I smarted under the insult, but as I had pocketed many such in the past I had become inured to them. I therefore decided to forget this latest one and take what course a dispassionate view of the case might suggest.
We had a letter from the Chief of the Asiatic
Department to the effect that, as I had seen Mr. Chamberlain in
Durban, it had been found necessary to omit
my name from the deputation which was to wait on him.
The letter was more than my co-workers could bear. They proposed to
drop the idea of the deputation altogether. I pointed out to them
the awkward situation of the community.
If you do not represent your case before Mr. Chamberlain,' said I,
'it will be presumed that you have no case at all. After all, the
representation has to be made in writing, and we have got it ready.
It does not matter in the least whether I read it or someone else
reads it. Mr. Chamberlain is not going to argue the matter with us.
I am afraid we must swallow the insult.'
I had scarcely finished speaking when Tyeb Sheth cried out, 'Does
not an insult to you amount to an insult to the community? How can
we forget that you are our representative?'
'Too true,' said I. 'But even the community will have to pocket
insults like these. Have we any alternative?'
'Come what may, why should we swallow a fresh insult? Nothing worse
can possibly happen to us. Have we many rights to lose?' asked Tyeb
It was a spirited reply, but of what avail was it? I was fully
conscious of the limitations of the community. I pacified my friends
and advised them to have, in my place, Mr. George Godfrey, an Indian
So Mr. Godfrey led the deputation. Mr. Chamberlain
referred in his reply to my exclusion. 'Rather than hear the same
representative over and over again, is it not better to have someone
new?' he said, and tried to heal the wound.
But all this, far from ending the matter, only added to the work of
the community and also to mine. We had to start afresh.
'It is at your instance that the community helped in the war, and
you see the result now,' were the words with which some people
taunted me. But the taunt had no effect. 'I do not regret my
advice,' said I. 'I maintain that we did well in taking part in the
war. In doing so we simply did our duty. We may not look forward to
any reward for our labours, but it is my firm conviction that all
good action is bound to bear fruit in the end. Let us forget the
past and think of the task before us.' With which the rest agreed.
I added: 'To tell you the truth, the work for which you had called me
is practically finished. But I believe I ought not to leave the
Transvaal, so far as it is possible, even if you permit me to return
home. Instead of carrying on my work from Natal, as before, I must
now do so from here. I must no longer think of returning to India
within a year, but must get enrolled in the Transvaal Supreme Court.
I have confidence enough to deal with this new department. If we do
not do this, the community will be hounded out of the country,
besides being thoroughly robbed. Every day it will have fresh insults heaped upon
it. The facts that Mr. Chamberlain refused to see me and that the
official insulted me, are nothing before the humiliation of the
whole community. It will become impossible to put up with the
veritable dog's life that we shall be expected to lead.'
So I set the ball rolling, discussed things with Indians in Pretoria
and Johannesburg, and ultimately decided to set up office in
It was indeed doubtful whether I would be enrolled in
the Transvaal Supreme Court. But the Law Society did not oppose my
application, and the Court allowed it. It was difficult for an
Indian to secure rooms for office in a suitable locality. But I had
come in fairly close contact with Mr. Ritch, who was then one of the
merchants there. Through the good offices of a house agent known to
him, I succeeded in securing suitable rooms for my office in the
legal quarters of the city, and I started on my professional work.