16. CHANGES :-




AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi.



Let no one imagine that my experiments in dancing and the like marked a stage of indulgence
in my life. The reader will have noticed that even then I had my wits about me. That period of
infatuations was not unrelieved by a certain amount of self-introspection on my part. I kept
account of every farthing I spent, and my expenses were carefully calculated. Every little item,
such as omnibus fares or postage or a couple of coppers spent on newspapers, would be
entered, and the balance struck every evening before going to bed. That habit has stayed with
me ever since, and I know that as a result, though I have had to handle public funds amounting to
lakhs, I have succeeded in exercising strict economy in their disbursement, and instead of
outstanding debts have had invariably a surplus balance in respect of all the movements I have
led. Let every youth take a leaf out of my book and make it a point to account for everything that
comes into and goes out of his pocket, and like me he is sure to be a gainer in the end.



As I kept strict watch over my way of living, I could see that it was necessary to economize. I
therefore decided to reduce my expenses by half. My accounts showed numerous items spent on
fares. Again my living with a family meant the payment of a regular weekly bill. It also included the
courtesy of occasionally taking members of the family out to dinner, and likewise attending parties
with them. All this involved heavy items for conveyances, especially as, if the friend was a lady,
custom required that the man should pay all the expenses. Also, dining out meant extra cost, as
no deduction could be made from the regular weekly bill for meals not taken. It seemed to me that
all these items could be saved, as likewise the drain on my purse caused through a false sense of
propriety.




So I decided to take rooms on my own account, instead of living any longer in a family, and
also to remove from place to place according to the work I had to do, thus gaining experience at
the same time. The rooms were so selected as to enable me to reach the place of business on
foot in half an hour, and so save fares. Before this I had always taken some kind of conveyance
whenever I went anywhere, and had to find extra time for walks. The new arrangement combined
walks and economy, as it meant a saving of fares and gave me walks of eight or ten miles a day.
It was mainly this habit of long walks that kept me practically free from illness throughout my stay
in England and gave me a fairly strong body.



Thus I rented a suite of rooms; one for a sitting room and another for a bedroom. This was the
second stage. The third was yet to come.



These changes saved me half the expense. But how was I to utilize the time? I knew that Bar
examinations did not require much study, and I therefore did not feel pressed for time. My weak
English was a perpetual worry to me. Mr. (afterwards Sir Frederic) Lely's words, 'Graduate first
and then come to me,' still rang in my ears. I should, I thought, not only be called to the bar, but
have some literary degree as well. I inquired about the Oxford and Cambridge University courses,
consulted a few friends, and found that if I elected to go to either of these places, that would
mean greater expense and a much longer stay in England than I was prepared for. A friend
suggested that, if I really wanted to have the satisfaction of taking a difficult examination, I should
pass the London Matriculation. It meant a good deal of labour and much addition to my stock of
general knowledge, without any extra expense worth the name. I welcomed the suggestion. But
the syllabus frightened me. Latin and a modern language were compulsory! How was I to
manage Latin? But the friend entered a strong plea for it: 'Latin is very valuable to lawyers.



Knowledge of Latin is very useful in understanding law books. And one paper in Roman Law is
entirely in Latin. Besides, a knowledge of Latin means greater command over the English
language.' It went home, and I decided to learn Latin, no matter how difficult it might be. French I
had already begun, so I thought that should be the modern language. I joined a private
Matriculation class. Examinations were held every six months, and I had only five months at my
disposal. It was an almost impossible task for me. But the aspirant after being an English
gentleman chose to convert himself into a serious student. I framed my own time-table to the
minute; but neither my intelligence nor memory promised to enable me to tackle Latin and French
besides other subjects within the given period. The result was that I was ploughed [=that I failed]
in Latin. I was sorry but did not lose heart. I had acquired a taste for Latin; also I thought my
French would be all the better for another trial, and I would select a new subject in the science
group. Chemistry, which was my subject in science, had no attraction for want of experiments,
whereas it ought to have been a deeply interesting study. It was one of the compulsory subjects
in India, and so I had selected it for the London Matriculation. This time, however, I chose Heat
and Light instead of Chemistry. It was said to be easy and I found it to be so.




With my preparation for another trial, I made an effort to simplify my life still further. I felt that
my way of living did not yet befit the modest means of my family. The thought of my struggling
brother, who nobly responded to my regular calls for monetary help, deeply pained me. I saw that
most of those who were spending from eight to fifteen pounds monthly had the advantage of
scholarships. I had before me examples of much simpler living. I came across a fair number of
poor students living more humbly than I. One of them was staying in the slums in a room at two
shillings a week and living on two pence worth of cocoa and bread per meal from Lockhart's
cheap Cocoa Rooms. It was far from me to think of emulating him, but I felt I could surely have
one room instead of two and cook some of my meals at home. That would be a saving of four to
five pounds each month. I also came across books on simple living. I gave up the suite of rooms
and rented one instead, invested in a stove, and began cooking my breakfast at home. The
process scarcely took me more than twenty minutes for there was only oatmeal porridge to cook
and water to boil for cocoa. I had lunch out and for dinner bread and coca at home. Thus I
managed to live on a shilling and three pence a day. This was also a period of intensive study.
Plain living saved me plenty of time, and I passed my examination.




Let not the reader think that this living made my life by any means a dreary affair. On the
contrary, the change harmonized my inward and outward life. It was also more in keeping with the
means of my family. My life was certainly more truthful and my soul knew no bounds of joy.


NEXT : 17. EXPERIMENTS IN DIETETICS-\\


Continues...
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