The thought of leaving home had come to me first in 1912, but I tested myself rigorously for four years before making my final decision. Once my mind was made up I never looked back. I wanted to go to Benares, for two reasons. One was that having had a 'Western' schooling, and also having studied the lives of the Saints, my education would not be complete without travel. Benares was reputed to be a storehouse of knowledge, especially of Sanskrit and the Scriptures. There I could study the Scriptures. The second reason for going to Benares was that it lay on the route both to the Himalayas
and to Bengal, and both these places had a powerful attraction for me.
I felt a great affection and devotion for my father and mother. I was so deeply attached to my mother that in 1918 I went back home to be with her on her deathbed. After her death I chose two of her things to keep in her memory. One was a sari, her precious wedding sari; the other was an image of the goddess Annapurna to which Mother had always without fail made a daily offering. I used the sari as a pillow for many years, until we took the decision to use only khadi (home spun cloth) for all purposes, and the sari was not khadi. I went and bathed in the Sabarmati river and immersed the sari in its sacred waters. As for the image of Annapurna, I used it occasionally in meditation - which is a form of worship. But it had always been used for regular daily worship, and I began to feel that my mind would be more at ease if it were in the hands of some pious woman who would offer daily puja as my mother had done. I could have found many such, but I had a special faith in Kashibehn Gandhi.3 I said to her: 'This image was my mother's; will you accept it and offer the daily puja as she did?' Reverently and lovingly she agreed.
But love and attachment for my parents could not stop me leaving home. Everything else paled before the force of the spiritual quest. In those days one had to go to Bombay to sit the Intermediate Examination, and a few of us set off from Baroda together. But I and two others, Bedekar and Tagare, left the Bombay train at Surat and took the train for Benares. I wrote to tell my father: 'Instead of going to Bombay for the exam, I am going somewhere else. You may be assured that wherever I go I shall set my hand to nothing that is wrong.' That day, the day I left home, was March 25,1916.
1. The traditional English challenge 'Who goes there?' had first been turned into 'Who comes there?' and then Hindi-ised, so that 'who comes' became hokum ('command') and 'there' became dar ('beware!').
2. A wrestler's exercise consisting of rapidly alternating standing and sitting postures, up-down, up-down.
3. The wife of Gandhiji's cousin Chaganlal. With her husband and two sons, Krishnadas and Prahhudas, she devoted herself to Gandhiji's Constructive Programme, the general title used for his village upliftment work which included handicrafts, village industries, the removal of untouchability, bringing harmony between different religions, and simple living.
[Published with glad permission of Kalindi Behan, the original compiler in Hindi (and translated into English by late Marjorie Sykes) of Vinobaji's Memoirs titled 'MOVED BY LOVE' of Brahmavidya Mandir, Pawnar (Wardha). - Editorial Team]