I must have been about seven when my father left Porbandar for Rajkot to become a member of the Rajasthanik Court. There I was put to a primary school, and I can well recollect those days, including the names and other particulars of the teachers who taught me. As at Porbandar, so here, there is hardly anything to note about my studies. In could only have been a mediocre student. From this school, I went to the suburban school and then to the High School, having already reached my twelfth year. I do not remember having ever told a lie during this short period, either to my teachers or to my school-mates. I used to be very shy and avoided all company. My books and my lessons were my sole companions. To be at school at the stroke of the hour and to run back home as soon as the school closed-that was my daily habit. I literally ran back, because I could not bear to talk to anybody. I was even afraid lest anyone should poke fun at me.
“Gandhiji was always the topper in his school.” Do you agree? Give reasons.
Two incidents belonging to this period have always clung to my memory. As a rule I had a distaste for any reading beyond my school books. The daily lessons had to be done, because I disliked being taken to task by my teacher as much as I disliked deceiving him. Therefore I would do the lessons, but often without my mind on them. Thus when even the lessons could not be done properly, there was of course no ques5tion of any extra reading. But somehow my eyes fell on a book purchased by my father. It was Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka (a play about Shravana’s devotion to his parents). I read it with intense interest. There came to our place, about the same time, travelling showmen. One of the pictures I was shown was of Shravana carrying his blind parents on a pilgrimage. The book and the picture left an indelible impression on my mind. ‘Here is an example for you to copy, I said to myself. The agonized lament of the parents over Shravana’s death is still fresh in my memory. The melting. tune moved me deeply and I played it on a concertina, which my father had bought for me.
There was a similar incident connected with another play. Just about this time, I had secured my father’s permission to see a play performed by a certain dramatic company. This play-Harischandra-captured my heart. I could never be tired of seeing it. But how often should I be permitted to go? It haunted me and I must have acted Harischandra to myself several times. ‘Why should not all be truthful like Harischandra?’ was the question I asked myself day and night. To follow truth and to go through all the ordeals Harischandra went through was the one ideal which inspired in me. I literally believed in the story of Harischandra. The thought of it all too often made me weep. My common sense tells me today that Harischandra could not have been a historical character. But for me, both Harischandra and Shravana are living realities and I am sure I should be touched as before if I were to read again those plays today.tit
Name the two plays mentioned in this lesson.
There was another such incident during the time when I was in the seventh standard. Dorabji Edulji Gimi was the headmaster then. He was popular among the boys, though he was a disciplinarian. He was a man of method and a good teacher. He had made gymnastics and cricket compulsory for the boys of the upper standards. I disliked both. I never took part in any exercise, cricket or football, before they were made compulsory. My shyness was one of the reasons for this aloofness, which I now see was wrong. I then had the false notion that gymnastics had nothing to do with education. Today I know that physical training should have as much place in the curriculum as mental training.
Why is sports important for everyone?
But though I was none the worse for having neglected exercise, I am still paying the penalty of another neglect. I do not know from where I got the notion that good handwriting was not a necessary part of education, but I retained it until I went to England. I then saw that bad handwriting should be regarded as a sign of an imperfect education. Let every young man and woman understand that good handwriting is a necessary part of education.
Answer the following questions:
1. Gandhiji’s sole companions at high school were his books and lessons. Why?
2. What made Gandhiji do his lessons though his mind was not on them?
3. How did the book and pictures of Shravana affect Gandhiji?
4. Which ideal did the play Harischandra inspire in him?
5. Why did Gandhiji weep piteously?
6. What was the wrong notion that he had?
7. What is the importance of good handwriting?