XXI. SETTLED IN
Gokhale was very anxious that I should settle down in
Bombay, practise at the bar and help him in public work.
Public work in those days meant Congress work, and the
chief work of the institution which he had assisted to
found was carrying on the Congress administration.
I liked Gokhale's advice, but I was not overconfident
of success as a barrister. The unpleasant memories of
past failure were yet with me, and I still hated as
poison the use of flattery for getting briefs.
I therefore decided to start work first at Rajkot.
Kevalram Mavji Dave, my old well-wisher, who had induced
me to go to England, was there, and he started me
straightaway with three briefs. Two of them were appeals
before the Judicial Assistant to the Political Agent in
Kathiawad and one was an original case in Jamnagar. This
last was rather important. On my saying that I could not
trust myself to do it justice, Kevalram Dave exclaimed:
'Winning or losing is no concern of yours. You will
simply try your best, and I am of course there to assist
The counsel on the other side was the late Sjt.
Samarth. I was fairly well prepared. Not that I knew much
of Indian law, but Kevalram Dave had instructed me very
thoroughly. I had heard friends say, before I went out to
South Africa, that Sir Pherozeshah Mehta had the law of
evidence at his finger-tips and that was the secret of
his success. I had borne this in mind, and during the
voyage had carefully studied the Indian Evidence Act with
commentaries thereon. There was of course also the
advantage of my legal experience in South Africa.
I won the case and gained some confidence. I had no
fear about the appeals, which were successful. All this
inspired a hope in me that after all I might not fail
even in Bombay.
But before I set forth the circumstances in which I
decided to go to Bombay, I shall narrate my experience of
the inconsiderateness and ignorance of English officials.
The Judicial Assistant's court was peripatetic. He was
constantly touring, and vakils and their clients had to
follow him wherever he moved his camp. The vakils would
charge more whenever they had to go out of headquarters,
and so the clients had naturally to incur double the
expenses. The inconvenience was no concern of the judge.
The appeal of which I am talking was to be heard at
Veraval where plague was raging. I have a recollection
that there were as many as fifty cases daily in the place
with a population of 5,500. It was practically deserted,
and I put up in a deserted #dharmashala# at some distance
from the town. But where the clients to stay? If they
were poor, they had simply to trust themselves to God's
A friend who also had cases before the court had wired
that I should put in an application for the camp to be
moved to some other station because of the plague at
Veraval. On my submitting the application, the sahib
asked me. 'Are you afraid?'
I answered: It is not a question of my being afraid. I
think I can shift for myself, but what about the
'The plague has come to stay in India,' replied the
sahib. 'Why dear it? The climate of Veraval is lovely.
[The sahib lived far away from the town in a palatial
tent pitched on the seashore.] Surely people must learn
to live thus in the open.'
It was no use arguing against this philosophy. The
sahib told his shirastedar: 'Make a note of what Mr.
Gandhi says, and let me know if it is very inconvenient
for the vakils or the clients.'
The sahib of course had honestly done what he thought
was the right thing. But how could the man have an idea
of the hardships of poor India? How was he to understand
the needs, habits, idiosyncrasies and customs of the
people? How was one, accustomed to measure things in gold
sovereigns, all at once to make calculations in tiny bits
of copper? As the elephant is powerless to think in the
terms of the ant, in spite of the best intentions in the
world, even so is the Englishman powerless to think in
the terms of, or legislate for, the Indian.
But to resume the thread of story. In spite of my
successes, I had been thinking of staying on in Rajkot
for some time longer, when one day Kevalram Dave came to
me and said: 'Gandhi, we will not suffer you to vegetate
here. You must settle in Bombay.'
'But who will find work for me there?' I asked. 'Will
you find the expenses?'
'Yes, yes, I will,' said he. 'We shall bring you down
here sometimes as a big barrister from Bombay and
drafting work we shall send you there. It lies with us
vakils to make or mar a barrister. You have proved your
worth in Jamnagar and Veraval, and I have therefore not
the least anxiety about you. You are destined to do
public work, and we will not allow you to be buried in
Kathiawad. So tell me, then, when you will go to Bombay.'
'I am expecting a remittance from Natal. As soon as I
get it I will go,' I replied.
The money came in about two weeks, and I went to
Bombay. I took chambers in Payne, Gilbert and Sayani's
offices, and it looked as though I had settled down.