From Rajkot I proceeded to Shantiniketan. The teachers
and students overwhelmed me with affection. The reception
was a beautiful combination of simplicity, art and love.
It was here I met Kakasaheb Kalelkar for the first time.
I did not know then why Kalelkar was called
'Kakasaheb'. But I learnt later on that Sjt. Keshavrao
Deshpande, who was a contemporary and a close friend of
mine in England, and who had conducted a school in the
Baroda State called 'Ganganath Vidyalaya', had given the
teachers family names with a view to investing the
Vidyalaya with a family atmosphere. Sjt. Kalelkar who was
a teacher there came to be called, 'Kaka' (lit. paternal
uncle). Phadke was called 'Mama' (lit. maternal uncle),
and Harihar Sharma received the name 'Anna' (lit.
brother). Others also got similar names. Anandanand
(Swami) as Kaka's friend and Patwardhan (Appa) as Mama's
friend later joined the family, and all in course of time
became my co-workers one after another. Sjt. Deshpande
himself used to be called 'Saheb'. When the Vidyalaya had
to be dissolved, the family also broke up, but they never
gave up their spiritual relationship or their assumed
Kakasaheb went out to gain experience of different
institutions, and at the time I went to Shantiniketan, he
happened to be there. Chintaman Shastri, belonging to the
same fraternity, was there also. Both helped in teaching
The Phoenix family had been assigned separate quarters
at Shantiniketan. Maganlal Gandhi was at their head, and
he had made it his business to see that all the rules of
the Phoenix Ashram should be scrupulously observed. I saw
that, by dint his fragrance felt in the whole of
Andrews was there, and also Pearson. Amongst the
Bengali teachers with whom we came in fairly close
contact were Jagadanandbabu, Nepalbabu, Santoshbabu,
Kshitimohanbabu, Nagenbabu, Sharadbabu and Kalibabu.
As is my wont, I quickly mixed with the teachers and
students, and engaged them in a discussion on self-help.
I put it to the teachers that, if they and the boys
dispensed with the services of paid cooks and cooked
their food themselves, it would enable the teachers to
control the kitchen from the point of view of the boy's
physical and moral health, and it would afford to the
students an object-lesson in self-help. One or two of
them were inclined to shake their heads. Some of them
strongly approved of the proposal. The boys welcomed it,
if only because of their instinctive taste for novelty.
So we launched the experiment. When I invited the Poet to
express his opinion, he said that he did not mind it
provided the teachers were favourable. To the boys he
said, 'The experiment contains the key to Swaraj.'
Pearson began to wear away his body in making the
experiment a success. He threw himself into it with zest.
A batch was formed to cut vegetables, another to clean
the grain, and so on. Nagenbabu and others undertook to
see to the sanitary cleaning of the kitchen and its
surroundings. It was a delight to me to see them working
spade in hand.
But it was too much to expect the hundred and
twenty-five boys with their teachers to take to this work
of physical labour like ducks to water. There used to be
daily discussion. Some began early to show fatigue. But
Pearson was not the man to be tired. One would always
find him with his smiling face doing something or other
in or about the kitchen. He had taken upon himself the
cleaning of the bigger utensils. A party of students
played on their sitar before this cleaning party
in order to beguile the tedium of the operation. All
alike took the thing up with zest and Shantiniketan
became a busy hive.
Changes like these when once begun always develop. Not
only was the Phoenix party's kitchen self-conducted, but
the food cooked in it was of the simplest. Condiments
were eschewed. Rice, dal, vegetables and even
wheat flour were all cooked at one and the same time in a
kitchen with a view to introducing reform in the Bengali
kitchen. One or two teachers and some students ran this
The experiment was, however, dropped after some time.
I am opinion that the famous institution lost nothing by
having conducted the experiment for a brief interval, and
some of the experiences gained could not but be of help
to the teachers.
I had intended to stay at Shantiniketan for some time
but fate willed otherwise. I had hardly been there a week
when I received from Poona a telegram announcing
Gokhale's death. Shantiniketan was immersed in grief. All
the members came over to me to express their condolences.
A special meeting was called in the Ashram temple to
mourn the national loss. It was a solemn function. The
same day I left for Poona with my wife and Maganlal. All
the rest stayed at Shantiniketan.
Andrews accompanied me up to Burdwan. 'Do you think,'
he asked me, 'that a time will come for Satyagraha in
India? And if so, have you any idea when it will come?'
'It is difficult to say,' said I. 'For one year I am
to do nothing. For Gokhale took from me a promise that I
should travel in India for gaining experience, and
express no opinion on public question until I have
finished the period of probation. Even after the year is
over, I will be in no hurry to speak and pronounce
opinions. And so I do not suppose there will be any
occasion for Satyagraha for five years or so.'
I may note in this connection that Gokhale used to
laugh at some of my ideas in Hind Swaraj or Indian
Home Rule and say: 'After you have stayed a year in
India, your views will correct themselves.'