I must skip many of the recollections of South Africa. At the conclusion of the Satyagraha struggle in 1914, I received Gokhale’s instruction to return home via London. So in July Kasturbai, Kallenbach and I sailed for England. During Satyagraha, I had begun travelling third class. I, therefore, took third-class passages for this voyage. But there was a good deal of difference between third-class accommodation on the boat on this route and that provided on Indian coastal boats or railway trains.
There is hardly sufficient sitting, much less sleeping, accommodation in the Indian service, and little cleanliness. During the voyage to London, on the other hand, there was enough room and cleanliness, and the steamship company had provided special facilities for us. The company had provided reserved closet accommodation for us, and as we were fruitarians, the steward had orders to supply us with fruits and nuts.
As a rule third-class passengers get little fruit or nuts. These facilities made our eighteen days on the boat quite comfortable. Some of the incidents during the voyage are well worth recording.
Mr Kallenbach was very fond of binoculars and had one or two costly pairs. We had a daily discussion over one of these. I tried to impress on him that this possession was not in keeping with the idea of simplicity that we aspired to reach. Our discussions came to a head one day, as we were standing near the porthole of our cabin. ‘Rather than allow these to be a bone of contention between us, why not throw them into the sea and be done with them?’ said I. ‘Certainly throw the wretched things away.’ said Mr Kallenbach. ‘I mean it,’ said I. ‘So do I,’ quickly came the reply. And forthwith I flung them into the sea. They were worth some £7, but their value lay less in their price than in Mr Kallenbach’s infatuation for them.
However, having got rid of them, he never regretted it. This is out one out of the many incidents that happened between Mr Kallenbach and me. Every day we had to learn something new in this way, for both of us were trying to tread the path of Truth. In the march towards Truth, anger, selfishness, hatred, etc., naturally give way, for otherwise, Truth would be impossible to attain. A man who is swayed by passions may have good enough intentions, maybe truthful in word, but he will never find the Truth.
A successful search for Truth means complete deliverance from the dual throng such as love and hate, happiness and misery. Not much time had elapsed since my fast when we started on our voyage. I had not regained my normal strength. I used to stroll on the duck to get a little exercise, to revive my appetite and digest what I ate. But even this exercise was beyond me, causing pain in the calves, so much so that on reaching London I found that I was worse rather than better. There I came to know Dr Jivraj Mehta. I gave him the history of my fast and subsequent pain, and he said, ‘If you do not take complete rest for a few days, there is a fear of your legs going out of use.’ It was then that I learned that a man emerging from a long fast should not be in a hurry to regain lost strength, and should also put a curb on his appetite. More caution and perhaps more restraint are necessary for breaking a fast than in keeping it. In Madeira, we heard that the Great War might break out at any moment. As we entered the English Channel, we received the news of its actual outbreak.
We were stopped for some time. It was a difficult business to tow the boat through the submarine mines which had been laid throughout the Channel, and it took about two days to reach Southampton. War was declared on the 4th of August. We reached London on the 6th. ~ TO MEET GOKHALE