I was no doubt at fault in having gone to that
officer. But his impatience and overbearing anger were
out of all proportion to my mistake. It did not warrant
expulsion. I can scarcely have taken up more than five
minutes of his time. But he simply could not endure my
talking. He could have politely asked me to go, but power
had intoxicated him to an inordinate extent. Later I came
to know that patience was not one of the virtues of this
officer. It was usual for him to insult his visitors. The
slightest unpleasantness was sure to put the sahib
Now most of my work would naturally be in his court.
It was beyond me to conciliate him. I had no desire to
curry favour with him, Indeed, having once threatened to
proceed against him, I did not like to remain silent.
Meanwhile I began to learn something of the petty
politics of the country. Kathiawad, being a
conglomeration of small states, naturally had its rich
crop of politicals. Petty intrigues between states, and
intrigues of officers for power were the order of the
day. Princes were always at the mercy of others and ready
to lend their ears to sycophants. Even the sahib's
peon had to be cajoled, and the sahib's shirastedar
was more than his master, as he was his eyes, his ears
and his interpreter. The shirastedar's will was
law, and his income was always reputed to be more than
the sahib's. This may have been an exaggeration,
but he certainly lived beyond his salary.
This atmosphere appeared to me to be poisonous, and
how to remain unscathed was a perpetual problem for me.
I was thoroughly depressed and my brother clearly saw
it. We both felt that, if I could secure some job, I
should be free from this atmosphere of intrigue. But
without intrigue a ministership or judgeship was out of
the question. And the quarrel with the sahib
stood in the way of my practice.
Probandar was then under administration, and I had
some work there in the shape of securing more powers for
the prince. Also I had to see the Administrator in
respect of the heavy vighoti (land rent) exacted
from the Mers. This officer, though an Indian, was, I
found, one better than the sahib in arrogance.
He was able, but the ryots appeared to me to be none the
better off for his ability. I succeeded in securing a few
more powers for the Rana, but hardly any relief for the
Mers. It struck me that their cause was not even
carefully gone into.
So even in this mission I was comparatively
disappointed. I thought justice was not done to my
clients, but I had not the means to secure it. At the
most I could have appealed to the Political Agent or to
the Governor who would have dismissed the appeal saying,
'We decline to interfere.' If there had been any rule or
regulation governing such decisions, it would have been
something, but here the sahib's will was law.
I was exasperated.
In the meantime a Meman firm from Porbandar wrote to
my brother making the following offer: 'We have business
in South Africa. Ours is a big firm, and we have a big
case there in the Court, our claim being ?40,000. It
has been going on for a long time. We have engaged the
services of the best vakils and barristers. If you sent
your brother there, he would be useful to us and also to
himself. He would be able to instruct our counsel better
than ourselves. And he would have the advantage of seeing
a new part of the world, and of making new
My brother discussed the proposition with me. I could
not clearly make out whether I had simply to instruct the
counsel or to appear in court. But I was tempted.
My brother introduced me to the late Sheth Abdul Karim
Jhaveri a partner of Dada Abdulla & Co; the firm in
question. 'It won't be a difficult job' the Sheth assured
me. 'We have big Europeans as our friends, whose
acquaintance you will make. You can be useful to us our
shop. Much of our correspondence is in English and you
can help us with that too. You will, of course, be our
guest and hence will have no expense whatever.'
'How long do you require my services?' I asked. 'And
what will be the payment?'
'Not more than a year. We will pay you a first class
return fare and a sum of ?105, all found.'
This was hardly going there as a barrister. It was
going as a servant of the firm. But I wanted somehow to
leave India. There was also the tempting opportunity of
seeing a new country, and of having new experience. Also
I could send ?05 to my brother and help in the expenses
of the household. I closed with the offer without any
higgling, and got ready to go to South Africa.