IX. MY FATHER'S
DEATH AND MY DOUBLE SHAME
The time of which I am now speaking is my sixteenth
year. My father, as we have seen, was bed-ridden,
suffering from a fistula. My mother, an old servant of
the house, and I were his principal attendants. I had the
duties of a nurse, which mainly consisted in dressing the
wound. giving my father his medicine, and compounding
drugs whenever they had to be made up at home, Every
night I massaged his legs and retired only when he asked
me to do so or after he had fallen asleep. I loved to do
this service. I do not remember ever having neglected it.
All the time at my disposal, after the performance of the
daily duties, was divided between school and attending on
my father. I would only go out for an evening walk either
when he permitted me or when he was feeling well.
This was also the time when my wife was expecting a
baby,- a circumstance which, as I can see today, meant a
double shame for me. For one thing I did not restrain
myself, as I should have done, whilst I was yet a
student. And secondly, this carnal lust got the better of
what I regarded as my duty to my parents, Shravana having
been my ideal since childhood. Every night whilst my
hands were busy massaging my father's legs, my mind was
hovering about the bed-room,- and that too at a time when
religion, medical science and commonsense alike forbade
sexual intercourse. I was always glad to be relieved from
my duty, and went straight to the bed-room after doing
obeisance to my father.
At the same time my father was getting worse every
day. Ayurvedic physicians had tied all their ointments,
Hakims their plasters, and local quacks their nostrums.
An English surgeon had also used his skill. As the last
and only resort he had recommended a surgical operation.
But the family physician came in the way. He disapproved
of an operation being performed at such an advanced age.
The physician was competent and well-known, and his
advice prevailed. The operation was abandoned, and
various medicines purchased for the purpose were of no
account. I have an impression that, if the physician had
allowed the operation, the wound would have been easily
healed. The operation also was to have been performed by
a surgeon who was then well known in Bombay. But God had
willed otherwise. When death is imminent, who can think
of the right remedy? My father returned from Bombay with
all the paraphernalia of the operation, which were now
useless. He despaired of living any longer, He was
getting weaker and weaker, until at last he had to be
asked to perform the necessary functions in bed. But up
to the last he refused to do anything of the kind, always
insisting on going through the strain of leaving his bed.
The Vaishnavite rules about external cleanliness are so
Such cleanliness is quite essential no doubt, but
Western medical science had taught us that all the
functions, including a bath, can be done in bed with the
strictest regard to cleanliness, and without the
slightest discomfort to the patient, the bed always
remaining spotlessly clean. I should regard such
cleanliness as quite consistent with Vaishnavism. But my
father's insistence on leaving the bed only struck me
with wonder then, and I had nothing but admiration for
The dreadful night came. My uncle was then in Rajkot.
I have a faint recollection that he came to Rajkot having
had news that my father was getting worse. The brothers
were deeply attached to each other. My uncle would sit
near my father's bed the whole day, and would insist on
sleeping by his bed-side after sending us all to sleep.
No one had dreamt that this was to be the fateful night.
The danger of course was there.
It was 10-30 or 11 p.m. I was giving the massage. My
uncle offered to relieve me. I was glad and went straight
to the bed-room. My wife, poor thing, was fast asleep.
But how could she sleep when I was there? I woke her up.
In five or six minutes. however, the servant knocked at
the door. I started with alarm. 'Get up,' he said,
'Father is very ill.' I knew of course that he was very
ill, and so I guessed what 'very ill' meant at that
moment. I sprang out of bed. 'What is the matter? Do tell
me!' 'Father is no more.' So all was over! I had but to
wring my hands. I felt deeply ashamed and miserable. I
ran to my father's room. I saw that, if animal passion
had not blinded me. I should have been spared the torture
of separation from my father during his last moments. I
should have been massaging him, and he would have died in
my arms. But now it was my uncle who had this privilege.
He was so deeply devoted to his elder brother that he had
earned the honour of doing him the last services! My
father had forebodings of the coming event. He had made a
sign for pen and paper, and written: 'Prepare for the
last rites.' He had then snapped the amulet off his arm
and also his gold necklace of tulasi beads and
flung them aside. A moment after this he was no more.
The shame, to which I have refered in a foregoing
chapter, was this of my carnal desire even at the
critical hour of my father's death, which demanded
wakeful service. It is a blot I have never been able to
efface or forget, and I have always thought that,
although my devotion to my parents knew no bounds and I
would have given up anything for it, yet I was weighed
and found unpardonably wanting because my mind was at the
same moment in the grip of lust. I have therefore always
regarded myself as a lustful. though a faithful, husband.
It took me long to get free from the shackles of lust,
and I had to pass through many ordeals before I could
Before I close this chapter of my double shame. I may
mention that the poor mite that was born to my wife
scarcely breathed for more than three or four days.
Nothing else could be expected. Let all those who are
married be warned by my example.