rupees' post, not for a Diwanship. If
like my son he went in for law, it would take him still
longer, by which time there would be a host of lawyers
aspiring for a Diwan's post. I would far rather that you
sent him to England. My son Kevalram says it is very easy
to become a barrister. In three years' time he will
return. Also expenses will not exceed four to five
thousand rupees. Think of that barrister who has just
come back from England. How stylishly he lives! He could
get the Diwanship for the asking. I would strongly advise
you to send Mohandas to England this very year. Kevalram
has numerous friends in England. He will give notes of
introduction to them, and Mohandas will have an easy time
of it there.'
Joshiji that is how we used to call old Mavji Dave
turned to me with complete assurance, and asked: 'Would
you not rather go to England than study here?' Nothing
could have been more welcome to me. I was fighting shy of
my difficult studies. So I jumped at the proposal and
said that the sooner I was sent the better. It was no
easy business to pass examinations quickly. Could I not
be sent to qualify for the medical profession?
My brother interrupted me: 'Father never liked it. He
had you in mind when he said that we Vaishnavas should
have nothing to do with dissection of dead bodies. Father
intended you for the bar.'
Joshiji chimed in : 'I am not opposed to the medical
profession as was Gandhiji. Our Shastras are not
against it. But a medical degree will not make a Diwan of
you, and I want you to be Diwan, or if possible something
better. Only in that way could you take under your
protecting care your large family. The times are fast
changing and getting harder every day. It is the wisest
thing therefore to become a barrister.' Turning to my
mother he said : 'Now, I must leave. Pray ponder over
what I have said. When I come here next I shall expect to
hear of preparations for England. Be sure to let me know
if I can assist in any way.'
Joshiji went away, and I began building castles in the
My elder brother was greatly exercised in his mind.
How was he to find the wherewithal to send me? And was it
proper to trust a young man like me to go abroad alone?
My mother was sorely perplexed. She did not like the
idea of parting with me. This is how she tried to put me
off: 'Uncle,' she said, 'is now the eldest member of the
family. He should first be consulted. If he consents we
will consider the matter.'
My brother had another idea. He said to me: 'We have a
certain claim on the Porbandar State. Mr. Lely is the
Administrator. He thinks highly of our family and uncle
is in his good books. It is just possible that he might
recommend you for some State help for your education in
I liked all this and got ready to start off for
Porbandar. There was no railway in those days. It was a
five days' bullock-cart journey. I have already said that
I was a coward. But at that moment my cowardice vanished
before the desire to go to England, which completely
possessed me. I hired a bullock-cart as far as Dhoraji,
and from Dhoraji I took a camel in order to get to
Porbandar a day quicker. This was my first camel-ride.
I arrived at last, did obeisance to my uncle, and told
him everything. He thought it over and said : 'I am not
sure whether it is possible for one to stay in England
without prejudice to one's own religion. From all I have
heard, I have my doubts. When I meet these big
barristers, I see no difference between their life and
that of Europeans. They know no scruples regarding food.
Cigars are never out of their mouths. They dress as
shamelessly as Englishmen. All that would not be in
keeping with our family tradition. I am shortly going on
a pilgrimage and have not many years to live. At the
threshold of death, how dare I give you permission to go
to England, to cross the seas? But I will not stand in
your way. It is your mother's permission which really
matters. If she permits you, then godspeed! Tell her I
will not interfere. You will go with my blessings.'
'I could expect nothing more from you,' said I. 'I
shall now try to win mother over. But would you not
recommend me to Mr. Lely?'
'How can I do that?' said he. 'But he is a good man.
You ask for an appointment telling him how you are
connected. He will certainly give you one and may even
I cannot say why my uncle did not give me a note of
recommendation. I have a faint idea that he hesitated to
co-operate directly in my going to England, which was in
his opinion an irreligious act.
I wrote to Mr Lely, who asked me to see him at his
residence. He saw me as he was ascending the
staircase;and saying curtly, 'Pass your B.A. fist and
then see me. No help can be given you now', he hurried
upstairs. I had made elaborate preparations to meet him.
I had carefully learnt up a few sentences and had bowed
low and saluted him with both hands. But all to no
I thought of my wife's ornaments. I thought of my
elder brother, in whom I had the utmost faith. He was
generous to a fault, and he loved me as his son.
I returned to Rajkot from Porbandar and reported all
that had happened. I consulted Joshiji, who of course
advised even incurring a debt if necessary. I suggested
the disposal of my wife's ornaments, which could fetch
about two or three thousand rupees. My brother promised
to find the money somehow.
My mother, however, was still unwilling. She had begun
making minute inquiries. Someone had told her that young
men got lost in England. Someone else had said that they
took to meat; and yet another that they could not live
there without liquor. 'How about all this?' she asked me.
I said: 'Will you not trust me? I shall not lie to you. I
swear that I shall not touch any of those things. If
there were any such danger, would Joshiji let me go?'
'I can trust you,' she said.'But how can I trust you
in a distant land? I am dazed and know not what to do. I
will ask Becharji Swami.'
Becharji Swami was originally a Modh Bania, but had
now become a Jain monk. He too was a family adviser like
Joshiji. He came to my help, and said: 'I shall get the
boy solemnly to take the three vows, and then he can be
allowed to go.' He administered the oath and I vowed not
to touch wine, woman and meat. This done, my mother gave
The high school had a send-off in my honour. It was an
uncommon thing for a young man of Rajkot to go to
England. I had written out a few words of thanks. But I
could scarcely stammer them out. I remember how my head
reeled and how my whole frame shook as I stood up to read
With the blessing of my elders, I started for Bombay.
This was my first journey from Rajkot to Bombay. This was
my first journey from Rajkot to Bombay. My brother
accompanied me. But there is many a slip, 'twixt the cup
and the lip. There were difficulties to be faced in