"The lord shall guide thee continually". (Isaiah 58:/i)
After nine days of secrecy in the temple, I left Vrindaban on the 3rd of January, 1927 to go to Jabalpur. I started the eight-mile-drive to Mathura in an ekka with K.K.. I trusted him just as a young bride follows her husband. I did not know who would pay the ekka-hire to the mission-house in Mathura or who would arrange for my railway fare and receive me in Jabalpur. On my arrival at the home of Dr. Crane in Mathura, he welcomed us in his office and said, "Well, Mr. Charkraverti, what are you going to do about your chains of beads, your caste-and temple-markings, your long tuft of hair and sacred thread?" I replied, "As long as I was a Hindu, I needed all these things; but now that I have changed my belief I no longer need them." So saying, I asked for his shears and cut off my tuft of hair, chains of beads and sacred thread.
As I was leaving Mr. Crane, he gave me a letter of introduction to Dr. Parker, the head of the college in Jabalpur. At the Mathura station, they gave me a third-class ticket, some food and four rupees.
I arrived at the college in Jabalpur at five o'clock in the morning. I had no luggage save a blanket, a Dictionary and a cup. I did not have an extra dhoti or shirt. I was shown to a bathroom by Mr. Bannerji with whom I was to room. Presently I came out bathed, my dhoti washed and only a slight piece of cloth (a napkin) draped about my loins. My partner was shocked at my appearance and told me that this was a Christian college and that people didn't run around half-dressed But what was I to do? I had no other clothing to wear. Immediately he took two shirts and two dhoties from his box and gave them to me.
Soon I became a well-dressed student. Though I was given a table and a chair in my room, I usually sat on a deer-skin on the floor. Another student found out that I didn't have a tooth-brush, powder, soap and towel. He took me to the bazaar and helped to get my supplies. Out of my precious four rupees I spent all but three annas. I was getting civilized fast ! Soon the manager of the College-boarding came and asked me for my mess-money in advance. When I told him that I did not know about this, he took me for a fool. I was perplexed and told him that I would talk to the Principal about it. After seeing the Principal, he told me that I would have to pay my expenses out of the stipend which I would get at the end of the month.
Breakfast was at nine-thirty; and when I went to the table, I saw some onion cooked with dal and that a long bearded Mohammodan cook had prepared it. l felt dazed For so rnany years I never ate anything except Prasad (food offered first to the gods). Prasad is prepared by a Brahmin and contains no onion. So after all sat down, they said a prayer of thanks-giving and began to eat. I had to ask Jesus for some courage to eat that food. After breakfast they took me to the Library. I was delighted to see such a good collection of books. I wondered if the climate was good. It evidently was, for in three months I gained many pounds, in spite of the onions and Mohammodan cook.
Classes began on January 7th. 1 was the oldest boy in the College. I was a vegetarian and proud of it. When my fellow-students ate fish and meat at the table I hated them for it. I felt that because I did not eat meat I was better than they. Again when I saw how they observed Sunday I had another shock. To me it was to be literally a day of rest sober observance, no hilarity or smiling. This Pharisaical attitude of course made it impossible for me to grow spiritually. When I came to the Leonard college, I did not want to become a regular student and pass examinations. I wanted to learn from the lives of others what Christian life as recorded in the Gospels was like. I wanted to study books just to understand Jesus Christ and Christianity. I had been a religious teacher many years, so I found it very difficult to study. As a student also with a philosophical and mystical mind it was hard to understand Christian interpretations. I could not study different books in accordance with the daily routine of the College. When I was interested in one book I would finish it first with no regard for other studies. When I went to talk with Dr. Parker about this he said, "Never mind whether you follow the class or can't pass the examination. We won't say any thing to you. Go on as you have been. Ask God to help you. He has definite plans for you. On your part there should be no obstruction." In this way I stayed there and not only passed all examinations with credit but got honors, medals, and in due time received my G. Tb. and B.D.
As a Hindu I had always gone to my Guru with questions in religious matters and believed the answers given. So I took it for granted what my Principal would say as answers to my questions about the Christian conception of God, man, sin, salvation etc. But Dr. Parker would reply, "Here in this College we do not impose our views on anybody, so I should not answer your questions. Each student must not only study but grow in experience of this kind. He must be able to say from his own knowledge and experience what he believes to be true. Do not be in a hurry. Keep your heart open and the light will come".
When I told Dr. Parker how I felt about the students eating meat, he said that the verse, 'Thou shalt not kill", refers to the murder of human beings and not to the killing of animals for food. He showed me many references that it was not God's intention that we refrain from eating meat. This satisfied me and lessened my hatred for my brothers.
I had no contact with my family for several years. I had looked upon them as undesirab1e when I joined the Math in Calcutta. But now with my changed life I began to think of them again. I wanted to share my newly found joy and peace with them. This was my fourth birth. First I had been born in a Brahmin family. The second was when I was given my sacred thread. The third was when I became a Vaishnava at the hands of my Guru. now Jesus had made me a new man. These are four milestones in my life. I did not want my wife to endure longer the injustice that had done to her in leaving her for my own religious purposes. Did I not accept her as my life-long companion and partner? I became very restless and unhappy; but I did not like to speak about this matter to my Christian friends.
