X. A SACRED
RECOLLECTION AND PENANCE
A variety of incidents in my life have conspired to
bring me in close contact with people of many creeds and
many communities, and my experience with all of them
warrants the statement that I have known no distinction
between relatives and strangers, countrymen and
foreigners, white and coloured, Hindus and Indians of
other faiths, whether Musalmans, Parsis, Christians or
Jews. I may say that my heart has been incapable of
making any such distinctions. I cannot claim this as a
special virtue, as it is in my very nature. rather than a
result of any effort on my part, whereas in the case of ahimsa
(non- violence), brahmacharya (celibacy), aparigraha
(non-possession) and other cardinal virtues, I am fully
conscious of a continuous striving for their cultivation.
When I was practising in Durban, my office clerks
often stayed with me, and there were among them Hindus
and Christians, or to describe them by their provinces,
Gujaratis and Tamilians. I do not recollect having ever
regarded them as anything but my kith and kin. I treated
them as members of my family, and had unpleasantness with
my wife if ever she stood in the way of my treating them
as such. One of the clerks was a Christian, born of
The house was built after the Western model and the
rooms rightly had no outlets for dirty water. Each room
had therefore chamber-pots. Rather than have these
cleaned by a servant or a sweeper, my wife or I attended
to them. The clerks who made themselves completely at
home would naturally clean their own pots, but the
Christian clerk was a newcomer, and it was our duty to
attend to his bedroom. My wife managed the pots of the
others, but to clean those used by one who had been a
Panchama seemed to her to be the limit, and we fell out.
She could not bear the pots being cleaned by me, neither
did she like doing it herself. Even today I can recall
the picture of her chiding me, her eyes red with anger,
and pearl drops streaming down her cheeks, as she
descended the ladder, pot in hand. But I was a cruelly
kind husband. I regarded myself as her teacher, and so
harassed her out of my blind love for her.
I was far from being satisfied by her merely carrying
the pot. I would have her do it cheerfully. So I said,
raising my voice: 'I will not stand this nonsense in my
The words pierced her like an arrow.
She shouted back: 'Keep your house to yourself and let
me go.' I forgot myself, and the spring of compassion
dried up in me. I caught her by the hand, dragged the
helpless woman to the gate, which was just opposite the
ladder, and proceeded to open it with the intention of
pushing her out. The tears were running down her cheeks
in torrents, and she cried: 'Have you no sense of shame?
Must you so far forget yourself? Where am I to go? I have
no parents or relatives here to harbour me. Being your
wife, you think I must put up with your cuffs and kicks?
For Heaven's sake behave yourself, and shut the gate. Let
us not be found making scenes like this!'
I put on a brave face, but was really ashamed and shut
the gate. If my wife could not leave me, neither could I
leave her. We have had numerous bickerings, but the end
has always been peace between us. The wife, with her
matchless powers of endurance, has always been the
Today I am in a position to narrate the incident with
some detachment, as it belongs to a period out of which I
have fortunately emerged. I am no longer a blind,
infatuated husband, I am no more my wife's teacher.
Kasturba can, if she will, be as unpleasant to me today,
as I used to be to her before. We are tried friends, the
one no longer regarding the other as the object of just.
She has been a faithful nurse throughout my illnesses,
serving without any thought of reward.
The incident in question occurred in 1898, when I had
no conception of brahmacharya. It was a time
when I thought that the wife was the object of her
husband's lust, born to do her husband's behest, rather
than a helpmate, a comrade and a partner in the husband's
joys and sorrows.
It was in the year 1900 that these ideas underwent a
radical transformation, and in 1906 they took concrete
shape. But of this I propose to speak in its proper
place. Suffice it to say that with the gradual
disappearance in me of the carnal appetite, my domestic
life became and is becoming more and more peaceful, sweet
Let no one conclude from this narrative of a sacred
recollection that we are by any means an ideal couple, or
that there is a complete identity of ideals between us.
Kasturba herself does not perhaps know whether she has
any ideals independently of me. It is likely that many of
my doings have not her approval even today. We never
discuss them, I see no good in discussing them. For she
was educated neither by her parents nor by me at the time
when I ought to have done it. But she is blessed with one
great quality to a very considerable degree, a quality
which most Hindu wives possess in some measure. And it is
this; willingly or unwillingly, consciously or
unconsciously, she has considered herself blessed in
following in my footsteps, and has never stood in the way
of my endeavour to lead a life of restraint. Though,
therefore, there is a wide difference between us
intellectually, I have always had the feeling that ours
is a life of contentment, happiness and progress.