Mahatma Gandhi: Education
The most extraordinary person from India, Mahatma Gandhi. About education.
Gandhi came from a poor family, and he had to chose one of the cheapest college he could afford. Mavji Dave Joshiji, a Brahmin priest and family friend, advised Gandhi and his family that he should consider law studies in London. In July 1888, his wife Kasturba gave birth to their first surviving son, Harilal. His wife was not happy about Gandhi leaving her and family, and going to a far place. Gandhi’s uncle Tulsidas also tried to change nephew’s mind. Gandhi wanted to go.
To persuade his wife and mother, Gandhi made a vow in front of his mother:
- no meat
- no alchohol
- no women
Gandhi’s brother Laxmidas, who was already a lawyer, wanted to support him. Putlibai gave Gandhi her permission and blessing.
On 10 August 1888, Gandhi aged 18, left Porbandar for Mumbai, then known as Bombay. Upon arrival, he stayed with the local Modh Bania community while waiting for the ship travel arrangements. The head of the community knew Gandhi’s father. After learning Gandhi’s plans, he and other elders warned Gandhi that England would tempt him to compromise his religion, and eat and drink in Western ways. Gandhi informed them of his promise to his mother and her blessings. The local chief disregarded it, and excommunicated him an outcast. But Gandhi ignored this, and on 4 September, he sailed from Bombay to London. His brother saw him off.
Gandhi studied law and jurisprudence and enrolled at the Inner Temple with the intention of becoming a barrister. His childhood shyness and self withdrawal had continued through his teens, and he remained so when he arrived in London, but he joined a public speaking practice group and overcame this handicap to practice law.
His time in London was influenced by the vow he had made to his mother. He tried to adopt “English” customs, including taking dancing lessons. However, he could not appreciate the bland vegetarian food offered by his landlady and was frequently hungry until he found one of London’s few vegetarian restaurants.
Influenced by Henry Salt’s writing, he joined the Vegetarian Society, was elected to its executive committee, and started a local Bayswater chapter. Some of the vegetarians he met were members of the Theosophical Society, which had been founded in 1875 to further universal brotherhood, and which was devoted to the study of Buddhist and Hindu literature. They encouraged Gandhi to join them in reading the Bhagavad Gita both in translation as well as in the original.
Gandhi, at age 22, was called to the bar in June 1891 and then left London for India, where he learned that his mother had died while he was in London and that his family had kept the news from him. His attempts at establishing a law practice in Bombay failed because he was psychologically unable to cross-examine witnesses. He returned to Rajkot to make a modest living drafting petitions for litigants, but he was forced to stop when he ran afoul of a British officer. In 1893, a Muslim merchant in Kathiawar named Dada Abdullah contacted Gandhi. Abdullah owned a large successful shipping business in South Africa. His distant cousin in Johannesburg needed a lawyer, and they preferred someone with Kathiawari heritage. Gandhi inquired about his pay for the work. They offered a total salary of 105 Rs. plus travel expenses. He accepted it, knowing that it would be at least one-year commitment in the Colony of Natal, South Africa, also a part of the British Empire.