A month and a half after I came to Jabalpur, Miss Porter happened to come there on her way to America. Among the things she asked me was what I had done or proposed to do about my wife. When I told her I kept all things secret, she asked how long I intended to do that. I promised her that I would write to my wife and inform her of everything. I soon did this. In her reply she scolded me and indicated that I had become insane. She could not show her shameful face to anybody and had decided to commit suicide. This letter frightened me. I knew that no matter how much care I would take in writing a letter1 I would not be able to satisfy her. I came to Jesus and asked Him what I was to do. I got the reply that He Himself would be there to help her. I wrote her, "I received your letter. Do not take any hasty step. I am sending the Very Person Who has brought me to Jabalpur and He will come and help you. Close the doors and windows of your room when you get this letter and He will meet you there." I was waiting eagerly for her reply. I had written her that I was ready to bring her to Jabalpur. The reply came very soon and she was ready to come. Her elder brother advised her, "No matter how much people condemn and criticize, it is your duty to go to your husband. Go peacefully
I went to Dr. Parker for his advice. At first he was afraid to let me go because he thought my friends at Dacca and also the members of the Math would prevent my coming back. I said to him, "No human agency made me a Christian and no human agency could make me turn back. No one could take away from me the experience of Jesus that had been mine. No body can make a man a father but he becomes a father when a child is born to him. So a man becomes a Christian when Jesus Christ is born in him. Please do not worry. Jesus will keep me." He asked for time to think and pray about the matter, and after some hours called me and said that I might go. When I told him that I had no money, he at once gave me a hundred-rupee note. But how was I to pay it back? "Do not worry about it", he said. So I sent a wire to my wife and started to Dacca
On my way through Calcutta I visited the Math. I was not ashamed of anything that I had done. They asked me questions and gave me full opportunity to explain that it was an inner spiritual experience and not a mere thirst for luxury, that made me accept Christianity. There was no change in my clothing and eating.
The next. day about two-thirty in the afternoon I arrived home. Not only my wife but all my relatives and neighbors gathered at my house to see me. They had expected to see me in Western dress, hat on my head and smoking a cigar. But when they saw me they were disappointed. I was dressed as an ordinary Bengali but no longer like a Sadhu. My health was better. I heard them saying that no doubt my good health was due to the beef and other unclean and prohibited things that I ate, since becoming a Christian. When they found no outward change in me they began asking me questions about the meaning of becorning a Christian. There was no sacred thread, no tulsi-bead chain, and there was no tuft of hair; so they thought that the absence of these things meant a Christian. My wife prepared food for me. When I sat on the floor to eat and never asked for a table or chair, everybody was surprised. Now when they saw that I did not just nod my head for prayer before meals but actually said a prayer of thanksgiving, they were even more puzzled. Not seeing any particular change in me they began to leave one by one. For several days they came to ask about Christianity and I would explain to them about my inner experience.
My daughter and son-in-law were living in a village about 50 miles from Dacca. We sent a messenger to bring her, but she refused to come, saying, "What child would be willing to see the face of a father who gave up his religion to become a renegade?" My wife made preparations to go with me. She took with her everyday necessities, brass-vessels and other things for her worship. She took her beads and vermilion powder. I had assured her that she could live as a Hindu wife with a Christian husband. No compulsion would be exercised. On our way from Dacca we again stopped at the Math in Calcutta. Again we were cordially received. My Guru warned my wife against becoming a Christian, and specially requested me not to force her to become one. We reached Jabalpur on the 3rd of March, 1927 in the evening. The question of food worried me. What was I going to give my wife to eat? I hurriedly sent Mr. Banerji to bring some sweets and other things from a Hindu shop. But before he could get back, Mr. Macwan, Dr. Parker's secretary, brought some food for both of us. So to my surprise my wife ate as freely as I did. Next morning we were invited to have breakfast with one of the married students. And so turn by turn it continued for about eight days and my wife did not have to cook at all for a week. We were given vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. I ate both kinds but my wife ate only the vegetarian one. This hospitality had a good effect on her. It helped her to overcome some prejudices about the Christians.
When my wife saw' that I liked meat she was ready to prepare it herself. This was a tremendous step forward. Rev. and Mrs. Griffiths knew Bengali very well and Mrs. Griffiths was a great help to my wife. She taught her enough English in two months so that she could write simple letters in English.
From the time we came to Jabalpur my wife never used the utensils for her worship which she had brought. After two months she asked me what she was to do with such things. I told her that since I had promised not to bring pressure on her she would have to solve this problem herself. Soon I noticed that her beads were gone. Then she soon said that she wanted to become a Christian. I asked "Why have you decided to become a Christian?" She said that she had observed the lives of the Christian women around her and they were very good attractive women and she would like to become like them. Meantime we had set up our own cooking arrangements. Frequently we gave things to others and they in turn to us. Thus we were very friendly with each other. As a Brahmin she had scarcely seen such amicable atmosphere among women. Here there were families from all over India and they had delightful fellowship daily. After she decided to become a Christian she was given regular Bible-lessons by Mrs. Griffiths. She would ask me many questions for her guidance. Then towards the end of 1927 Rev. Miss Caifray came to Jabalpur to hold revival meetings. We both attended them. I asked Miss Caffray to come to my house and have a personal talk with my wife. In a few days my wife told me that she would like to confess openly her faith in Christ. On November 11th she was baptized in the College-chapel by Miss Caffray. Then began the mutual sharing of our Christian life and experience.