Dr. Geeta Radhakrishna Menon
Mahatma Gandhi 20 - Gandhiji - A Barrister - Poem by Dr. Geeta Radhakrishna Menon
The habit of long walks,
Eight to ten miles a day,
Made Gandhiji strong, athletic,
Absolutely fit, free from any illness,
Throughout his stay and study in England!
To see Gandhiji walk briskly in the streets of London,
In his top hat, expensive English clothes,
Became a familiar sight,
For his friends and college-mates!
To Gandhiji's further delight,
He discovered ten more vegetarian restaurants,
Besides finding ‘Central' earlier
So, the food problem was fully solved!
Satisfied and settled in the way of life,
And in the environment around him,
He decided to appear for
The University of London's Matriculation examination.
Oxford and Cambridge too, had figured in Gandhi's thoughts,
But they were unaffordable!
Gandhiji attended preparatory classes for matriculation,
Framed a time table with diligence,
Accurately following it in a disciplined way!
Self preparation and self study and hours of hard work,
Yet, ‘Latin' was rather difficult.
In the first attempt, Gandhi failed in Latin,
But the second time, he passed in all subjects
Which included Latin as well!
Having cleared his matriculation
He now fully concentrated on his legal studies.
The final and third year,
As a student of law in England,
Though demanding was interesting too.
The text books prescribed for Law
Needed a lot of perseverance,
Yet, Gandhiji enjoyed them.
To qualify as a barrister and pass examinations
One needed to keep twelve terms,
The curriculum with only two main subjects -
The Roman law and the Common Law!
Apart from being a serious law student,
It was compulsory to attend
A series of dinners as well!
Barristers were made fun of
And addressed humourously
As ‘Dinner barristers'!
The dinner was organized in style -
A five course dinner,
Starting with a soup
And ending with a desert!
'Gandhiji cleared the Roman Law exam
For which a student could read either
A summary or the full text of Justinian's code.
Gandhiji had opted for the latter,
Reading a book by Thomas Sanders containing
A Latin text and an English translation.
Out of forty six students, of whom forty passed,
Gandhiji was placed sixth.
In December 1980, the earliest time possible for him,
He sat for the four days Bar finals.'
Gandhiji passed the final Bar exam
And was placed thirty-fourth in rank.
He was called to the Bar on tenth June,
Enrolled in the High court on eleventh June,
And finally, his study in England completed,
He sailed for India on twelfth June 1891.
After three years of stay in London,
He had grown to like the city.
Gandhiji was no more the same person,
Who left Rajkot in 1888!
Gandhiji's elder brother Laxmidas was waiting
At the dock with a very sad news!
His mother Putlibai, at the age of forty one,
Had passed away!
The family had refrained from informing
Mohandas while in a foreign land.
The news came as a severe shock
Though he did not give himself up to any wild expression of grief.
Gandhiji wrote: 'most of my cherished hopes were shattered…..
My grief was even greater than that over my father's death.'
Poet's Notes about The Poem
I studied Law in Government Law College, Bombay. There were certain subjects which I found to be interesting, for instance, the Law of Torts (Civil cases) which I loved reading. But some sujects like law of contract, labour, constitution etc, I found it to be most taxing to memorize and boring too.
There was a young man from Kashmir who came to study Law in Bombay. He was my classmate for two years and then left for London to do his Bar at Law.
On my first visit to England, I met my friend Mazid once again, and he invited me to show his college and thereafter, for the five course dinner. I remembered then, what Gandhiji meant by the ‘Dinner Barristers', where food is served in style in a large dinning hall for the Lawyers and the students of Law.
I too desired to study Law in England but my father could never afford to send me abroad for higher studies. But looking back, I am glad that it did not happen because the Law that I would have studied in England would have been of absolutely no use in India. Moreover, God had planned much more interesting things in life for me.
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