Chapter  7, Pt 1 of 4

THE TURNING POINT AND THE INDIA LEAGUE

From then onwards, the time passed very quickly. I went home with my baby and hobbled about, first on two sticks, then on one for a month or two and after that I was fit enough to resume my normal duties.

I wanted to do so much. I wanted to go here, there and everywhere. I wanted to meet more people and make new friends and acquaintances. The long rest and the friendly atmosphere of the hospital had broadened my outlook. It had given me the self-confidence I needed so badly. I had been struggling for years to be able to think clearly and to make decisions, and now at last I saw a ray of hope. My mind was not in a continuous muddle as before. It was getting clearer, and this seemed a great triumph.

I felt the urge of going out alone to the nearest towns and even to London, to buy things, especially clothes, according to my own tastes, and I did that with Sheel’s tacit consent. My new friends, with whom I had always consulted on every small matter before, watched this new trend of mine with surprise.

It would have been all right if I had gone no further and if the evil of self-importance and conceit had not slowly but surely crept into my mind along with self-confidence and clear sight. Was it a reaction of having suppressed my freedom of thought and action for so long? But then, I had done that partly through the circumstances and partly because I felt myself incapable of making the right decisions and thought it best to follow, or more or less obey, my husband, the other well-wishers.

Nevertheless, it was a reaction all right and a very bad one at that. What did happen to you when you got that? You began to think you were right all the time, and you tried to prove that. You become argumentative, and slightly aggressive. You began to lose your humble ways. You stopped listening to people, you did not think it was worthwhile. You became drunk with egotism and you never tried to hide this fact either.

Now and then a faint voice of my own conscience warned me against this too much egotism, but I simply could not stop myself. Then gradually I started arguing with Sheel and even ignored his advice, often quite openly. He tolerated all that.

Then came the big clash and a turning point in my life. It started one night quite unexpectedly and over a trivial matter. It must have been about 10 o’clock, when Sheel came in after finishing his last evening surgery, which used to be on the other side of the bridge. We were just three of us in the room (Doctor Naqvi was with us those days). Sheel started talking about children in general. He said how wrong it was to smack them and so on. Then suddenly he said to me, “You have often made that mistake, too.”

“No, that is not true,” I said. And so we went on arguing, each trying to prove that the other was wrong. Sheel was determined not to give in to me this time, and I did not want to be defeated either. So I lost my temper completely. I stood up, shook Sheel’s shoulders from the back, and tried to make him see my point forcibly. Poor Doctor Naqvi, he must have felt most embarrassed, sitting there, not daring to take sides or utter a word.

Even after that ugly quarrel I tried to have my own way and to prove that I had done nothing wrong. “I could do without your money,” I ventured to tell Sheel. In fact I did refuse to handle any of it for some time. This proved to be a real self inflicted hardship, yet it served no purpose. Sheel became indifferent to me altogether and it seemed that nothing would move him.

Then, and only then, I got really concerned and began to think deeply. Yes, I had been wrong I realised quite suddenly one morning. I had spoilt myself and had become thoroughly conceited and self-opinionated. I had gained nothing by trying to silence all the voices around me, the voices that had helped me so far, and were still there for me to benefit by. I had to learn from the beginning the art of blending other people’s opinions with my own.

I shall never forget that period of my life. It taught me an invaluable lesson. I often wonder how far I would have travelled on that wrong path if Sheel had not forced me to stop and think. Nobody else on earth would have been able to check me at that time, and to get that nonsense out of my head.

I did try to explain to Sheel that it had all been a reaction and that I was prepared to mend my ways and turn over a new leaf, but it seemed difficult to convince him of my sincerity of purpose. I knew then that it would take time, probably a long time before the strained feelings between us would give place to love and trust once more. I prayed and worked for that time.

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