XV. PLAYING THE
My faith in vegetarianism grew on me from day to day.
Salt's book whetted my appetite for dietetic studies. I
went in for all books available on on vegetaranism and
read them. One of these, Howard Williams' The Ethics
of Diet, was 'biographical history of the literature
of humane dietetics from the earliest period to the
present day.'It tried to make out, that all philosophers
and prophets from Pythagoras and Jesus down to those of
the present age were vegetarians. Dr. Anna Kingsford's The
Perfect Way in Diet was also an attractive book. Dr.
Allinson's writings on health and hygiene were likewise
very helpful. He advocated a curative system based on
regulation of the dietary of patients. Himself a
vegetarian, he prescribed for his patients also a
strictly vegetarian diet. The result of reading all this
literature was that dietetic experiments came to take an
important place in my life. Health was the principal
consideration of these experiments to begin with. But
later on religion became the supreme motive.
Meanwhile my friend had not ceased to worry about me.
His love for me led him to think that, if I persisted in
my objections to meat-eating, I should not only develop a
weak constitution, but should remain a duffer, because I
should never feel at home in English society. When he
came to know that I had begun to interest myself in books
on vegetarianism, he was afraid lest these studies should
muddle my head; that I should fritter my life away in
experiments, forgetting my own work, and become a crank.
He therefore made one last effort to reform me. He one
day invited me to go to the theatre. Before the play we
were to dine together at the Holborn Restaurant, to me a
palatial place and the first big restaurant I had been to
since leaving the Victoria Hotel. The stay at that hotel
had scarcely been a helpful experience, for I had not
lived there with my wits about me. The friend had planned
to take me to this restaurant evidently imagining that
modesty would forbid any questions. And it was a very big
company of diners in the midst of which my friend and I
sat sharing a table between us. The first course was
soup. I wondered what it might be made of, but durst not
ask the friend about it. I therefore summoned the waiter.
My friend saw the movement and sternly asked across the
table what was the matter. With considerable hesitation I
told him that I wanted to inquire if the soup was a
vegetable soup. 'You are too clumsy for decent society,'
he passionately exclaimed 'If you cannot behave yourself,
you had better go. Feed in some other restaurant and
await me outside.' This delighted me. Out I went. There
was a vegetarian restaurant close by, but it was closed.
So I went without food that night. I accompanied my
friend to the theatre, but he never said a word about the
scene I had created. On my part of course there was
nothing to say.
That was the last friendly tussle we had. It did not
affect our relations in the least. I could see and
appreciate the love by which all my friend's efforts were
actuated, and my respect for him was all the greater on
account of our differences in thought and action.
But I decided that I should put him at ease, that I
should assure him that I would be clumsy no more, but try
to become polished and make up for my vegetarianism by
cultivating other accomplishments which fitted one for
polite soceity. And for this purpose I undertook the all
too impossible task of becoming an English gentleman.
The clothes after the Bombay cut that I was wearing
were, I thought unsuitable for English society, and I got
new ones at the Army and Navy stores. I also went in for
a chimney-pot hat costing nineteen shillings an excessive
price in those days. Not content with this, I wasted ten
pounds on an evening suit made in Bond Street, the centre
of fashionable life in London; and got my good and
noble-hearted brother to send me a double watch-chain of
gold. It was not correct to wear a ready-made tie and I
learnt the art of tying one for myself. While in India,
the mirror had been a luxury permitted on the days when
the family barber gave me a shave. Here I wasted ten
minutes every day before a huge mirror, watching myself
arranging my tie and parting my hair in the correct
fashion. My hair was by no means soft, and every day it
meant a regular struggle with the brush to keep it in
position. Each time the hat was put on and off, the hand
would automatically move towards the head to adjust the
hair, not to mention the other civilized habit of the
hand every now and then operating for the same purpose
when sitting in polished society.
As if all this were not enough to make me look the
thing, I directed my attention to other details that were
supposed to go towards the making of an English
gentleman. I was told it was necessary for me to take
lessons in dancing, French and elocution. French was not
only the language of neighbouring France, but it was the lingua
franca of the Continent over which I had a desire to
travel. I decided to take dancing lessons at a class and
paid down ?3 as fees for a term. I must have taken
about six lessons in three weeks. But it was beyond me To
achieve anything like rhythmic motion. I could not follow
the piano and hence found it impossible to keep time.
What then was I to do? The recluse in the fable kept a
cat to keep off the rats, and then a cow to feed the cat
with milk, and a man to keep the cow and so on. My
ambitions also grew like the family of the recluse. I
thought I should learn to play the violin in order to
cultivate an ear for Western music. So I invested ? in
a violin and something more in fees. I sought a third
teacher to give me lessons in elocution and paid him a
preliminary fee of a guinea. He recommended Bell's Standard
Elocutionist as the text-book, which I purchased.
And I began with a speech of Pitt's.
But Mr. Bell rang the bell of alarm in my ear and I
I had not to spend a lifetime in England, I said to
myself. What then was the use of learning elocution? And
how could dancing make a gentleman of me? The violin I
could learn even in India. I was a student and ought to
go on with my studies. I should qualify myself to join
the Inns of Court. If my character made a gentleman of
me, so much the better. Otherwise I should forego the
These and similar thoughts possessed me, and I
expressed them in a letter which I addressed to the
elocution teacher, requesting him to excuse me from
further lessons. I had taken only two or three. I wrote a
similar letter to the dancing teacher, and went
personally to the violin teacher with a request to
dispose of the violin for any price it might fetch. She
was rather friendly to me, so I told her how I had
discovered that I was pursuing a false idea. She
encouraged me in the determination to make a complete
This infatuation must have lasted about three months.
The punctiliousness in dress persisted for years. But
henceforward I became a student.