XXVII. THE BOMBAY
On the very day after my brother-in-law's death I had
to go to Bombay for the public meeting. There had hardly
been time for me to think out my speech. I was feeling
exhausted after days and nights of anxious vigil, and my
voice had become husky. However, I went to Bombay
trusting entirely to God. I had never dreamt of writing
out my speech.
In accordance with Sir Pherozeshah's instructions I
reported myself at his office at 5 P. M. on the eve of
'Is your speech ready, Gandhi?' he asked.
'No sir,' said I, trembling with fear, 'I think of
speaking ex tempore.'
'That will not do in Bombay. Reporting here is bad,
and if we would benefit by this meeting, you should write
out your speech, and it should be printed before daybreak
tomorrow. I hope you can manage this?'
I felt rather nervous, but I said I would try.
'Then, tell me, what time Mr. Munshi should come to
you for the manuscript?'
'Eleven o'clock tonight,' said I.
On going to the meeting the next day, I saw the wisdom
of Sir Pherozeshah's advice. The meeting was held in the
hall of the Sir Cowasji Jehangir Institute. I had heard
that when Sir Pherozeshah Mehta addressed meetings the
hall was always packed. Chiefly by the students intent on
hearing him, leaving not an inch of room. This was the
first meeting of the kind in my experience. I saw that my
voice could reach only a few. I was trembling as I began
to read my speech. Sir Pherozeshah cheered me up
continually by asking me to speak louder and still
louder. I have a feeling that, far from encouraging me,
it made my voice sink lower and lower.
My old friend Sjt. Keshavrao Deshpande came to my
rescue. I handed my speech to him. His was just the
proper voice. But the audience refused to listen. The
hall rang with the cries of 'Wacha,' 'Wacha.' So Mr.
Wacha stood up and read the speech, with wonderful
results. The audience became perfectly quiet, and
listened to the speech to the end, punctuating it with
applause and cries of 'shame' where necessary. This
gladdened my heart.
Sir Pherozeshah liked the speech. I was supremely
The meeting won me the active sympathy of Sjt.
Deshpande and a Parsi friend, whose name I hesitate to
mention, as he is a high-placed Government official
today. Both expressed their resolve to accompany me to
South Africa. Mr. C. M. Cursetji, who was then Small
Causes Court Judge, however, moved the Parsi friend from
his resolve as he had plotted his marriage. He had to
choose between marriage and going to South Africa, and he
chose the former. But Parsi Rustomji made amends for the
broken resolve, and a number of Parsi sisters are now
making amends for the lady who helped in the breach by
dedicating themselves to Khadi work. I have therefore
gladly forgiven that couple, Sjt. Deshpande had no
temptations of marriage, but he too could not come. Today
he is himself doing enough reparation for the broken
pledge. On my way back to South Africa I met one of the
Tyabjis at Zanzibar. He also promised to come and help
me, but never came. Mr. Abbas Tyabji is atoning for that
offence. Thus none of my three attempts to induce
barristers to go to South Africa bore any fruit.
In this connection I remember Mr. Pestonji Padshah. I
had been on friendly terms with him ever since my stay in
England. I first met him in a vegetarian restaurant in
London. I knew of his brother Mr. Barjorji padshah by his
reputation as a 'crank'. I had never met him, but friends
said that he was eccentric. Out of pity for the horses he
would not ride in tram-cars, he refused to take degrees
in spite of a prodigious memory, he had developed an
independent spirit, and he was a vegetarian, though a
Parsi. Pestonji had not quite this reputation, but he was
famous for his erudition even in London. The common
factor between us, however, was vegetarianism, and not
scholarship in which it was beyond my power to approach
I found him out again in Bombay. He was Prothonotary
in the High Court. When I met him he was engaged on his
contribution to a Higher Gujarati Dictonary. There was
not a friend I had not approached for help in my South
African work. Pestonji Padshah, however, not only refused
to aid me, but even advised me not to return to South
'It is impossible to help you,' he said. 'But I tell
you I do not like even your going to South
Africa. Is there lack of work in our country? Look, now,
there is not a little to do for our language. I have to
find out scientific words. But this is only one branch of
the work. Think of the poverty of the land. Our people in
South Africa are no doubt in difficulty, but I do not
want a man like you to be sacrificed for that work. Let
us win self-government here, and we shall automatically
help our countrymen there. I know I cannot prevail upon
you, but I will not encourage anyone of your type to
throw in his lot with you.'
I did not like this advice, but it increased my regard
for Mr. Pestonji Padshah. I was struck with his love for
the country and for the mother tongue. The incident
brought us closer to each other. I could understand his
point of view. But far from giving up my work in South
Africa, I became firmer in my resolve. A patriot cannot
afford to ignore any branch of service to the motherland.
And for me the text of the Gita was clear and emphatic:
'Finally, this is better, that one do His own task as he
may, even though he fail, Than take tasks not his own,
though they seem good. To die performing duty is no ill;
But who seeks other roads shall wander still.'