Whilst in Bombay, I began, on the one hand, my study
of Indian law and, on the other, my experiments in
dietetics in which Virchand Gandhi, a friend, joined me.
My brother, for his part, was trying his best to get me
The study of Indian law was a tedious business. The
Civil Procedure Code I could in no way get on with. Not
so however, with the Evidence Act. Virchand Gandhi was
reading for the Solicitor's Examination and would tell me
all sorts of stories about barristers and vakils. 'Sir
Pherozeshah's ability,' he would say, 'lies in his
profound knowledge of law. He has the Evidence Act by
heart and knows all the cases on the thirty-second
section. Badruddin Tyabji's wonderful power of argument
inspires the judges with awe.'
The stories of stalwarts such as these would unnerve
'It is not unusual,' he would add, 'for a barrister to
vegetate for five or seven years. That's why I have
signed the articles for solicitorship. You should count
yourself luckly if you can paddle your own canoe in three
Expenses were mounting up every month. To have a
barister's board outside the house, whilst still
preparing for the barrister's profession inside, was a
thing to which I could not reconcile myself. Hence I
could not give undivided attention to my studies. I
developed some liking for the Evidence Act and read
Mayne's Hindu Law with deep interest, but I had
not the courage to conduct a case. I was helpless beyond
words, even as the bride come fresh to her father-in-
About this time, I took up the case of one Mamibai. It
was a 'small cause.' 'You will have to pay some
commission to the tout,' I was told. I emphatically
'But even that great criminal lawyer Mr. So-and-So,
who makes three to four thousand a month, pays
'I do not need to emulate him,' I rejoined. 'I should
be content with Rs. 300 a month. Father did not get
'But those days are gone. Expenses in Bombay have gone
up frightfully. You must be businesslike.'
I was adamant. I gave no commission, but got Mamibai's
case all the same. It was an easy case. I charged Rs. 30
for my fees. The case was no likely to last longer than a
This was my debut in the Small Causes Court.
I appeared for the defendant and had thus to
cross-examine the plaintiff's witnesses. I stood up, but
my heart sank into my boots. My head was reeling and I
felt as though the whole court was doing likewise. I
could think of no question to ask. The judge must have
laughed, and the vakils no doubt enjoyed the spectacle.
But I was past seeing anything. I sat down and told the
agent that I could not conduct the case, that he had
better engage Patel and have the fee back from me. Mr.
Patel was duly engaged for Rs. 51. To him, of course, the
case was child's play.
I hastened from the Court, not knowing whether my
client won or lost her case, but I was ashamed of myself,
and decided not to take up any more cases until I had
courage enough to conduct them. Indeed I did not go to
Court again until I went to South Africa. There was no
virtue in my decision. I had simply made a virtue of
necessity. There would be no one so foolish as to entrust
his case to me, only to lose it!
But there was another case in store for me at Bombay.
It was a memorial to be drafted. A poor Mussalman's land
was confiscated in Porbandar. He approched me as the
worthy son of a worthy father. His case appeared to be
weak, but I consented to draft a memorial for him, the
cost of printing to be borne by him. I drafted it and
read it out to friends. They approved of it, and that to
some extent made me feel confident that I was qualified
enough to draft a memorial, as indeed I really was.
My business could flourish if I drafted memorials
without any fees. But that would being no grist to the
mill. So I thought I might take up a teacher's job. My
knowledge of English was good enough, and I should have
loved to teach English to Matriculation boys in some
school. In this way I could have met part at least of the
expenses. I came across an advertisement in the papers:
'Wanted, an English teacher to teach one hour daily.
Salary Rs 75.' The advertisment was from a famous high
school. I applied for the post and was called for an
interview. I went there in high spirits, but when the
principal found that I was not a graduate, he regretfully
'But I have passed the London Matriculation with Latin
as my second language.'
'True but we want a graduate.'
There was no help for it. I wrung my hands in despair.
My brother also felt much worried. We both came to the
conclusion that it was no use spending more time in
Bombay. I should settle in Rajkot where my brother,
himself a petty pleader, could give me some work in the
shape of drafting applications and memorials. And then as
there was already a household at Rajkot, the breaking up
of the one at Bombay meant a considerable saving. I liked
the suggestion. My little establishment was thus closed
after a stay of six months in Bombay.
I used to attend High Court daily whilst in Bombay,
but I cannot say that I learnt anything there. I had not
sufficient knowledge to learn much. Often I could not
follow the case and dozed off. There were others also who
kept me company in this, and thus lightened my load of
shame. After a time, I even lost the sense of shame, as I
learnt to think that it was fashionable to doze in the
If the present generation has also its briefless
barristers like me in Bombay, I would commend them a
little practical precept about living. Although I lived
in Girgaum I hardly ever toa carriage or a tramcar. I had
made it a rule to walk to the High Court. It took me
quite forty- five minutes, and of course I invariably
returned home on foot. I had inured myself to the heat of
the sun. This walk to and from the Court saved a fair
amount of money, and when many of my friends in Bombay
used to fall ill, I do not remember having once had an
illness. Even when I began to earn money, I kept up the
practice of walking to and from the office, and I am
still reaping the benefits of that practice.