Skip to main content


by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Just about this time Narayan Hemchandra came to England. I had heard of him as a writer.
We met at the house of Miss Manning of the National Indian Association. Miss Manning knew that
I could not make myself sociable. When I went to her place I used to sit tongue-tied, never
speaking except when spoken to. She introduced me to Narayan Hemchandra. He did not know
English. His dress was queer--a clumsy pair of trousers, a wrinkled, dirty brown coat after the
Parsi fashion, no necktie or collar, and a tasselled woollen cap. He grew a long beard.
He was lightly built and short of stature. His round face was scarred with small-pox, and had a
nose which was neither pointed nor blunt. With his hand he was constantly turning over his beard.
Such a queer-looking and queerly dressed person was bound to be singled out in fashionable

'I have heard a good deal about you,' I said to him. 'I have also read some of your writings. I
should be very pleased if you were kind enough to come to my place.'
Narayan Hemchandra had a rather hoarse voice. With a smile on his face he replied:
'Yes, where do you stay?'
'In Store Street.'
'Then we are neighbours. I want to learn English. Will you teach me?'
'I shall be happy to teach you anything I can, and will try my best. If you like, I will go to your

'Oh, no. I shall come to you. I shall also bring with me a Translation Exercise Book.' So we
made an appointment. Soon we were close friends.
Narayan Hemchandra was innocent of grammar. 'Horse' was a verb with him, and 'run' a noun.
I remember many such funny instances. But he was not to be baffled by his ignorance. My little
knowledge of grammar could make no impression on him. Certainly he never regarded his
ignorance of grammar as a matter for shame.

With perfect nonchalance he said: 'I have never been to school like you. I have never felt the
need of grammar in expressing my thoughts. Well, do you know Bengali? I know it. I have
travelled in Bengal. It is I who have given Maharshi Devendranath Tagore's works to the Gujaratispeaking
world. And I wish to translate into Gujarati the treasures of many other languages. And
you know I am never literal in my translations. I always content myself with bringing out the spirit.
Others, with their better knowledge, may be able to do more in future. But I am quite satisfied with
what I have achieved without the help of grammar. I know Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, and now I have
begun to know English. What I want is a copious vocabulary. And do you think my ambition ends
here? No fear. I want to go to France and learn French. I am told that language has an extensive
literature. I shall go to Germany also, if possible, and there learn German.' And thus he would talk
on unceasingly. He had a boundless ambition for learning languages and for foreign travel.
'Then you will go to America also?'

Certainly. How can I return to India without having seen the New World?'
'But where will you find the money?'

'What do I need money for? I am not a fashionable fellow like you. The minimum amount of
food and the minimum amount of clothing suffice for me. And for this what little I get out of my
books and from my friends is enough. I always travel third class. While going to America also I
shall travel on deck.'
Narayan Hemchandra's simplicity was all his own, and his frankness was on a par with it. Of
pride he had not the slightest trace, excepting, of course, a rather undue regard for his own
capacity as a writer.

We met daily. There was a considerable amount of similarity between our thoughts and
actions. Both of us were vegetarians. We would often have our lunch together. This was the time
when I lived on 17s. a week and cooked for myself. Sometimes I would got to his room, and
sometimes he would come to mine. I cooked in the English style. Nothing but Indian style would
satisfy him. He could not do without dal. I would make soup of carrots etc., and he would pity me
for my taste. Once he somehow hunted out mung,/1/ cooked it, and brought it to my place. I ate it
with delight. This led on to a regular system of exchange between us. I would take my delicacies
to him and he would bring his to me.

Cardinal Manning's name was then on every lip. The dock labourers' strike had come to an
early termination owing to the efforts of John Burns and Cardinal Manning. I told Narayan
Hemchandra of Disraeli's tribute to the Cardinal's simplicity. 'Then I must see the sage,' said he.
'He is a big man. How do you expect to meet him?'
'Why? I know how. I must get you to write to him in my name. Tell him I am an author and that I
want to congratulate him personally on his humanitarian work, and also say that I shall have to
take you as interpreter as I do not know English.'
I wrote a letter to that effect. In two or three days came Cardinal Manning's card in reply giving
us an appointment. So we both called on the Cardinal. I put on the usual visiting suit. Narayan
Hemchandra was the same as ever, in the same coat and the same trousers. I tried to make fun
of this, but he laughed me out and said:
'You civilized fellows are all cowards. Great men never look at a person's exterior. They think
of his heart.'

We entered the Cardinal's mansion. As soon as we were seated, a thin, tall, old gentleman
made his appearance, and shook hands with us. Narayan Hemchandra thus gave his greetings:
'I do not want to take up your time. I had heard a lot about you and I felt I should come and
thank you for the good work you have done for the strikers. It has been my custom to visit the
sages of the world, and that is why I have put you to this trouble.'
This was of course my translation of what he spoke in Gujarati.
'I am glad you have come. I hope your stay in London will agree with you and that you will get
in touch with people here. God bless you.'

With these words the Cardinal stood up and said good-bye.



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


The whole of the Ramayana is an Epic of humanity. Humanity does not mean mankind but that which particularly characterises human nature.

It is in this sense, Sri Rama is oftentimes called the paragon of humanity, an example of the perfection of human nature.

This perfection of human nature is not inclusive of the foibles of man in his lower endowments.

In the majestic words of Valmiki with which the Epic commences, we are given a description of what this perfection of humanity is, as an answer given by sage Narada to a question put by sage Valmiki as to who is the ideal of human nature.

"Whom do you think, O sage, is the perfect embodiment of humanity in this world and can you give me an example of such a perfection?" was the question put by Valmiki to Narada.

And then, Narada commences a dignified description of a personality whom today we know and adore as Sri Rama.

That majestic feature of bodily personali…

PM’s Mann Ki Baat Programme on All India Radio :- 25/02/2018

25 Feb, 2018

My dear countrymen, Namaskar.

Let us begin today’s Mann Ki Baat with a phone call.

Phone Call…

Thank you very much for your phone call. My young friends have asked me many questions related to Science; they keep writing on quite a few points. All of us have seen that the sea appears blue, but we know from routine life experiences that water has no colour at all. Have we ever thought why water acquires colour in rivers and seas? The same thought occurred to a young man in the 1920s. The same question gave rise to a great scientist of modern India. When we talk about Science, the first name that strikes us is that of Bharat Ratna Sir C.V.Raman. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his outstanding work on light scattering. One of his discoveries is famous as the Raman Effect.

We celebrate the 28th of February as National Science Day since on this very day, he is said to have discovered the phenomenon of light scattering, for which the Nobel Prize was conferred upon him. This …

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Biography :

Personal Life & Legacy :

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel tied the knot at the age of 18, to Jhaverba, who was twelve years of age then. Following the traditional Hindu customs, which allowed the bride to stay with her parents until her husband had a decent income and an established household, the two stayed apart for a few years until Sardar Patel had definite income to fall back on.

Along with Jhaverba, he set up a house in Godhra. The couple was blessed with a daughter, Manibehn, in 1904, and a son, Dahyabhai, two years later.

In 1909, Jhaverba, who was suffering from cancer, underwent a major surgical operation. Though the operation was successful, Jhaverba’s health continued to decline. She passed away the same year. Patel was against remarrying and instead raised his children with the help of his family.

Patel’s health started declining in the summer of 1950. Though he was taken care of intensely, his health worsened. To recuperate, he was flown to Mumbai, where he lodged at the Bi…