I passed my examinations, was called to the Bar on the 10th of June 1891, and enrolled in the High Court on the 11th. On the 12th I sailed for home.
But notwithstanding my
study there was no end to my helplessness and fear. I
did not feel myself qualified to practise law. I had
read the laws, but not learnt how to practise law.
Besides, I had learnt nothing at all of Indian law. I
had not the slightest idea of Hindu and Mahomedan Law. I
had not even learnt how to draft a plaint, and felt
completely helpless. I had serious misgivings as to
whether I should be able even to earn a living by the
My elder brother had come
to meet me at the dock in Bombay. I was pining to see my
mother. My brother had kept me ignorant of her death,
which took place whilst I was still in England. He did
not want to give me the bad news in a foreign land. The
news, however, was none the less a severe shock to me.
My grief was even greater than over my father’s death.
Most of my cherished hopes were shattered.
But I remember that I did
not give myself up to any wild expression of grief. I
could even check the tears, and took to life just as
though nothing had happened.
The storm in my caste over
my foreign voyage was still there. It had divided the
caste into two camps, one of which immediately
re-admitted me, while the other was bent on keeping me
out. I never tried to seek admission to the section that
had refused it. Nor did I feel even mental resentment
against any of the headmen of that section. Some of
these regarded me with dislike, but I scrupulously
avoided hurting their feelings. I fully respected their
According to these, none
of my relations, including my father-in-law and
mother-in-law, and even my sister and brother-in-law,
could entertain me; and I would not so much as drink
water at their houses. They were prepared secretly to
lay aside the prohibition, but I did not like to do a
thing in secret that I would not do in public.
The result of my
scrupulous conduct was that I never had occasion to be
troubled by the caste; nay, I have experienced nothing
but affection and generosity from the general body of
the section that still regards me as outside the caste.
They have even helped me in my work, without ever
expecting me to do anything for the caste. It is my
conviction that all these good things are due to my
non-resistance. Had I agitated for being admitted to the
caste, had I attempted to divide it into more camps, had
I provoked the castemen, they would surely have
retaliated and I would have found myself in a whirlpool
To start practice in
Rajkot would have meant sure ridicule. I had hardly the
knowledge of a qualified vakil and yet I expected to be
paid ten times his fee! No client would be fool enough
to engage me.
Friends advised me to go
to Bombay for some time in order to gain experience of
the High Court, to study Indian law and to try and get
what cases I could. I took up the suggestion and went.
But it was impossible for me to get along in Bombay for
more than four or five months, there being no income to
square with the ever-increasing expenditure. About this
time, I took up the case of one Mamibai. It was a ‘small
“You will have to pay some
commission to the tout,”1 I
was told. I emphatically declined. I gave no commission
but got Mamibai's case all the same. It was an easy
case. I charged Rs. 30 for my fees. The case was not
likely to last longer than a day.
This was my first
appearance in the Small Cause Court. I had to
cross-examine the plaintiff's witness.
I stood up, but my courage
failed. My head was reeling and I felt as though the
whole Court was doing likewise. I could think of no
question to ask. The judge must have laughed, and the
vakils no doubt enjoyed the sight. But I could not see
anything. I sat down and told the agent that I could not
conduct the case, that he had better engage Shri Patel
and have the fee back from me. Shri Patel was duly
engaged for Rs. 51. To him, of course, the case was
I hastened from the Court,
not knowing whether my client won or lost her case, but
I was ashamed of myself, and decided not to take up any
more cases until I had courage enough to conduct them.
So I thought I might take up a teacher's job. My
knowledge of English was good enough and I should have
loved to teach English to Matriculation boys in some
school. In this way I could have met part at least of
the expenses. I came across an advertisement in the
‘Wanted an English teacher
to teach one hour daily. Salary Rs. 75.’ The
advertisement was from a famous high school. I applied
for the post and was called for an interview.
I went there in high
hopes, but when the principal found that I was not a
graduate, he regretfully refused me.
“But I have passed the
London Matriculation with Latin as my second language.”
“True, but we want a
There was no help for it.
I was very disappointed. My brother also felt much
worried. We both came to the conclusion that it was no
use spending more time in Bombay.
So I left Bombay and went
to Rajkot, where I set up my own office.
Here I got along
moderately well. Drafting applications and memorials
brought me, on an average, Rs. 300 a month. For this
work I had to thank influence rather than my own
ability, for my brother’s partner had a settled
practice. All applications etc. which were, really or to
his mind, of an important character, he sent to big
To my lot fell the
applications to be drafted on behalf of his poor