Before I narrate the struggle for the Indian settlers rights in the Transvaal and their dealing with the Asiatic Department, I must turn to some other aspects of my life.
Up to now there had been in me a mixed desire. The spirit of self-sacrifice was tempered by the desire to lay by something for the
About the time I took up chambers in Bombay, an American insurance
agent had come there – a man with a pleasing countenance and a sweet
tongue. As though we were old friends he discussed my future
welfare. 'All men of your status in America have their lives
insured. Should you not also insure yourself against the future?
Life is uncertain. We in America regard it as a religious obligation
to get insured. Can I not tempt you to take out a small policy?'
Up to this time I had given the cold shoulder to all the agents I
had met in South Africa and India, for I had though that life
assurance implied fear and want of faith in God. But now I succumbed
to the temptation of the American agent. As he proceeded with his
argument, I had before my mind's eye a picture of my wife and
children. 'Man, you have sold almost all the ornaments of your
wife,' I said to myself. 'If something were to happen to you, the
burden of supporting her and the children would fall on your poor
brother, who has so nobly filled the place of father. How would that
become you?' With these and similar arguments I persuaded myself to
take out a policy for Rs. 10,000.
But when my mode of life changed in South Africa, my outlook changed
too. All the steps I took at this time of trial were taken in the
name of God and for His service. I did not know how long I should
have to stay in South Africa. I had a fear that I might never be
able to get back to India: so I decided to keep my wife and children
with me and earn enough to support them. This plan made me deplore
the life policy and feel ashamed of having been caught in the net of
the insurance agent. If, I said to myself, my brother is really in
the position of my father, surely he would not consider it too much
of a burden to support my widow, if it came to that. And what reason
had I to assume that death would claim me earlier than the others?
After all the real protector was neither I nor my brother, but the
Almighty. In getting my life insured I had robbed my wife and
children of their self-reliance. Why should they not be expected to
take care of themselves? What happened to the families of the
numberless poor in the world? Why should I not count myself as one
A multitude of such thoughts passed though my mind, but I did not
immediately act upon them. I recollect having paid at least one
insurance premium in South Africa.
Outward circumstances too
supported this train of thought. During my first sojourn in South
Africa it was Christian influence that had kept alive in me the
religious sense. Now it was theosophical influence that added
strength to it. Mr. Ritch was a theosophist and put me in touch with
the society at Johannesburg. I never became a member, as I had my
differences, but I came in close contact with almost every
theosophist. I had religious discussions with them every day. There
used to be readings from theosophical books, and sometimes I had
occasion to address their meetings. The chief thing about theosophy
is to cultivate and promote the idea of brotherhood. We had
considerable discussion over this, and I criticized the members
where their conduct did not appear to me to square with their ideal.
The criticism was not without its wholesome effect on me. It led to